by Barry A. Kosmin, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and Research Professor, Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford & Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC).
Embedded in modernity is the idea that science is a major building block of the secular worldview, and that the progress of science is, de facto, the triumph of the secular worldview. This outlook arises from the close historical, philosophical, and intellectual relationship between the natural sciences and secular ideas and values. Both secular and scientifc values were entrenched within the Enlightenment project of emancipating humanity and actualizing the highest human potentials through the diffusion of knowledge. These goals, in turn, became linked to the quest for liberty, freedom of thought, and popular sovereignty—and thus democracy. The triadic relationship of secular values, scientifc literacy, and social and economic progress, and their role as the building blocks of democracy in the United States, is the subject of this chapter. Our purpose is to demonstrate that particularly in the 21st century, in order to achieve a prosperous society and a healthy, participatory democratic order based on secular values, a high degree of science literacy among the citizenry is necessary.
The Salience of Secular Values and Scientific Literacy for American Democracy