March for Science — Really?

May 2, 2017



How is it possible that in America, on the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, it was concluded that our situation was so dire that what was needed was not just a march for aggressive climate policies, but rather a “March for Science” itself?  

Small-minded, corrupt, and power hungry state governors banning the mere use of the phrase “climate change” in official communications seemed laughable at the time.  But now the ignorant and dangerous Trump regime has signaled double-digit cuts to scientific research, including climate science, after appointing a climate-denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

One cannot help but notice history repeating itself.  A mere 401 years ago, an Inquisition under the direction of Pope Paul V issued a Special Injunction against Galileo instructing him to “abandon completely the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.”

In 1616, Pope Paul and his minions’ concerns were quite clear:  the heliocentric worldview “explicitly contradicted” the literal interpretation of the Holy Scripture. The “alternative facts” of an earth-centered universe were the very foundation of the Pope’s power over the Western world. Consequently, the unquestioned power of the Church would be undermined if the heliocentric view were to be accepted as fact.  

Fast forward to the present day.  Like all things Trump, the present situation is both worse and more complex than it might appear.  First, let’s be clear:  Trump is more putz than Pope, an ignorant narcissist, but also a clever opportunist at his core.  Trump’s influence in the world is, by comparison, a far cry from that of Pope Paul V 400 years ago.  But we have given Trump, with the aid of the Russians or not, frightening power—in absolute terms far greater and more dangerous than any Pope has ever had. 

But here’s why the situation is both more complex—and more of an opportunity—than meets the eye.   The science most of us believe we are marching for is the science of the Scientific Revolution that Copernicus and Galileo ushered in 400 years ago.  It is rooted in the reductionist logic—simplify what is complicated by breaking it down into understandable parts—that brought us airplanes, iPhones, and all the progress we hold dear.  It opened up the way to the Enlightenment, which replaced blind faith in the doctrines of the Church with a belief in each individual’s human potential.

In the ultimate irony: it is the modern day Pope who understands what the reductionist science of Modernity and what contemporary “leaders” don’t see (and Trump could not understand).  In the Pope’s words, included in his beautiful Encyclical, Laudato Si, “We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.”  

We appear to have entered a new era, a Second Scientific Revolution, that is permeating all fields of knowledge.  Integrated medicine, regenerative agriculture, integral urban design, and the entire study of ecology are all examples of this systems-based approach.  In it, integral or holistic thinking is augmenting the reductionist method, unlocking unimagined potential, and, in the process, the only genuine solutions to the critical and complex challenges of our time to emerge at the edges of our individual disciplines. Our failure to make this transition is a life and death matter.  It is critical to our understanding the interconnected climate and other ecosystem crises, the healthcare crises, and the economic system crises accelerating around us at an exponential rate.  

Is it possible that the Trump insanity might just be the jolt our scientific research community needs to make the historic, essential, and immensely difficult shift into effective transdisciplinary thinking and collaboration?  For example, how much of the National Institute of Health’s immense $30 billion annual budget goes towards “chasing a cure for cancer” (using the best reductionist science) when those researching (with pennies in comparison) and practicing integral health – both physical and mental – increasingly understand that a “disease” like cancer is actually often a mere symptom, whereas the genuine root cause (holistically understood) is more likely to relate to communication breakdowns at a cellular level in the natural regenerative capacities of our immune system?

If we want to reverse the health crisis (much less the healthcare crisis), we must invest in better understanding and support of our immune system, and immune system health begins with the food we eat and the soil it is grown in, most of it now toxic from the financially entrenched, industrial agriculture system our reductionist method delivered to us unaware of the disastrous unintended consequences.  How about in response to the Trump budget shake-up, an allocation of just 10 percent of the NIH budget to regenerative agriculture, which will enhance health and unlock the massive potential for real climate solutions through natural carbon sequestration in the process.  This is but one example of the potential that lies at the “edges” of disciplines that will be revealed in the Second Scientific Revolution. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t support cutting science research so we can increase our insanely bloated military budget. But far more important than a few years of budget chaos is the need to understand our future in the integral age lies in probing across disciplines, not merely digging ever deeper into each one, treating symptoms rather than root causes.  Systems and established institutions don’t change without a shock to the system.  Let us work creatively and smartly to use the Trump circus, with all its ignorance and bluster, as that needed shock opening up unimagined new possibilities.  In human and ecological health, and in our economic health. 

