This I Believe

Mary - Old Town, Maine
Entered on August 22, 2006

This I Believe

I am a biologist, and biologists by necessity believe in the sanctity of life—all life,

from the one-celled protozoan to the anchored hydroid,

from the adorned sea slug gliding on algae to the kitten curled at our feet,

from the fragile child asleep in her crib to the convict in cell block B

to the old man hobbled over his cane.

I believe in our utmost responsibility to preserve life, and to preserve the green earth, that sustains life.

I believe in our right to ponder, explore, discover,

and in so doing, we create science: science—that collection of information, that questions, reveals, and explains, how it all works,

how the ball falls, the rocket rises,

how the electrons circle, and hydrogen and oxygen combine,

how the egg divides, and from many cells comes a life, that can continue the cycle

–knowledge in the context of our human brains.

I believe we see and understand through the prism of our own intelligence,

and the truths of science are no larger and no smaller than that.

My question is, can we ignore science as a way of knowing,

when it is dangerous?

when it is inconvenient?

when it contradicts a faith?

because it is only a human endeavor?

Can we ever afford to ignore our means of knowing?

I believe that life, all life, is in danger, that our green haven is now sick.

Should we act? Should we take care of our mother who gave us life?

If from science can come cures, then should we not see this knowledge through the larger prism,

that accepts all wavelengths we call science?

I believe we are in trouble. We are lurching forward with our eyes half closed, allowing ourselves to see only part of science—the science of convenience, the pale shadow of science that the powerful parade before us, with claims

that evolution is only a theory,

that global warming is a myth,

that chemical foods are safe,

that engineered monocultures of crops will feed the world—

we are accepting this partial science instead of staring science full in the face, and we are nearly lost.

I believe that if we can accept the miracle cures of cancer promised by medicine, we must also accept the responsibility of our chemicals that threaten cancer on so many species.

If we fly the skies and travel the ground on polluting giants,

we must accept that our energy use has changed global climate and threatens all species.

If we enhance our comfort by controlling our environment,

we must also recognize that our hazardous refuse floods our waters and soils, altering the health

of whole ecosystems.

We must accept all that science reveals and not flinch—but act. As landlords of this planet that we have dominated through science, we must take responsibility.

If we do not act, I believe we will destroy what we are obligated to preserve. If we cannot accept all of science, the inconvenient truths as we benefit from the opportune,

then better that we retreat to the realm of all other species in a world without science.

Such a world survived all the years before our species arrived.

I believe in science as a way of knowing, but to ignore the inconvenient to foster expedient political and economic policy is too dangerous.

Far better to wish the death of science than the death that blindness to the full spectrum of science

will bring.