Make the March for Science a Real Benefit for Society: Invite the Religious Communities to Join

By: Kevin FitzGerald

April 21, 2017

The March for Science: Is There a Place for Religion?

As scientists march on April 22, to bring attention to the need for good science in our society and our world, a clear message should also be conveyed that scientists need, and want, input from everyone in society, including religious communities, regarding what science and research society sees as good—as helping to meet the needs, hopes, and desires of our society for itself and its individual members. Though this message may run counter to an ideal of knowledge for the sake of knowledge held by some scientists, if scientists want society to acknowledge and embrace the important role science has in promoting the goods of society, then scientists will need to join, as equals, with the rest of society in coming to an understanding of what those goods and goals will be.

Two recent developments highlight this need for broad and sustained engagement between the scientific community and other communities in our society, including religious communities. The first is the wide interest and concern surrounding the rapid development of our ability to manipulate and rewrite the genetic codes of any, and all, living organisms, including the human genome. This powerful and profound technological advance has led individual genomic researchers, and research organizations—such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, in their report “Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance”—to call for greater engagement of the public in the process of determining how best to proceed with the development of this amazing technology. 

Secondly, this call for greater public engagement by members of and institutions within the scientific community can also carry with it an acknowledgement by the scientific community of its need for other communities in society to help develop scientists who do good science. Another report from the National Academies, “Fostering Integrity in Research,” concludes that both in the United States and around the world, “the research enterprise faces new and complex challenges in fostering integrity and in dealing with the consequences of research misconduct and detrimental research practices” (p. vii). Hence, the scientific community is no different than any other human community in facing the challenge of training future practitioners to pursue their work with integrity and with the good of others always in mind. All of society must be invested and involved in the training of our future generations of scientists and researchers.

So, when scientists, and those who support the pursuit of good science, march together this Saturday, let the message be clear that the march is to integrate science and the scientific community more into society as a whole, that we all might share together our hopes and desires, our goods and our goals, for how science and technology can best serve everyone. And perhaps, one way to help give this message special clarity will be for the marchers to invite members of religious communities to join them as valued compatriots in this vital effort to improve our society and our world.

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