Our Mission and Values

This post is particularly important for forum participants to read (@trust_level_2) . @Moderators are currently discussing several large changes to the forum to bring it inline with our mission and values. Some of these details will be made public soon, with a request for comment.

In the meantime, we welcome questions and comments on this mission and set of values:


Our Mission

Peaceful Science ’s mission is to advance a civic practice of science…

…by seeking dialogue in discord and understanding across disagreements,
…by fostering interdisciplinary scholarship engaged with science and the public, and
…by encouraging conversation around the grand question: what does it mean to be human?

Trust, Questions, and Virtues

We are “peaceful” in that we seek in peace in areas of controversy, where different views are held and these differences matter. For this reason, we expect to encounter conflict. We navigate discord by building trust across disagreement, taking questions seriously, and inviting a community that aspires to virtues.

  • We aim to build trust across divides. In contrast with the “knowledge-deficit” model of science communication, trust grows with trustworthy dialogue across differences and transparency about our own beliefs.

  • We emphasize questions over specific answers. Science does guide our answers, but questions can open ways to new understanding. We can disagree on answers while still finding common ground in questions.

  • We invite a community of virtues. Whatever our individual answers might be, together we find common ground in common virtues, which build trust with one another and grow our understanding.

Centering on trust, questions, and virtues, we are not bound to advocacy of any particular answer. We welcome new knowledge, new questions, and new people, in a community that can grow even when we disagree with one another.

A Civic Practice of Science

We advance a civic practice of science , in which scientists engage in substantive dialogue with scholars from other disciplines and other communities in society, building trust by responding to questions with honesty and rigor.

  1. By honesty , we mean forthrightness about what the scientific evidence is and is not telling us, including both scientific findings and their limits; we mean truthfulness about how science challenges us, and truthfulness about how it makes space for others.

  2. By rigor , we mean scientific excellence and diligence in our public work, offering understandable explanations of how we come to our conclusions, and transparency about our own mistakes and errors.

Taking Questions Seriously

We make space for others, build trust, and foster trust by taking questions seriously , receiving them with courage, curiosity and empathy, even when these questions are motivated by values different from our own.

  1. By courage , we mean that questions come with risk; we might find new knowledge that changes our view, exposes a mistake, or serves someone with whom we disagree. Engaging questions is worth these risks.

  2. By curiosity , we mean the pursuit of understanding is intrinsically good. Questions are valuable because they can increase our understanding, both our understanding of one another and of what science is discovering about the world around us.

  3. By empathy , we mean to embrace the questions of others as our own, especially when they disagree with us; we make space for others by engaging questions, even when they arise from values not our own.

Space for Differences

Science reshapes our understanding of the world, but it is also limited in its scope and its certainty. Science certainly challenges our beliefs, but a civic practice of science makes space for differences , aspiring to humility, tolerance, and patience.

  1. By humility , we mean that we cannot convince everyone to agree with us, even if we are right and they are wrong. We are cautious to explain the limits and uncertainty of scientific claims.

  2. By tolerance , we mean to create space for those with whom we disagree, where we can engage larger questions together, even as we explain our own point of view.

  3. By patience , we mean endurance with one another across our disagreements, where we seek to understand others, and help them understand us.

References and Resources

Explore these values in these resources:

Scientists in Civic Life by AAAS. The AAAS is the worlds largest association of scientists. They articulate evidence-based guidelines for engaging the public with science, advocating a trust-building model over a “knowledge-deficit” model of engagement. The data clearly indicates that it is not enough to be right, we also have to be trusted.

Confident Pluralism by John Inazu. Dr. Inazu is a profess of law and Director of The Carver Project, specializing on the first amendment. This book discusses a response to a fracture society rooted in humility, tolerance, and patience, values we adopt in this document.

Shaping Science with Rhetoric by Leah Ceccarelli. Dr. Ceccarelli is a professor of rhetoric, specializing n the rhetoric of science. This book articulates pragmatic principles in building rhetorical bridges between disciplines to foster collaboration and understanding.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve by S. Joshua Swamidass. Dr. @Swamidass is a scientist and physician, and founder of Peaceful Science. Chapter 1, 2 and 18 of this explain our eight values and virtues in more detail. Chapters 1 and 18 are free to download here.

USA Today Oped by Nathan Lents. Dr. @NLents is an atheist scientist, and he explains in this article why he endorsed The Genealogical Adam and Eve , in service of the common good. The values he articulates here are our values too, guided by the trust-building model of public engagement we advocate.

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Those value statements sound very good to me. The focus is very much on science. Would it be important to include a statement about how your faith perspective informs the mission of your organization? Is there a goal of bridging science/faith dialogue? Should there be some statement about tolerance of different faith perspectives? Is your organization decidedly Christian, welcoming dialogue with others, or is it more just focused on science dialogue?

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These are good questions @Michelle, and I am sure they are on several people’s minds.

That is very much the case. Our aim is to bring science into legitimate dialogue with other fields and other perspectives, in a way that serves the common good.

There is quite a bit on the blog about how my personal faith perspective informs the mission of the organization, but the organization itself is bigger than my personal point of view. Though I am a Christian, and can motivate these values from my understanding of Jesus, I can also motivate them from a secular point of view. Several non-religious scientists (e.g. @Dan_Eastwood, @T_aquaticus, @davecarlson, @evograd, @nlents and @sfmatheson) are closely aligned with our values, even though they are not Christian, and Peaceful Science intends to include them as equal participants.

Yes, and there is in some ways already. Clearly, it is visible in The Genealogical Adam and Eve. But also…

One of the misconceptions about Peaceful Science is that we are a Christian or religious organization.

It is true that many of us are Christian, but many of us are not. It is true that much of our dialogue has been with the Christian faith, but we plan for dialogue with other points of view to grow as well. It is true that I am a Christian, but many who are invested here are not. It is true that what we do is deeply aligned with Christian values, but what we do is also deeply aligned with scientific values. It is true that much of our prominent work is oriented around origins (Adam and Eve, evolution), but our contributions extend beyond here to other areas too.

Peaceful Science is not a Christian ministry. We are poised to be a trusted secular scientific organization within religious communities and beyond. Our audience is not merely Christians, but also society at large, and our secular colleagues in science.

I am decidedly Christian. Many of us are decidedly Christian. But many of us are decidedly not Christian.

Our organization is meant to be secular, but perhaps in an unusual way. For example, motivated from secular values, we see high value in encouraging Christian scientists to confess their belief in the Resurrection. We see high value in engaging questions about Adam and Eve without anti-religious-prejudice. This trust-building approach to science engagement, we believe, that better way.

What I’m articulating here, to be clear, is affirmed by many of the non-Christian scientists that work with us. In the coming year, we hope that their voices will be more prominent and visible too.

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Thanks for all of those thoughtful answers, Josh, that makes sense. I like the mission of providing a space for dialogue among people with different points of view, while maintaining scientific rigor.

Wondering if it could help bring clarity to the mission statement to very briefly cite some examples of differences that are tolerated (e.g. differences in faith perspectives and political views)

Yes, this is very important: creating a space to understand one another.

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Two of the most prominent examples are cited in the document:

We don’t want to put this into the statement of values though, because we don’t want overemphasize the work on origins.

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sounds a worthy goal to aim for

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