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Full disclosure: I am not a scientist. I have not even been to college: I am just a disabled veteran, an erotic Romance editor, and a village trustee (city councilmember) — they are all related.

Daily Kos member Retroactive Genius wrote a short diary here about a decision handed down by the United Kingdom's parliament to the BBC Trust on no longer giving climate change denialists an equal platform to the overwhelming number of scientists who agree that global warming is happening, it is being driven by humans, and it is changing the climate.

As I said, I am not a scientist, just a high-school educated tail-ender of the baby boom with too many unemployed brain cells. But below the tangled orange knot of string theory branes, I will rehash a debate I had on another forum on how to address the problem of denialists in the long term.

I would welcome an actual science student's or scientist's opinion on this.

Television especially, but much of corporate media today views controversy as the stuff of ratings, where differing opinions hold equal weight.

Science on the other hand, is not a democracy: the only thing that matters is evidence.

Retroactive Genius noted an article in The Telegraph about the decision handed down to the BBC Trust. I first came across it at Ars Technica here.

The Ars Technica article notes that the problem with false balance is not just in climate science but all science issues, and that the BBC also failed to adequately separate science from public policy opinions.

Debates about the military budget or whether this or that monetary policy are appropriate debates to have in public fora; science is not up for debate. Non-scientists are not equipped to have a debate about scientific issues. When public policy addresses a science issue, what should drive the discussion is science, not opinion.

Did you ever notice how few scientists actually appear on television or radio shows? A scientist does not "do science" when he or she speaks to us; they are doing science when they speak to each other. When they argue and try to prove each other wrong.

From that crucible smelting evidence and counter-evidence, of competing hypotheses in duels to the death until only one is left standing, that is where science is done.

When scientists speak to the public they are not doing science. At best they are entertainers. And this is the problem: entertainers compete with each other, and scientists are not trained in entertainment. There are very few scientists that have training in public speaking or communications.

So reality shows get more attention than scientists.

Bill Nye is a mechanical engineer. He understands the scientific method, and also understands that a person is entitled to his or her opinions, but not his or her own facts.

But Nye is also a television personality. He understands how to communicate with an audience not trained in science. And Bill Nye was even on Dancing with the Stars.

So when Creation Museum owner Ken Ham threw down the gauntlet looking to "debate" whether the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is valid, Nye stepped up to the plate to deliver. While Ham used the famous Gish Gallop technique of argument (usually used by those who do not have evidence to back their claims, also made famous in the first debate between President Obama and Governor Romney), it was clear that Nye "won" the debate.

More importantly, whilst Nye probably did not convert the hard-core religious in the audience, there is little question that the seeds of doubt on evolution were planted in the minds of a few of the attendees, as well as the millions that watched the debate, and continue to watch now, as it is available at YouTube (two hours forty-five minutes).

My modest proposal to those universities that teach scientific disciplines: they ought to require public speaking and writing classes for anyone studying science. The public at large does not have the training or education to follow the esoteric lines of inquiry that make up a scientific theory.

If scientists cannot adequately explain, in plain language, what it is they do and why they do it (and why research takes a large bite of tax money), then an opening as large as a semi-truck for those who have an agenda to derail or obfuscate science appears, because it stands in opposition to their profits or religious views or anything else that is not science.

In weighing the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ignored science about contraceptives in favour of a putative corporate religious belief. Regardless of what one thinks of the current makeup of the Supreme Court or its decisions, opinion should not drive matters of public policy in scientific matters, science should.

How we run our government is a matter of political opinion. For that, debate in the public forum is right and proper. But for those who would drag us back to the Dark Ages with nonsense opinions about vaccines, intelligent design in the classroom, contraceptives, or anything else that has a scientific basis and understanding, we need actual scientists that can speak to the public in terms the public understands.


Last week my brother-in-law came up to the Nebraska Panhandle to visit my wife (and help us rewire our house, because we could not get an electrician to come in six months to this out-of-the-way village even waving a fist full of cash at one).

