In Defense of Scientists

I’ve had time to think more about this disgust that some religious people have for science, and for scientists.    I would like to put this forward, from my experience.

I like scientists.  All of the scientists I have ever met or read have been intelligent and deeply committed to their work.  They have a love of learning that to me is inspirational.  I had a science teacher in 10th grade who really wacky.  He loved science and he loved teaching science.  He was also a committed Christian.   It was the first time I learned what it was to be truly excited about learning and science.

I understand that scientists are like any other person – mean, loveable, gregarious, introverted, snobbish, boring, warm, caring and every other adjective used to describe people.  Our modern life, with all its conveniences is built on science, and the work of scientists.  The idea that somehow wanting to make the world better is an insult to God is wrong.  No scientist sets out and says “I will discover the cure to cancer, just to prove to God I don’t need him and I am greater than he is”.  This is the rhetoric of so many in the evangelical community.  Science is always at its based inspired by nature.  By oberserving natural processes, natural organisms, natural phenomena things are discovered.

The claim that science is about money, and people making money is also deeply flawed.  If the government gives a scientists a million dollar grant how much does the scientists get paid?  Looking at all the facilities need to correctly conduct legitimate research and the resources needed it is amazing to me that there is any money left at all to pay scientists.    The rare elements, gases, and equipment needed for scientific experimentation are hugely expensive.    True scientific research requires large investments.

Even research where scientists go the rainforests, or Africa, or the bottom of the ocean require huge investments.  Getting to where your going, having supplies to live, and equipment to collect samples, and analyze them all costs.  I realize that talking about costs during a recession may be difficult to deal with, but the way we live is made possible by investments in science over many many decades.  If as a society we stop trusting scientists and stop funding them, then how are going to advance, let alone maintain the life that we have?

I trust scientists because every day I can get in my car and drive to where I need to go.  A scientist made that possible.  I arrive safely because scientists tested and refined automobiles for decades to make them safer and more reliable.  I eat every day without fearing that the food I eat will make me sick because it is contaminated, spoiled, or adulterated. That is not a fear I live with because scientists test food continually in labs across the country, because when food is contaminated there are recalls based on science to get it off the shelf so I don’t buy it and consume it.  I drink fresh water because scientists found ways to purify and transport drinking water.  It come right to my house.

If we cease to trust scientists the end point would seem to point to living a radically different lifestyle – no electricity, no running water, no electrical appliances, no manufactured goods. People can choose to live that – some do.  However for the safety and health of the majority of the population this is both repulsive and untenable.

The bottom line is that we need science and scientists, and whether they believe in evolution or not is irrelevant to their ability to work for the public good.  I believe in God, but I don’t believe that being an atheist makes anyone automatically untrustworthy.  Atheists do no have cooties, so think logically and look around your life and start counting all the things you have because of scientists.  When you get sick of counting, I suggest you go thank a Scientist or Science teacher.


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