The more than 14,400 members of The Clergy Letter Project, an organization created to promote the teaching of evolution, have voted to formally endorse the March for Science. These clergy members, representing a wide array of religions and denominations, made this endorsement after careful consideration and out of a deep respect for the principles, methodology and results of science.
This action should not be seen as a politically partisan act. Rather The Clergy Letter Project’s endorsement of the March for Science is intended to be a robust show of support for science as a way of understanding. Members of The Clergy Letter Project understand that regardless of what scientists might discover, as human beings we are better off when we use that information to further our understanding of the natural world. Pretending that scientific results we don’t like don’t exist makes absolutely no sense.
While it might seem surprising that thousands of clergy members would support scientific investigation, in reality, there’s nothing surprising about this position at all. The clergy members who comprise The Clergy Letter Project are interested in more fully understanding the workings of the natural world even as they work to discern the intricacies of the spiritual realm. They fully recognize that scientific investigation deals exclusively with the former. As a position statement on “The Nature of Science” adopted by the National Science Teachers Association notes: “Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world.”
Similarly, the Buddhist Clergy Letter, opens with a preamble from the Dalai Lama that makes this same point in a slightly different manner: “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims or adopt them as metaphor.”
The Clergy Letter Project’s endorsement should be seen as strong support for the very premise of science at a time when it appears to be under attack. The clergy of The Clergy Letter Project are opposed all attempts to politicize science from writing legislation to promote creationism in public school science classrooms and laboratories to denying the reality of climate change. Furthermore, they understand the critical difference between scientific fact and personal opinion and recognize that the latter cannot substitute for the former.
As one member wrote, “I’m in favor of endorsing the March for Science because it's a march FOR SCIENCE, not for scientists. It's for everybody who believes that reason and evidence are important.”
If, on 22 April, you participate in the March for Science in Washington, D.C. or in a march in any other of the hundreds of locations where people will be gathering, please look for banners and signs from The Clergy Letter Project. Stop by and say hello to clergy members who understand and support the importance of science. We hope to see you and speak with you as, together, we affirm the value of science.