He is a schoolteacher in Texas, but he is also a geologist and a meteorologist. As such, my wife, who is the library director in Broadwater, asked him to do a presentation on the Nebraska Sandhills (as his Master's thesis was on the formation of the Pawnee Buttes, as well as the flora and fauna found in these rock formations around here).

As a schoolteacher, my brother-in-law engages in public speaking as part of his job (ofttimes with students who do not wish to be there).

I put together a media blitz of public service announcements on local TV, radio, and in newspapers to draw in an audience to a science lecture in a town of 128 people.

The evening of his geology lecture was amazing. People from all over the Nebraska Panhandle turned up. There were more people at the public library than there were in the local tavern (I counted)!

He wove together for farmers, ranchers, students, businesspeople, retirees, and others a two million year history of Western Nebraska: plate techtonics, geology, evolutionary biology, global warming and climate change, in a two hour lecture that held the attention of everyone who came to the event. He included simple charts, graphs, drawings, and photographs (suitably large for a lecture to elderly people with low vision) to underpin his lecture.

At the end of the lecture, numerous people came up to him asking when he would return: they'd learned a lot in a couple hours and they wanted to hear him speak again.  No FOX News Channel talking points about how climate science is a hoax or any of that nonsense; he's shown through an engaging lecture with non-science trained people how climate change is going to hit them right in the pocketbook (farms and ranches).

He will be back for the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Broadwater is right in the centre of the path of totality. He will do a lecture on eclipses, how they occur and how to view them safely.

My brother-in-law is an example of how to change the course of the discussion about scientific matters that are not up for debate, like climate science and evolutionary biology. While not an active researcher, he is trained in public speaking.

We need those out on the cutting edge of science to take up public speaking as well. The truth will out, even against great gobs of money.

Hence my modest proposal: make public speaking mandatory for anyone studying scientific disciplines in college.

Originally posted to Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 01:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Science Matters.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (33+ / 0-)

    "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

    by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 01:36:52 AM PDT

  •  I read "erotic" and "Bill Nye", and I had a fla... (7+ / 0-)

    I read "erotic" and "Bill Nye", and I had a flashback to when Mr. Nye told an audience that "What we[humans] crave is porno".

    He was not wrong. I didn't understand the falling-out, the tears of rage, and the foot-stomping that ensued after he said this.

    •  Yeah, but . . . (9+ / 0-)

      . . . it was funny.

      "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

      by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 01:57:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was! I also thought it was pertinent to our ... (7+ / 0-)

        It was! I also thought it was pertinent to our time.

        Some of his critics took it entirely out o context. It wasn't an insult, but an observation.

        I'm a fan of Bill Nye. Sadly, I don't have a head for mathematics, so I can never be like him.

        I actually still have some of his science books from when I was a kid.

        •  Also, I am scared of looking at eclipses. I hea... (5+ / 0-)

          Also, I am scared of looking at eclipses. I heard they can damage your eyeballs if you lack the proper eyewear for eclipse-viewing.

          Unless I only need sunshades...

          •  There are a couple methods to look at an eclipse. (6+ / 0-)

            The first is simply look at it. A total eclipse will not hurt your eyes, but the partial that occurs before and after will.

            Another is the pinhole in paper method. One takes a pin and pushes it through a piece of paper, then with a second behind the first stands with one's back to the eclipse.

            Angle the hole and paper so they are in line with the eclipse. The eclipse will be visible on the second sheet of paper.

            You can also use heavy filters on a camera or such.

            The link I gave above to the eclipse's information also contains information on how to view them safely (as well as where in the USA the eclipse will be visible, either as a partial or a total eclipse).

            "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

            by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 02:27:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Fine, but which noun does "erotic" modify? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Village Vet

        Is it the Romance novels that are erotic, or the editor?

        That can stay your little secret, but I see what you did there. :-)

        The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

        by nicteis on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:48:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The US Is a Puritanical Society with Some Very (6+ / 0-)

      aggressive private puritanical forces such as the Catholic League for Decency which came to Hollywood around 1933-4 and clamped down on displays of adult sexuality in the movies. Check out some movies from 33 or before, you'll see women talking about flirting and sometimes see displays of nudity that won't be seen again till the late 1960's, party thanks to the motion picture code that could give parents a way to steer their kids toward adult-sex-free content.

