The Intersection

Just Saw Flock of Dodos….

…and since then have recommended it to my audiences at two public speeches. Randy Olson’s documentary is funny, humane, and completely spot-on when it comes to the blind spots of scientists, the would-be defenders of evolution who often don’t have a clue about how to connect with the rest of America. Olson inspires all of us to ask questions like these: How could the smartest people on earth actually be so bad at political communication and strategy? And when are scientists going to wake up and realize that part of the blame for the spread of anti-evolutionism in the US falls on their doorstep?

So I give my wholehearted endorsement to Flock of Dodos, and hope you all will check it out….

Comments

  1. #1 laurence jewett
    May 24, 2006

    CM asked: “when are scientists going to wake up and realize that part of the blame for the spread of anti-evolutionism in the US falls on their doorstep?”

    Actually, one could ask the same question not just about evolution but about virtually every scientifically related subject.

    There are undoubtedly a lot of reasons for this — not least of these being the pressures to publish research (which takes up much of their time).

    Also, unfortunately, there can be other negatives involved in educating the public. Some scientists actually look down on members of their own profession who spend time “popularizing” science. Perhaps the best example of this is the case of Carl Sagan.

    Sagan — who was one of the most effective “science ambassadors” of all time — was refused membership in the National Academy of Sciences because some members thought him a “showman” rather than a scientist. This despite the fact that he had done some top-notch science over the years.

    Here’s an interesting short piece on this subject:

    http://www.ovpr.uga.edu/researchnews/spring98/viewpoint.html

  2. #2 Harris Contos
    May 24, 2006

    Thank you for the movie recommendation, and while my next comment may cause a reach for the Pepto Bismol, there is something to that rhetorical question about “how could the smartest people on earth…?” Well, we’re actually rather far from being the smartest people on earth (this country does not fare very well in international educational achievement), which in turn somewhat explains not only our understanding of science, but our politics as well. Much of the issue centers upon the state of public education in this country, which is inadequately and unevenly funded (while billions go toward unnecessary and unworkable weapons systems), and with the so-called “No Child Left Behind” legislation being more punitive toward education than furthering of it, there is a built-in impediment against improving knowledge and understanding necessary for addressing the scientific and political questions of our times.

  3. #3 Ron Zeno
    May 26, 2006

    “How could the smartest people on earth actually be so bad at political communication and strategy?”

    I don’t buy it either…

    Because it’s not their job? Because their jobs are difficult enough as it is? Because political communication and strategy tends to be at odds with any ethical standards even remotely similar to those of a scientist? Because education is someone else’s job?

    I’m looking forward to the movie, and not just because I want to see how well Olsen has done with his political communication and strategy. 😉

  4. #4 Mike Fox
    May 29, 2006

    Hey, I’m not a regular here. I normally antagonize people on PZ Myer’s blog. Sorry if my comments are out of place or of poor form for your board.

    “How could the smartest people on earth actually be so bad at political communication and strategy?”

    The simple answer is that they speak, in most ways, a different language than most people: “in theory”, “probably”, “cell”, etc. What this means is that either the rest of Americans need to be educated to the point that they are able to communicate as a scientist or science loses the precious resource of clarity. Are either going to happen anytime soon? Doubtful.

    I propose a third option. Lets treat Scientific English as an official, different language than American English and develop translators. This would have the added bonus of having science class be capitalized into Science class. Pretty neat.

    Mike Fox

  5. #5 pough
    May 30, 2006

    How could the smartest people on earth actually be so bad at political communication and strategy?

    They also have a tendency to be bad at numchuk skills. What on earth are scientists learning these days if it isn’t PR and numchuk skills? The education system is indeed dreadful.

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