Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pine or redwood?

I saw Randy Olsen speak at the Evolution 2006 conference, and participated in a discussion after a showing of his movie, Flock of Dodos. I highly recommend the movie:

Randy is a terrific example of a scientist who is genuinely concerned with the public perception of science. He may not always hit the nail on the head, as far as pure scientists are concerned, but he brings up the important issue that scientists need to incorporate style into their substance. Science should be approachable to the general public. The disconnect between what people can understand and what they think they can understand is huge.

I think every university should be required to have a week-long open house, where the public is welcome to "lay" lectures. Scientists should have to learn how to present their work to those with no familiarity to it. Yes, I understand that it isn't easy, and that one will not be able to go into exact detail, and that sometimes the specific details will have to be sacrificed for the whole picture. Oftentimes, in science, we don't see the forest for the trees, but we need to learn to present the forest, in all of its glory, to the public. Because without a basic understanding of the general focus, and methods, of different research fields, how can we hope to foster inquiry, and encourage all people to address new problems with patience, diligence and critical thinking.

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