      But there's still a strict taboo against display of adult attitudes toward sex in many settings, especially where under-20's youth or educational settings are involved. Meaningful education is being canceled across the country.

      Violence is no concern of the puritans; western movies and nightly TV shows had death tolls into the half dozen apiece routinely, and frequent mass gun battles that were thinly disguised restaged WW2 fare.

      Remember the fines for Madona's accidental display of a nipple at the superbowl concert.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:55:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Science isn't about what you know. (15+ / 0-)

    It's about how you know.

    Critical thinking is imperative for understanding the science based world we live in and is the single most important thing that can be taught.  It's hard work, not automatic, and is something the anti-scientific, dogmatic among us absolutely hate and try to quash.

    There are many different political movements at their core which are inherently anti-scientific, from climate denial, to Austrian economics to creationism and anti-vaccination.

    There are a glut of other things out there that are cultural and are anti-scientific at their core, but have little direct impact on politics (but still promote illogical thinking overall and harm people).

    Critical thinking skills should be taught to all people to rid ourselves of all these things.  Speaking skills are definitely important for science communicators, and we need more high quality science communicators out there, without question, but I consider foundational experience critical thinking to be even more important.

    An audience who has experience with critical thinking itself is more likely to notice bull when they hear it.

  •  dunno about the requirement that scientists (12+ / 0-)

    take public speaking classes.  My youngest daughter is between her MS and PhD in Marine Biology and I think she would rather leave the field before she would appear in a public forum debating issues.  She is very bright but she is not a public speaker,  Never has been and never will be.  Her mother was similar and hated public speaking.

    Here is PZ Myers on science's response to denialism (Note: PZ is far from a shrinking violet)

    Notice the inability of scientists to gain traction in the recent contrails controversy

    Since CT relies upon the belief that scientists are all in on whatever paranoid fever dream the denialist believes, nothing a scientist says matters to this crowd.
    I note this crowd frequently believe a plethora of different CTs such as the moon landing, HIV, climate change, JFK assassination and other such topics

    Here is a FB page I recently found  

    •  A class is meant to help teach it so that she (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, Rogneid, FarWestGirl, Joffan

      would not be that anxious about public speaking. It would also help talk to individuals instead of groups.

      Public speaking is an acquired skill, just like doing math or science.

      -We need Healthcare Reform... but i'm selfish, I Need Healthcare reform-

      by JPax on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:15:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Doesn’t work. You might as well try (0+ / 0-)

        to teach someone not to be acrophobic.  Yes, you can probably help some people, but for many public speaking is and always will be torture.  This is entirely independent of whether it’s a skill that can be taught.

        And doing math or science is not just an acquired skill, either.

        •  Classes will help almost everyone (0+ / 0-)

          If there remain a few who are genuinely phobic, that does not invalidate the value of teaching public speaking.

          It is indeed a skill that can be acquired by most people and improved by regular practice.

          This is not a sig-line.

          by Joffan on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:38:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I used a little trick when I taught it. All sem... (0+ / 0-)

          I used a little trick when I taught it. All semester, whenever I called on anyone (which was a LOT - my whole course was taught in Q & A format) I insisted they stand up. By the time we got around to speechifying they weren't nearly do uncomfortable on their feet.

    •  Understand However It Should At Least Be Offered (6+ / 0-)

      because science in numerous areas is under attack by society; because of globalization, religion could drive entire disciplines clear out of the country with no objection from authoritarian religion's rightwing backers, because they can purchase the science they need for their enterprises offshore.

      It would benefit both science and society for any scientists who aren't especially uncomfortable with public speaking and advocacy to get some training in it.

      An elective; we have some who learn law for example.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:59:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also, because scientists may be called upon to (7+ / 0-)

        present their research at conferences, to make in person presentation re funding requests and, of course, to teach classes.

