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March for Science or March for Secularism?

The upcoming march is not defending science. It's undermining it. Published at The Stream

On April 22, a “March for Science” will take place in Washington, D.C. and hundreds of other cities around the world.

March organizers say they believe that “science works best when scientists come from diverse perspectives.” They also claim that the “scientific community is best served by including voices and contributions from people of all identities and backgrounds.”

Tell that to scientists who think there is evidence of intelligent design in nature. Discovery Institute represents many of those scientists, and so asked to become a “partner” for the March. We were turned down flat.

I asked the March co-chair Jonathan Berman to explain why. He emailed me that “it is not our policy to advance specific worldviews or ideas outside of current consensuses of scientific fields.”


Defend Intelligent Design? You’re Out!

Most scientists think genetically modified foods are safe. That didn’t stop the March for Science from accepting partner groups that think otherwise.

Or what about the pat assurance that the March doesn’t want to “advance specific worldviews” that go beyond science?March organizers were happy to accept a number of high-profile groups that use science to debunk God. These include the Secular Student Alliance, the Secular Coalition for America, and even the American Humanist Association.

The March for Science has shut out scientists who see design in nature and embraced groups that use science to attack faith.

That last group has a statement that claims “unguided evolutionary change” is proof against the supernatural. In other words, they think science disproves God. So, for the March’s leadership, the idea that science disproves God is not a “specific worldview” that goes beyond science.

Then there is the March’s honorary co-chair Bill Nye, the “Science Guy.” A few years ago, Nye was named “Humanist of the Year.” He claims “evolution is not guided by a mind or a plan.” He also invokes science to argue that humans are “insignificant” and “suck.”

So according to the leaders of the March for Science, if you argue that science provides evidence of purposeful design, you’re anti-science. But if you argue science disproves God and shows humans “suck,” that’s fine.

Using Science to Bash Religion

March for Science organizers fret about “underrepresented” groups in the sciences. But the biggest underrepresented group among scientific elites by far may be theists.

Only 51 percent of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe in the existence of God or a higher power. That’s in contrast to 95 percent of the public. That’s an astounding gap of 44 points.

The scientific elite’s secularism has all sorts of real-world impacts. For one, it fosters a culture where it’s okay to misuse science to bash religion. If March for Science organizers were truly concerned about not advancing worldviews beyond science, they should have thought twice about partnering with groups that use science to bash God.

Scientists Assume Rational Design

The irony here is that it was intelligent design, not secularism, that gave rise to modern science in the first place. Science grew in large part because early scientists thought nature was the product of a rational agent. This meant it could be investigated as something rational and orderly rather than as the result of a haphazard process.

Even today, scientists tend to assume that nature is rationally designed — whatever they may believe personally. I have a biologist friend at a state university. He likes intelligent design because it tracks with what he does in his lab. When he studies a biochemical system, he starts by treating every part as if it’s needed. He can’t just write off this or that piece as a random accident if he wants to grasp how it works.

In contrast, the March for Science has shut out scientists who see design in nature and embraced groups that use science to attack faith. That’s not defending true science. It’s undermining it. And for all of us who value science, that’s truly unfortunate.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.