Defend Science Commentary
On the Relation Between the Defend Science Statement and the UCS "Restoring Scientific Integrity" statement
An important question which is sometimes raised is why we are doing the Defend Science Statement and how we view the (UCS) "Restoring Scientific Integrity" Statement. Here we want to address this more fully, and also explain how we see our efforts as complementary and mutually reinforcing.
We face a very serious situation with the extremely serious (and continuing) assaults on the scientific process which have reached unprecedented levels with the Bush administration. The RSI Statement has played a very important role in crystallizing and bringing the attacks to public attention (this is why we reference it in the Defend Science Statement) and it continues to be a kind of benchmark in public debate about these questions.
The Defend Science Statement is intended as an urgent call by scientists directly to the people to join with scientists in this battle. Our statement brings out that in addition to the assault on the integrity of the scientific process to serve political ends, there is the ideological agenda put forward by powerful Christian fundamentalist forces; that these two things have become allied and intertwined in an unprecedented way. While making explicitly clear that this is not about science trying to destroy religion, our statement says that it is about opposing both a political agenda and a particular biblical literalist ideology that seeks to undermine and destroy the scientific method and process. The Defend Science statement brings out that, running through and underscoring the many particular outrages in different spheres and policy areas, what is centrally and crucially involved is a battle over scientific thinking and method, and whether that is going to be upheld, applied, and broadly popularized. Or whether - in the realm of science itself - scientific method is going to replaced by an antagonistically opposed method. This is especially manifest in attempts by many of those pushing for Intelligent Design in science classrooms to smuggle theism into science itself, and even change the very definition of science as with the Kansas State Board of Education opening the door to non-natural causes in science. (It seems that the anti-evolution forces have lost control of the Kansas State School board and that their re-defining of science will be reversed. But the attempt that the current board made to redefine science reveals the underlying agenda of the ID forces, and the seriousness of the battle to defend science and scientific method.)
Science matters a great deal. It is critical that scientific integrity be restored in policy making and that scientists be allowed to pursue research without its findings being blocked or ruled out of order. But in addition, the epistemological attack needs to be taken on. There is an unrelenting assault on people's access to scientific knowledge, to the scientific method and approach to knowing about the world, to the scientific spirit. The "Defend Science" statement aims, too, at giving voice and expression to the desire many people have to understand how and why things in nature are the way they are, and to people's hunger to learn what science continues to uncover. (You can see by looking at our list of signatories so far that our statement and its emphasis on this point has struck a chord among many scientists.)
There have already been really critical efforts of many many people (including the RSI Statement, the battle around the teaching of evolution, the recent victory in the Dover trial, and again in Kansas, to name just a few) to respond to the attacks. We are convinced that our statement, centering on defending scientific thinking, is a critical contribution. This is why we want to publish our statement in newspaper ads, and also find every other avenue we can to reach the public broadly to focus on the heart of the matter, the assault on scientific thinking and method, and to sound the alarm as broadly as we can in society and rally people to defend science.
We strongly feel that these aims are complementary to, while not duplicating, the RSI statement. From our point of view, the more that the RSI statement is out there and influences public debate, the better, and we will continue to promote and popularize it.
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