The Second Scientific Revolution is indeed afoot, ushering in the rise of integral science – the physical sciences and social sciences together.  It is happening, but it is happening outside our leading institutions, which by design are resistant to such threatening challenges, just as the Church was four centuries ago.  Woven together as never before with the great wisdom traditions—Western, Eastern, and indigenous, all of which have stood the test of time—it will trigger a movement future historians may call the “Great Second Enlightenment”.  It will demand universal participation, our best and most creative minds, bodies, and souls, and give much-needed meaning to our lives. 

That’s the parade I want to march in!


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  • ProsperityForRI

    We are going to need a science that is a lot less expensive as the economy shrinks. I figure , like John, that is science that works for our communities.

    • John Fullerton

      “Science that works for our (earth) communities” – great concept! rather than for some hair-brained notion of communities on Mars!

  • PaulK2

    We need a radical upswing in solar and climate engineering, pronto.

    If this was WWII and we needed a tank that would smash through the dense hedges in Normandy, we’d invent one in 3 weeks. That’s the speed that we need now, or else our planet’s oceans will stop producing fish and our wheat and rice belts will also become unpredictable.

    We need to replace fossil fuels in home heating, probably with stored solar.

    We need to replace traffic-strangled freeways full of gasoline-eating cars.

    We need 100% renewable coverage of electricity generation, not just when the sun shines or when the wind blows.

    If barrels of “research” money are simply being embezzled into some rich company’s coffers, we need to change this. We need to follow the money.

    • John Fullerton

      The good news is all the things you rightly say we need, we already have! We just need to remove the obstacles to their deployment. Like increasingly the electric utility industry… and i’m afraid, the POTUS. I for one am not counting on “moderating nepotism” to save us… But today california launched a new cap and dividend policy. Perhaps as T. Friedman wrote today, we can just follow CA as we always seem to do…

  • Sandy Wiggins

    I’m down for the parade! Lovely blog… an illumination of emergent truth. Thanks, John.

    • John Fullerton

      ah “truth”! dare we continue our age old search in the age of alternative facts? I say yes!

  • Brilliant parallel to Pope Paul V!

    Two tangental notes on diversification (spurred in part by your “10% towards regenerative ag” idea):

    1) “We don’t call people conservative when they put all their chips on one number of a roulette wheel.” This quote is from an interview by the Intercept of Jerry Taylor, a former climate change denier.

    2) I talk about a concept I call Paradigm Portfolio Diversification. We would do well to embrace not just multiple approaches in our work, but also multiple theories of change or paradigms. I am interested in applying this approach in philanthropy, but it could be useful in almost any field.

    Both of these concepts encourage an “integrated” take on science.

    • John Fullerton

      Like PPD idea Will. Could certainly apply to investments as well as philanthropy. And “conservative” ought to have something to do with “conserving” a healthy planet as TR and even Nixon well understood!

  • Doc Hall

    Good post John;

    I note that industry commercially interprets and values science. If a finding boosts their business, it is extolled in advertising. If it suggests that a business or industry is destructive of either environment or of human quality of life, it is junk science.

    And yes, too much science itself is trapped in narrow frameworks of thought; too many little, isolated studies poorly evaluated in a bigger context. The experiments are not hard to design, and standard statistical analysis serves them up for publication. When contradictions are hard to explain, science sells the tickets into the circus of commercial interpretation. Research on nutrition, health care, and environmental issues are three big rings for this circus.

    As for what usually passes for research in over-modeled business and economics, let’s not even go there.

    But there’s hope. I see more researchers questioning their basic assumptions and methodologies, and digging down into their epistemology; plus signs of multi-disciplinary research. Almost no papers published today are single author, and I’ve seen them with as many as thirty names comprising a project team.