        •  It’s not the same thing. I’ve always (0+ / 0-)

          been comfortable teaching mathematics in front of a class, even the very first time, when I was in eighth grade.  Presenting research at a conference is also no problem, apart from learning to deal with the time constraints.  Public speaking to a general audience is another kettle of fish.  For me it’s borderline; I can do it, but I’m not really comfortable, and no amount of training is going to make a difference.

          I agree with Gooserock that the training should be available to those who want it, but I’m vehemently opposed to requiring it.  And while it has some overlap with the skills needed to teach, it really is something separate.

      •  I enjoyed my speech class in college. The most (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMScott, Village Vet

        useful thing I learned in that class was the reaction to my speech that marijuana should be decriminalized. At the time simple possession of small amounts could result in long jail sentences.

        Each student in the class had to fill out a form right after they listened to a speech. About half of my classmates wrote that I had given a good speech about the dangers of marijuana. The first sentence in my speech was, "I think marijuana should be legalized."

        Giving professional talks at scientific meetings is quite different from speaking in nontechnical settings. Graduate programs in science and technology do require attending talks, giving talks, participating in seminar courses, and attending group meetings.  

    •  It is imperative (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch, FarWestGirl

      Scientists are not trained in how to present information to non scientists.

      I watched this movie years ago. I seem to recall it did a pretty good job of talking about this issue.


      by otto on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 07:54:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Public speaking... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      Is not limited to standing in front of a room full or spectators, which while visible, is relatively rare for most people.

      More commonly, public speaking is part of everyday tasks like meetings.

      If we claim that decisions in meetings are made only on the merits of the arguments, thereby ignoring any political back-story (an unlikely situation), then it's left to the combination of public speaking and presentation to present the arguments.

      Without a clear enough presentation, the merits are left off the consideration list.

      It takes a rather enlightened participant to seek out more than what is presented.

      The United States for All Americans

      by TakeSake on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 10:14:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had to take an upper-division composition class (0+ / 0-)

      for my semi-scientific major at UC Berkeley, and since I chose a Rhetoric class I got a sort of twofer. This is a GREAT requirement, and I endorse the idea! The intention for my major and college was that we graduate able to communicate ideas intelligibly, which is what you're talking about.

  •  Correcting an error . . . (8+ / 0-)

    . . . toward the end of the post, that should have been a two billion year history, not a mere two million years.

    "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

    by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:40:42 AM PDT

  •  Their professional aspirations will also be helped (9+ / 0-)

    by public speaking skills. Delivering a paper at a science meeting or explaining her/his research at a poster presentation rely on the same skills you can use in more public venues too.

    Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

    by OHdog on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:34:14 AM PDT

    •  Only to a limited extent. Delivering (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a paper to colleagues and speaking to a lay audience are really very different.  And yes, I’ve done both.

      •  True that But gettting over the shakes when (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        talking to an audience is a learned skill for most of us. Jewish kids learn this by the time they are thirteen and the rest of us should catch up  soon in school after but manyk don't get the chance or don't take it.

        Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

        by OHdog on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:35:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am very doubtful of the extent to which it (0+ / 0-)

          is a learnable skill.  Some people learn to perform in spite of nerves, but that's not quite the same thing.

          •  The folk at Toastmasters . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            . . . believe that anyone can do it. The biggest issue is fear of other's reactions.

            That said, I have never been to a Toastmasters meeting, so I cannot say.

            "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

            by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:43:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The faculty in my Dept. made everyone present over (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and over. By a year of this everybody became better.

            Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

            by OHdog on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 06:00:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Alan Alda's Center for Communicating Science (10+ / 0-)

    Alan Alda, long-time host of "Scientific American Frontiers" on PBS, created the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University (a State University of NY) for just this reason. He teaches Improv skills to scientists to help them become more comfortable in front of groups and more responsive to their audiences. Here's the website:

    •  somewhat related... (5+ / 0-)

      Lyman Briggs College at MSU was created in 1967 to address the problem of bridging the "Two Cultures" described by C. P. Snow.

