Over at Shifting Baselines, Randy Olson just posted an interview with Matthew Chapman, the original guy behind the curtain of Science Debate 2008. Sheril and I have taken to calling Matthew our “fearless leader,” but “fearless, selfless, deeply inspirational leader without whom this wouldn’t have been possible” is better, I think.
Here’s a quote from the interview, in which Matthew talks about how it all began:
I spoke about the debate idea to a few people who were more or less entirely cynical. I then spoke to Chris Mooney. Chris was interested, and brought his Intersection co-blogger, Sheril Kirshenbaum, on board and they immediately began to stir up the blogosphere as it had rarely been stirred up before, and also recruited scientists and science related people. Another friend of mine, Austin Dacey, created the website and provided organizational help. Then physicist and writer Lawrence Krauss joined us. Lawrence was unbelievably effective in recruiting top people from both science and business. He got 6 Nobel laureates to sign on in a single day! At about the same time, I was introduced over the phone to fellow screenwriter, Shawn Lawrence Otto, (House of Sand And Fog) by a producer who had a project both of us wanted to write. We went from being competitors to collaborators. Shawn, who has managed political campaigns, brought the final ingredient that holds the whole thing together. He is a far better manager than I am, he’s diplomatic, politically wise, hard working, and fearless.
As with all endeavors there is a great deal of luck involved. All I did was say “Yes” to whoever wanted to help, and luck delivered a core group, the founders of this, each of whom brings something unique and essential. Chris is proactive and impatient to make progress. Sheril is proactive and optimistic and encourages everyone. Austin is philosophical. Lawrence is our energetic link to the upper levels of academia and science. Shawn is as described above.
There is more about the origins of ScienceDebate2008 in my latest Seed column, but that isn’t online yet.
Oh, and did I mention that Matthew Chapman is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin?