An Earth Day March for Science and a 21st Century Worldview

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Let’s engage our brains. The March for Science is a march for life and the planet. When it comes to climate change and evolution, not everyone is convinced. In 2017 there is no need for statistics to prove that point. Much of the Federal government is under the control of people who have beliefs or motives in opposition to scientific understanding, and scientific literacy has come under attack. In Washington DC, science has become politicized, but facts are not liberal. Climate change is not liberal. Caring about the Earth is not liberal. We all live on planet Earth, regardless of Al Gore’s movie, or environmentalists’ preference for certain types of policy responses, or the coal miners’ guy in the White House.

Evolution has been under seige for a lot longer than climate change. For about 150 years Darwinian Evolution has been battling literalist Biblical Creationism, with Evolution gaining ground on facts and evidence, but Creationism exhibiting strong staying power in the religious heartland and Deep South. Using a variety of methods, scientists have discovered the actual age of the Earth, and it didn’t comport with a literal reading of the Bible. They discovered the order in which species evolved, dating all the way back to unicellular organisms. They found that, on the timeline of billions and even millions of years, humans came about very recently, but not as recent as six thousand years ago.

Anthropocentrists and Biblical literalists may be troubled by the idea that humans have to share the stage with millions of other creatures in Earth’s geologic and biologic history. Natural selection could displace the need for an anthropomorphic “intelligent designer,” often depicted in pop culture as an Old Man with a White Beard zapping people with lightning bolts. Biblical literalists with conservative politics may be disoriented by a worldview where there is no God in the sky at the “top” of the pyramid of Moral Order. Liberals, on the other hand, may be more comfortable with a flatter organization chart (e.g. secular humanists who value diversity, que sera sera, etc.), and may be more willing to make space for other plants and animals alongside humans.

Science is a method for building knowledge, but now in the 21st Century it may even be the basis of a worldview that explains the creation of the world and humanity’s place in it. Physicists and astronomers are showing us that humans are not the center of the universe. Biologists and ecologists are showing that we are but one species among many. Humans happen to have special attributes that set us apart from other primates, but we are also capable of destroying the Earth (nuclear weapons). We don’t like to admit it, but Earth Day is an appropriate time to acknowledge that we are actually in the process of doing so (climate change).

Many of us already know this and take it for granted, but the 2016 election has shown that many Americans do not, may be resisting it, or supporting policies in absolute contradiction to it. Some compassion may be needed as people struggle to accommodate science-based information into their worldviews and politics. In the meantime, their attempts to take away health care, reproductive rights, environmental protections, and civil rights from their fellow Americans are not buying them any goodwill.

The March for Science can act as a support group for the constituencies threatened by anti-science, anti-environment policies being implemented in the wake of the 2016 election. But it can also be a source of solace for the constituencies that were motivated by fear last November. Those voters are trying to hold back the tide that is changing the gender roles people grew up with 50 years ago, the forces that took away the coal mining jobs, including free trade and new technology, and the demographic changes leading to a more multicultural country. The 21st century can be a scary and disorienting place when you have a worldview from the 19th century (or earlier).

The March for Science is a gathering of nerds with a powerful message. There will be thousands of clever signs urging us to use our Enlightenment ideals, our freedom of speech, and our democracy to teach each other about what we know about ourselves and the planet, how we came to be here, that life on the planet is valuable and worth saving, and that yes, greenhouse gas emissions are an inconvenient truth that we must take action to stop.

See you there!

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