      Students there are expected to pursue a rigorous course in the hard sciences, but are also expected to be able to communicate well to a layman audience.   For example, LBC has literature courses that specifically address the role of science in society and require writing about scientific topics in a non-scientific context.

      That's not quite the issue raised by this diary, since it still assumes rationality and an appreciation of scholarship from the audience, but many of the concerns are still the same: in particular, how to strip away jargon and get to the essence of how certain things are known and why they matter to individuals and/or society at large.

      One would hope the two schools talk to each other...

      •  P.S. we invited a creationist to talk there once (6+ / 0-)

        He made an incredible number of bogus arguments, which the audience respectfully but dutifully called him on, one by one.

        As he left, a fiend and I walked him to his car, trying to see if anything we had said sunk in, but by then he was in kind of a zoned-out trance just trying to move on to the next "lecture".  It was incredibly depressing, and seemed like a kind of obsessive/compulsive disorder.

        That was my first encounter with such debaters.  I no longer recall his name, but it might have been Gish.

        It did teach me that such people are expending an enormous amount of mental energy to reconcile their notions with reality.  It takes a certain kind of monomania to maintain.

  •  Here's the path of the 2017 eclipse... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    More about eclipses here

  •  Neil DeGrasse Tyson... (6+ / 0-) another scientist who does a great job explaning things to the public.

  •  I taught science to the public for ten years (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allie4fairness, FarWestGirl, BMScott

    It's very rewarding.  The only drawback is that we can tend to get a self selected audience for things like this.

    A different group of people designed and created a traveling set of science exhibits that would be put in malls.

    In my opinion, it was one of the better ideas for meeting with audiences that may not have science background, and who did not select science as something they were open to learning about.  

    One of the main drawbacks is that deniers often have  a completely different set of facts, so you have to know what those "facts" are.

    Even though I would routinely perform in front of 200 people, I rarely got much in the way of disagreement from my audience.


    by otto on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 07:52:02 AM PDT

  •  Mutually exclusive thought systems. (5+ / 0-)

    You brother-in-law's experience provides a
    perfect example of how to engage people in science: talking about how it works, what scientists do, how if affects their lives.

    Debates don't work for the simple reason that science and religion rely on two different ways of proof.  

    Religion rests on a belief in a spiritual being and a personal relationship with that being.  The proof is revelation.  It cannot be repeated.

    Science rests on the belief in the scientific method: theory,  experiment, repeat.  This can be judged by everyone who tries to replicate an experiment.

    This is why there are many different religions, but only one science.

    Any attempt to debate only gives a patina of  respectability to the idea that religion has something to say about science.  

    In fact, science has its own debating society in which anyone may join.  This is called peer-reviewed publication.

    Anyone who wants to "debate" a scientific view must do it by using science's terms.  They must publish peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.

    And that is the platform on which religion must debate science.  As for the platform on which science must debate religion: there is none.


    •  Many different religions, but only one science (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      allie4fairness, Village Vet

      Nailed it. That's the Achilles heel of the anti-science crowd, which is why they will dependably spit out the canard that (this or that) scientific result is just another religious belief.

      Of course, just about every religious person will agree that, though there are many religions, there is only one true religion. It is my personal observation that there is in fact only one true religion, and it has its adherents within almost every faith tradition - with the sole exception of the deep religious faith often placed in Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, all of whose worshipers have abjured the one true religion.

      Paradoxically, one of the principal identifying marks of the adherents of the one true religion is that they are prone to deny that there is only one true religion...

      The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

      by nicteis on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 09:35:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        among world religions claim that there is only one true and exclusive religion. Hindus, for example, treat Jesus and Buddha as avatars of Vishnu. In Zen, I was taught

        All roads lead to the truth. Walk which one you choose.
        and also
        Separated do the sects become
        By setting up of doctrines, practices,
        And these become the standards that we know
        Of all religious practice.
        Do not fall for the Fundie framing that claims that only they get to define the questions we discuss.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 09:52:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The fundies have framed this debate. (0+ / 0-)

          In fact, this is their fantasy debate.

