This weekend, Washington D.C. will see a familiar sight — thousands of people holding signs and moving toward the Capitol Building at a glacial pace. These participants, in a departure from your average protester, will likely be able to tell you the exact velocity of their glacial movement, the glacial retreat causing Capitol Hill to sink, and the rate of disappearance of glaciers across the world.
This weekend isn’t your average political demonstration. This weekend is the March for Science.
The March for Science is the first of its kind for many politically reticent scientists. Under standard conditions, many scientists are wary of Capitol Hill, preferring the sterile comfort of their labs. But these aren’t standard conditions. Scientists are facing a political climate that intends to deface, devalue, and defund their work.
Currently, 44 percent of scientific funding comes from the federal government. This money is directed toward biomedical research that leads to cancer treatment, environmental research that prepares us for the effects of climate change, and social science research that helps us better understand implicit racial bias, to name a few.
Federal funding, and consequently the state of science in the U.S., is at risk under our political leaders. In his “skinny budget,” the president proposed a $6 billion, or 20 percent, cut to research funding. These cuts follow executive orders and legislation that has started to dismantle the government’s reliance on sound science. The president and lawmakers have chosen to deregulate corporate polluters, dismantle climate action, and move the EPA away from reliable science.
For Christians, this movement toward anti-science rhetoric and legislation does not just endanger the health of humans and well-being of the environment, it endangers the way we see God and care for Creation.
It is crucial for Christians to be involved in this march and supportive of science. Our orientation to the world is to care for all creation, human and non-human. Science, when done humbly and rigorously, recognizing our creaturely place in creation, and seeking understanding over control, enables us to more fully care for the world and draw closer to God. The march for science is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with scientists whose work helps us better understand the world and care for the oppressed.
The Christian duty to science and stewardship is present in the Genesis account of creation.
In some ways, Adam was the first scientist. God charges Adam to abad and shamar, to care for, the Garden of Eden. As the Old Testament scholar Ellen Davis puts it, Adam is to “work it and serve it, observe it and preserve it.”
In this creation and exhortation of the prototypical human, God is revealing to humanity our roots and our task. Together we are called to abad and shamar creation. To work, serve, observe, and preserve the earth requires us to seek knowledge of its workings and skill in its care. As Wendell Berry writes, “In the loss of skill, we lose stewardship; in losing stewardship we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of creation.”
Science is a creaturely activity that can provide knowledge and produce skill, bringing us closer to God as it brings us closer to God’s Creation. When we lose skill, we lose stewardship and fall further away from the fullness of membership in the neighborhood of Creation.
While Congress is unraveling regulations, our global systems are unraveling themselves. If there is anyone who can figure out the solutions to the problems plaguing human and non-human creation, it is scientists — ecologists, climate scientists, and virologists. Scientists provide a much needed perspective in the era of alternative facts. A perspective that people of faith in particular should pay particular attention to.
These days, science is sacred. In its best form, true, thorough, and humble, science upends the power dynamics of fake news and bombast by simply being what it always has been. Science is resistance.