Why Science Denial is Immoral

By Christopher S. Kovel, M.A.

Today’s society is built and shaped by technology and scientific discovery but, surprisingly, pervading scientific denial lingers. Irrational skepticism and flat-out denial of uncontroversial theories is not just a rebuke of the facts of science and an insult to toiling scientists in their respective fields, but should also be seen as a moral dereliction, capable of great harm if not remedied.

According to recent Gallup polls, two scientific theories in particular – evolution and anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change – struggle to gain widespread national acceptance. In 2014, 42% of Americans said they believe that God created humans in their present form (i.e. evolution never occurred). In the same poll, another 31% said they accept that humans evolved, but under God’s supervision and direction (commonly referred to as intelligent design). Only 19% said they believe the current scientific explanation of the origins of humans—that we evolved like every other organism on earth, through a natural process following biological principles.

The poll results on climate change acceptance are better, but remain troubling. Again in 2014, Gallup reported that 40% of Americans said the rise in global temperature is due to natural causes independent of human activities.

Moralizing climate change denial is straightforward. Current human behavior could irrevocably destroy the biosphere in ways that would bring about an age of extinction not seen since the Cretaceous period. Many heads of state and public commentators have called climate change prevention the moral issue of our generation. If, in the face of constant harbingers, humanity continues abusing the environment, our children’s children would be right to hold us morally accountable.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.