          In no way did I mean to imply that fundamentalism is the whole of religious expression.  For the purposes of combating fundamentalism, it is necessary to stick to their definition of it.  I am not fighting against all religions, only those who believe that there is common ground on which religion can debate science.

          •  I find that it is quite the opposite (0+ / 0-)

            One must contradict the rock-bottom assumptions, not just the arguments that flow from them. Hence the value of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

            Religion debating science as an enemy is the province of Creationism. Religion entering into the actual scientific debate with new evidence is entirely different, and can be entirely legitimate. It then invites the scientific study of religious phenomena, a field still in its infancy after more than a century since psychologist William James took it up in The Varieties of Religious Experience.

            Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

            by Mokurai on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:12:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  You are in the ballpark, but that is not accurate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nowhere Man
      Religion rests on a belief in a spiritual being and a personal relationship with that being.  The proof is revelation.  It cannot be repeated.
      That is only the Christian Fundamentalist version. We should not allow them to frame the debate.

      Religion is not simply about belief, especially unsupported, irrational belief in nonsense. Religion requires experience. Of course, one can argue about which experiences, and what they mean. It also requires action.

      Buddhism does not care how many or what kind of spiritual beings you believe in or have relationships with. Buddhism is all about human problems with human solutions.

      Revelation is one of the greatest sources of disaster in human history, especially the Book of Revelation.

      See The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, for an overview.

      Science rests on the belief in the scientific method: theory,  experiment, repeat.  This can be judged by everyone who tries to replicate an experiment.
      Science rests on experience of the scientific method. Ask the question, do things happen in the world by way of causes and effects, or are there supernatural interventions? Then we have to ask, how can we tell? Well, it turns out that if we gather and share the data, we can debunk all superstitions in the process of creating a scientific model of the world that encompasses math, physics, biology, chemistry, relativity, quantum theory, cosmology, and so on.

      Science and real religion, which excludes Creationists, operate in quite different realms, but share the method of studying based on cause and effect. What works to make the world better? That can be determined to a fair degree through observation, experiment, and analysis, under the assumption that you actually do want to make things better for everybody. What works to help you behave better, in accordance with those findings? These are religious questions with an empirical foundation. What is the experience of the divine? We have some idea of that, in personal consciousness and also in neurology and brain chemistry.

      And then we can investigate pseudo-religion scientifically, as well, as in the classic When Prophecy Fails, by Festinger et al.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 10:24:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're right: I was specifically refering to (0+ / 0-)

        fundamentalist religions.

        However, in this battle against fundamentalism, I think that it is best not to  introduce the idea of "true religion".  Fundamentalists do not let others define "true" religion and their idea is that religion can critique science.  Once we allow that religion and science use the same methods, we compromise the position that fundamentalism can not critique science, which is basically what this argument is about for fundamentalists.

        •  We compromise nothing by stating facts (0+ / 0-)

          regardless of how others might try to twist them. As I said, I do not allow Fundamentalists to frame the questions and terms of debate when I am talking about their nonsense.

          Real religion is distinguished from such pseudo-religions as Mammonism and Fundamentalism, and from superstition more broadly, precisely by being grounded in the world of evidence. Mainstream Judaism and Christianity have tossed out many parts of the Bible that no longer work for us, and are now found to be actually harmful, including animal sacrifice, stonings, and genocide. Catholic Church doctrine on abortion, contraception, and women's rights has not caught up with the facts, and their forces of darkness have allied themselves with the equally dark forces of Evangelical Christian misogyny and beggar-thy-neighborism. But many Catholics privately know better, and also know that the doctrine on doctrine is a sham, too.

          St. Augustine tossed out literalism in Bible interpretation in no uncertain terms, telling literalist Christians that pagans who know something of science will simply laugh at them when they spout nonsense, and they will bring Christianity into disrepute. And so we do, and so they do.

          We have not entirely come to grips with the internal evidence of religious experience, but we have both religious and scientific support for the notion that genuine religious experiences can be distinguished either from the work of demons or from hallucinations by the improvements that result in the character of the person who went through them.

