May 28, 2017

The Importance of Truth and Scientific Integrity

As Christians and members of the sciences, mathematics, and computer science fields, we are committed to following truth. God is Truth. Jesus told his disciples that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). On another occasion, he said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32). We believe that a deep desire to seek and uphold truth is necessary to our lives as Christians, our success as scientists, and our ability to live together as a nation.

We believe that God created the world and revealed himself through the Bible. The natural world and scripture are the “two books” by which God communicates with humanity. Because God is Truth and  doesn’t contradict Himself,  when we  understand both “books” correctly, we should not see contradictions.  Science is concerned with understanding the natural world and therefore,  can only answer some, not all, of the questions that humans encounter. Even so, the success of science as a tool for understanding the natural world and for the development of modern medicine and a wide array of technologies that improve our lives is constantly evidenced.

Scientific findings are based on available evidence and over time become more accurate as they are questioned and re-evaluated in light of new perspectives and information; thus disagreement over scientific findings is normal in the course of doing science. Science progresses significantly when its results are shared and are free for both debate and affirmation. Interactions between scientists and open critiques of ongoing research help to keep scientific results from becoming hostage to ideology. Most professional societies have codes of ethics, and journals have publication standards that require declaring conflicts of interest. These limits help keep biases at bay, and are important to uphold.

Science must also be protected from undue outside influence in order to have integrity. Political interference in the past made it difficult for scientists in various parts of the world to do research. For example some scientists could not speak freely on the dangers of tobacco smoke, the effect of acid rain on lakes and forests, and the causes and prevention of AIDS. To serve the public and honor God, we in the sciences need a society that values integrity and protects us from political pressure. Attitudes that belittle science have the potential for long-term harm to society.

Unfortunately today, as at some other points in history, the search for truth has been weakened by the uncritical acceptance of ideas that are not supported by evidence. People struggle to know what to believe because of the prevalence of misleading and false information, the undermining of trust in public institutions and the press, and the politicization of gathering and reporting evidence.

This reality is particularly frustrating to those of us in the sciences because our fields depend on the recognition of the value of evidence, and makes it difficult to be an undergraduate in a course of study that is based on the idea of truth. We are writing this editorial to signal to our students how important we believe Truth to be and to encourage you all. As a group, we do not have a political affiliation. We advocate for a non-partisan support for evidence-based decision-making in research, teaching, and the application of the sciences, and call for all people of faith to support the efforts of scientists to provide information that will help us as a country to make sound policy with integrity and for the good of society.

 

Undersigned:

Russell Bjork, Professor of

Computer Science

Dorothy Boorse, Professor of Biology

Sean Clark, Professor of Kinesiology

Evangeline Cornwell, Assistant Professor of Biology

Valerie Gin, Professor of Kinesiology

Greg Keller, Professor of Biology

Irvin J. Levy, Professor of Chemistry

Jennifer Noseworthy, Assistant Professor of Biology

Jonathan Senning, Professor of

Mathematics

Craig Story, Professor of Biology

Richard Stout, professor of Mathematics

Oleksiy Svitelskiy, Associate Professor of Physics

Russ Tuck,  Professor of  Computer

Science

Mike Veatch, Professor of Mathematics

Jessica D. Ventura, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology

Yuanming Zheng, Professor of Biology

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