[extropy-chat] Re Fight for Evolution?

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Wed Mar 1 22:40:06 UTC 2006

Pete Bertine:
>If the pope is now pro-evolution (doubt it, it's a papal trick

I don't think you were on the list in November when we discussed it:


I don't doubt it, mostly because I asked my Vatican astronomer friend
when I visited the Vatican Observatory last November. He knows it from
the source, so I can't do any better about factual references.

The Pope's argument against ID is subtle, and, is useful to


>Seriously, what if leading Transhumanists penned a one pager and tried to
>get it into the press with a challenge to school teachers to incorporate it
>into their curriculum?

_One_ pager ?

>  Or if an exciting debate between "The body freezers"
>v. "The Creationists" were waged online (Discovery Channel special?) with a
>hard line taken for evolution, if it was entertaining, if walking fish were
>blown up or driven over by Spike on an Orange County chopper, then people
>might wake up. 

I don't like aggressive approaches. Hammering people over their head
with one's insistence is not usually very effective either.

>Lets face it, Creationism is a meme that is in vogue.

There's a phenomena taking place in one part of 6% of the world's
population,  that's true.

>Evolution needs a better PR firm. 

I suggest to begin here:

"Learning to Speak Science "
by Chris Mooney


An excerpt:

{begin quote}
What the scientific community-not just scientists, mind you, but
people who care about the role science plays in building a better
society-is realizing is that scientific knowledge itself is
politically vulnerable. We've seen the Bush administration's assaults
on science on issues ranging from climate change to Plan B emergency
contraception (the "morning after" pill); we're witnessing a newly
resurgent anti-evolutionist movement that's spreading
community-to-community and state-to-state. And we're frustrated with a
national media that seeks to hear "both sides," even on subjects (like
evolution) where no scientific debate actually exists.

Coming to grips with science's newly exposed political and cultural
vulnerability will require scientists to emphasize a rather different
set of skills than they're used to privileging. Although it's not true
of all scientists, too many have grown accustomed to the security of
their labs and university communities, occasionally lamenting the
American public's poor understanding of science but doing little in a
concerted way to improve it. And small wonder: American science
rewards the publication of peer-reviewed research, but offers little
incentive for scientists to communicate and translate what they know
to the public. So scientists in the US have little practice when it
comes to crafting a message or winning a political debate, and their
inexperience sometimes leads to ill-advised actions that have the
tendency to backfire.

Consider the scientific community's engagement (or lack thereof) with
the anti-evolutionist Kansas State Board of Education. When the Board
called hearings on evolution, the scientific community boycotted. When
the Board began to rewrite state science standards, compromising
biology education, the National Academy of Sciences denied the Kansas
Board permission to use their copyrighted educational material. The
scientific community's distrust of the Kansas Board is understandable.
But such actions make scientists look like haughty snobs and elitists
who simply refuse to engage with ordinary Americans-an already
prevalent stereotype that hardly needs reinforcing.

What we defenders of science must realize, if we want to combat
political attacks effectively, is that we have much to learn about
political communication and strategizing. Ideally, and in the best
spirit of science, we should view the current political quandary as a
problem to be addressed through trial and error-empirical attempts to
determine what actually works when it comes to translating science for
the general public.


When it comes to defending evolution, another communications
thinker-the celebrated Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff-has
other useful suggestions for the scientific community. The United
States is, of course, a very religious country; one in which many
fundamentalists attack evolution but also one in which many moderate
Christians support it. In this context, Lakoff explains that
scientists ought to be defending evolution by highlighting scientists
who are able to reconcile evolution with religious faith. The ideal
messengers to reach the public on this issue, then, would be
evolutionary biologists who are also practicing Christians. People, in
short, like Brown University evolution defender Kenneth R. Miller, a
practicing Catholic and author of the book Finding Darwin's God: A
Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution.
{end quote}

[me: Incidently, this last sentence highlights why I consider my
Vatican astronomer friend a gem. He doesn't need to justify or explain
himself to other astronomers because 1) all are more-or-less seeking
the 'big picture', and 2) he is a world-class scientist himself. The
precious bridge that he can provide is that he can explain to
fundamentalists how valuable is science. If atheist scientists wish to
gain the support of highly religious people, they will need people
like him.]

Similarly, Lakoff agrees that scientists did a poor job dealing with
the Kansas Board of Education. What they should have done instead, he
suggests, was to launch a comprehensive national campaign to explain
evolution to the public, emphasizing how "converging evidence" from a
wide range of areas-the fossil record, radioisotope dating, genetics,
and many other disciplines-all independently confirm and strengthen
the evolutionary account. In short, the scientific community should be
promoting a positive message that teaches the public why evolution is
such a powerful scientific theory, and about how scientists weigh

(see the article for all, it's a nice article)



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