          By their fruits ye shall know them.
          So when John Newton became nominally a Christian out of fear for his life in a storm, but remained the captain of a slave ship, we know he had not arrived at real Christianity. When he gave up doing that and became an Anglican priest, he was making good progress. When he joined the campaign against slavery, he was really getting along there.

          Buddhism sums up such progressions in the Three Pure Precepts.

          • Cease from evil.
          • Do only good.
          • Do good for others.

          and in Dogen Zenji's saying

          The journey is hindered by arrival, but definitely not hindered by non-arrival.
          Some Christians say
          Please be patient. God isn't finished with me yet.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 08:54:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  arguments of facts vs. authority are tricky (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Village Vet

    For scientists, facts are the foundational premise -- in the end, anything and everything else must be modified to accommodate them.

    But for those raised in a deeply religious environment, authority is the foundational premise -- in the end, anything and everything else must be modified to defend their perceived authorities.  

    Far too often, scientists present incontrovertible facts to support their case and think they are done.  They aren't.  They haven't even started at that point if perceived authorities are in the mix.

    On the flip side, you have fundamentalists dredging up something that they think discredits Darwin or Al Gore or whomever they perceive as an authority for the "other side" and think they have conclusively won the argument.  Facts are not even in the equation.

    Until you can bridge that gap, you will not get anywhere.   Expect fierce, irrational, unyielding opposition to anything that remotely challenges their authority figures, because without that rock they are totally adrift at sea.  

    There are many possible strategies based on this observation, but it needs to be addressed by any successful one.

  •  There is a pretty big problem with your argument (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Many people become scientists because they love working with numbers and data and ideas, but hate interacting with people. It's pretty common actually.

    I am a scientist. I have lectured in colleges and high schools and professional meetings, and I love it. But 40 yrs ago when I graduated, I was terrified of public speaking. It took decades of practice and actually convincing myself that others actually gave a damn about what I thought before I started enjoying it.

    I can tell you that forcing people to learn public speaking in order to become scientists would drive a lot of talented thinkers into other fields.

    Sorry, it's a basic human personality thing.

    'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own. - Alexander Pope

    by liberaldad2 on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 10:24:13 PM PDT

    •  I agree . . . (0+ / 0-)

      . . . not everyone is a Neil deGrasse Tyson, or a Carl Sagan.

      My premise might be a bit absolutist (a demand for all to take public speaking), but everyone does a little public speaking, even if it is only to your neighbour over your back fence.

      An awful lot of mind changing is one-one-one.

      "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

      by Village Vet on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:48:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's absolutely not public speaking. (0+ / 0-)

        Your neighbor over the fence will just tell you if he thinks you're wrong. Whereas your public-speaking audience can just go away and think bad things about you for the rest of their lives, complaining about you to others in the bargain. And scientists are smart enough to know this.

        You want to empty science classes and kill science's future, require public speaking.

      •  I understand your point and I sympathize (0+ / 0-)

        really. I am often frustrated that the loudmouths and blowhards are usually wrong but invariably convinced they're not.

        But think about it - in your experience, has logic ever changed someone's mind when their mind was closed in the first place?

        I have argued that a scientist will always lose a debate with a fundamentalist because the fundamentalist knows he is right while the scientist is willing to concede that more data could change his mind.

        'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own. - Alexander Pope

        by liberaldad2 on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 05:28:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Science and Public Speaking is something Alan Alda (0+ / 0-)

    (the actor) is working a lot on.  He has created a program to help scientists make their work more accessible to the public.  It's called the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, housed at Stony Brook University of New York.  

    I agree with what others have commented; I would not back a requirement that scientists learn public speaking.  There are scientists whose strengths lie elsewhere.  But your brother-in-law was extremely generous to do what he did.  I hope that he was given due credit for this presentation at his school.  Universities are often guilty of not recognizing lectures for the public and science for the public for the contribution they are.  Carl Sagan went ahead and did "Cosmos" anyway, and Neil Degrasse Tyson was good enough to follow in his footsteps.

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