    As you suggest, mere restructuring of economic measurement, regulation, or legal governance is insufficient. We need a major upheaval in our frameworks of thought — another major shove toward rejecting mankind (and especially its dominant elites) as the all-knowing center of the universe. And we need it quickly, faster than prior human worldview shifts have occurred. This will be painful. It may even be bloody, but our future quality of life depends on shifting our collective minds into a much more enlightened state.

    • John Fullerton

      so how do we accelerate it? And can we use the Trump shock to assist us?

  • Rachel Conerly

    “YES” to the second enlightenment. And…

    Should the recent missing $6.5 Trillion from the budget affect our thinking about the government’s ability to deliver valid science on the climate?

    • John Fullerton

      Well well… to to hear from you…
      Not sure which missing $6.5 Trillion you mean? The one that got printed to bail out the financial system? Fortunately, there is a global effort on climate science, and they seem to be mostly quibbling over the details and rate of change estimates, not the core understanding.
      thanks for chiming in!

      • Rachel Conerly

        You’re welcome, bless you.
        Last year, the Office of the Inspector General told Congress that the Pentagon could not account for $6.5 Trillion. Oddly, no mainstream media seems to find this fact a matter worth of reporting, although there at least six pages of Google links to other media reporting this fact
        This is after Rumsfeld admitted on 9/10/01 that the Pentagon could not account for $2.3 Trillion. As an interesting aside, most of those killed at the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11/01 were bookkeepers, accountants and budget analysts.

        • John Fullerton

          The pentagon budget is a grotesque $600B ish per annum. Perhaps there’s a good reason for the press to ignore the proposition that 10 X the entire budget has gone missing?? $6 billion I’d buy. But $6 trillion?

          • Rachel Conerly

            It’s not disputed, John. It’s also the tip of the iceberg. Do a little research on the Exchange Stabilization Fund… it makes these other trillions pale in comparison.

          • Rachel Conerly

            Nevertheless, here’s a link to CNN stating that the Pentagon can’t account for trillions ( Of course, they rather pass it off as just an accounting problem, but it does substantiate my number. Here’s a Reuter’s link on the same thing ( Here’s Rumsfeld saying it was $2.3 trillion PRIOR TO 9/11 ( He was forced to make this announcement because Catherine Austin Fitts (formerly with Dillon & Reed and later Asst. Secretary of Housing) was working with a journalist to break the story. It’s TRILLIONS, John. And it has been for a long time.

  • Fran Korten

    John — powerful analogy. Thanks for this. Denying the terrible truth that climate science is telling us is just like denying that the earth is not the center of the universe. And for the same reasons. It’s all about the power of a story and how that relates to who holds power in the world. We will learn. The effects of climate change are hitting everyone over the head (or in their basements). The recognition of climate change demands the integrated frame you are talking about. We will learn that we are part of nature and subject to its laws, not the masters who can control its forces.

    • John Fullerton


  • John Taylor

    Yes, the 2nd Scientific Revolution is happening per Complexity Economic
    /Ecological thinkers like David Sloan Wilson, Kate Raworth, Paul Hawken and Manfred Max-Neef. … and of course your good self! I love Max-Neefs bifurcation: “Nothing is important in science that cannot be measured. We and Nature, the observer and the observed, are separate entities. Science is the supreme manifestation of reason, and reason is the supreme attribute of a human being.” BUT for Goethe, ‘Science is as much an inner path of spiritual development as it is a discipline aimed at accumulating knowledge of the physical world. Goethe preferred the conception that ‘Science… has as its highest goal the arousal of the feeling of which the scientist would come to see God in nature and nature in God.” Max-neef then asserts: economics has become a discipline where only that which can be measured is important…. generating models and interpretations that are theoretically attractive but totally divorced from reality.”

    • John Fullerton

      Maybe we can finally begin to pick up the gift Goethe left for us to unwrap! Thanks for the reminder.