Is a basic understanding and appreciation of science necessary to be an environmentalist?  Does it help?  Does it matter?

I’m inclined to say Yes, an understanding of science — not necessarily all the facts (that’s a lot to ask), but certainly the basic principles of scientific inquiry — is necessary to act effectively to preserve the natural world.

Which is why stuff like this depresses me to no end. Some 55 percent of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form. That is to say, they do not believe in evolution. Sixty-five percent want evolution and creationism taught side-by-side in schools, and 37 percent want evolution replaced entirely by creationism in schools.

For the record: The scientific consensus on evolution is orders of magnitude more solid than that on climate change. We can quibble about the epistemological and ontological meaning of the word “fact,” but to the extent that science produces any facts at all, the basic notion of evolution by natural selection is a fact. If you reject it, you are — whether you acknowledge it or not — rejecting science.

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And if your mind’s in the habit of rejecting empirical scientific data, why should you believe when scientists tell you that the climate is warming? That species are dying off? That mercury causes birth defects?

If someone wants to make the argument that science and environmentalism are separable — that the spiritual side of environmentalism is what’s important — I’d like to hear it in comments.

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