Standing up for Science!

Barking and Dagenham Post 4 October 2023

It is good to see that Humanists UK feature among the eighty plus exhibitors at this year’s New Scientist Live festival at East London’s Excel Centre.

Billed as ‘The world’s greatest festival of ideas and discoveries,’ it takes place over the weekend of 7/8 October with a special Schools Day on Monday 9th. Headline speakers include brilliant communicators Jim Al Khalili and Professor Alice Roberts, both Patrons and former Presidents of Humanists UK.

It’s good to be taking part because the importance of standing up for science has never been greater. The ‘scientific method’ – gathering and weighing evidence then testing conclusions – is the bedrock of progress and our understanding of the universe and our place in it. It is tragic to hear irrational conspiracy theorists rejecting, say, life-saving vaccines, or Michael Gove, a senior politician, declaring “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts….’

As Jim Al Khalili points out, “…the modern world is complex and unpredictable. Much of the information we are bombarded with can be confusing and designed to appeal to our pre-existing beliefs, values, and ideologies, so it is hard to be objective about what to believe and whom to trust. But we can borrow what is best about the scientific method and apply it to our daily lives to help navigate modern life more confidently.”

Navigating life and working out what to believe is particularly challenging for youngsters. As an accredited school speaker for Humanists UK I explain to students how reason – working out what we believe through scientific method rather than faith – is central to a humanist outlook, along with compassion and fairness.  There is much for example that we don’t understand about the universe and its origins, but science and the amazing technology now at our disposal is for me the most trustworthy method of getting closer to the truth.

Science doesn’t always get things right. Decent scientists will be open to new evidence which may change a conclusion. But it largely gets things right and is responsible for instance for jumps in life expectancy. It is a truism that, thanks to science, human knowledge is greater than at any previous time in history.

Now that is something to celebrate!

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