Carolyn Porco at the 2016 Reason Rally

Carolyn Porco's remarks at the 2016 Reason Rally | Video

Lincoln Memorial
Washington, D.C.
June 4, 2016

Good morning. Welcome to the Reason Rally of 2016. Are you happy to be here? Good, 'cause I'm happy to be here.

I came here today to lend my support to those who believe as I do: That the only way forward in addressing the problems we face, whether it be in our personal lives, or in the governance of our nation, or ensuring the future of our civilization, is not to pray the problems away, but to think the problems away!

What does that mean? It's simple: Practice respect for the truth, adhere to logical reasoning, and avail ourselves of the evidence gathered through scientific inquiry.

I am a scientist. I have spent my life exploring the planets and moons in the outer solar system. I've taken pictures of the Earth from a billion miles away. And I was drawn to this life because it was clear to me, at a young age, that authority figures, despite their positions of prominence and power, did NOT have a monopoly on the truth. They didn't know what was true anymore than I did. What ends up being true, I learned, was not the subjective opinion of a priest or the pope or a parent.

It is Nature herself — the physical world itself — that is the final arbiter of the truth, and the languages of mathematics and science, once we learn them, allow us to decode the physical world to reveal what is absolutely true.

Watch Carolyn's speech at the Reason Rally:

Video: Logic, Reason and Respect/Facebook

And even beyond the physical world, science can objectively delineate the boundaries within which questions of ethics and morality can be examined and decided. And we can use scientific guidelines in crafting the laws governing our national life to arrive at the right solutions.

How can we possibly make informed choices about how to conduct our lives, either personally or collectively — unless we are armed with accurate information, unless we understand the way things really are, not the way we want them to be.

Knowledge is power!

And here's the kicker in all this: If you allow yourself to believe, and even worse, to conduct your life based on believing things that are acutely illogical or even demonstrably untrue, then you have effectively trained yourself to believe anything. And you leave yourself vulnerable to those who will prey upon you because you have become gullible. And then the consequences can be dire.

There are some famous examples of this: The way we have been led to believe that we need do nothing about climate change is one of them.

Many people voted for those officials who tenaciously stuck to the idea that climate change was a hoax or that human activities had nothing to do with it. The voters allowed themselves to be duped. The world is filled with gullible people!


I am particularly pained by how such adherence to illogical thinking and to dogma (written thousands of years ago in ancient religious texts) is harming women all over the globe today.

Women bear the brunt of religious thinking. In the best cases, women are marginalized and treated as the second-class. In the worst cases, we are denied basic human rights. We are made slaves, bought and sold like property. As children, we are forced to become the victims of paedophiles, and raped and beaten at will. We are rejected by our families and murdered by our own fathers and brothers and neighbors for disobeying religious/cultural norms.

The more religious a society is, the more it abuses its women.

That is so important, I'm going to say it again: The more religious a society is, the more it abuses its women.

Remember Todd Akin? He worked in this town. He was the Congressman from somewhere in Missouri who said that God had a way to shut down a pregnancy resulting from a legitimate rape. Have you ever heard a more colossally ridiculous statement made by anyone? And it was made by someone who was elected to office, in the U.S.!

When religious people like Akin can become members of Congress, we know women are in grave danger.

It is clear: The religious have no respect for women. Yet, it is still largely women who care for the family, pass on the traditions, and in doing so, encourage religion into family life.

So why is it, I ask myself, that women accept their position and even worse, encourage their daughters to do the same? Why are there still any religious women at all? Why are they not loudly, angrily, passionately revolting against a way of thinking that offers them nothing and puts them at risk?

I think it's because religion is not primarily an ideological phenomenon, but a cultural one. To revolt against the religion of their birth is for many people, to cast off their culture, and their allegiance to their family traditions. That's a very difficult and wrenching course of action, for sure.

But here's the thing. Because it's cultural, and because women, as the center of the family, are the fulcrums of culture, it is women who are in the best position to turn this around. Where we have the legal protections to do so, we can teach our children that there is a different way to look at the world and to look at women. There is literally a different way to think ... one based on reason and respect for the truth and respect for your fellow humans... One that finds no evidence whatsoever that women are inferior to males, and finds absolutely no justification for the abuse of 1/2 of the population at the hands of the other.

And when women are given power over their own lives, tremendously good things happen: birth rates plummet, poverty is alleviated, communities prosper. The message is clear and it's all good!

So, I'm serious when I say: Women are key in getting us to a world ruled by sensible, secular thinking, and we need to take on this challenge. This needs to be our mission.

I've heard it said: The American revolution was all about taking the government out of religion, and the French revolution was all about taking religion out of government. Well, the French got it right!

We need to get religious thinking out of government, because it hurts us! We women, all over the world and in this country too, have the most to gain from the world going secular.

So, let's do this!

Start by telling all your children that they ALL are equally valuable and deserving of respect by everyone around them, that there is danger is resorting to wishful thinking, and to question everything ... especially any philosophy or belief system that would put them in 2nd place. That is a way of thinking that is not worth considering.

Sometimes, all it takes is to for someone to validate our thoughts, to tell us 'You've got it right' in order for us to make big changes in our lives. Sometimes all it takes is someone giving us permission.

Well, I'm hear to tell you: You have my permission!

Women: Let's make this right! Let's make it so!

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