Don't be a Dodo: Olson on Dawkins & Framing
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Over at Chris Mooney's Intersection, there is a lively discussion going-on of our Washington Post article.
I thought this comment was especially interesting, from scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson, director of Flock of Dodos, (airing next month on Showtime).
I'm a big fan of Randy. He's a scientist who is using his USC film school training to engage wider audiences on topics ranging from the teaching of evolution to ocean conservation. In the process, he's also raising important questions about how scientists can better communicate with the public. Randy, along with places like San Francisco's The Exploratorium, are examples of what I call "Science Communication 2.0," people and institutions who are figuring out innovative ways to tell the story of science to diverse publics.
Here's what he has to say in reaction to the Post op-ed:
Richard Dawkins is symptomatic of the lack of leadership in the world of science. If there was strong and effective leadership, there would be a strong voice reprimanding him for what he has been doing, and the backlash against him would be as strong and loud as it has been against intelligent design. They are both examples of scientists speaking forcefully, stridently and dogmatically about ideas that are no more than intuition.
The NY Times Book Review of Dawkins book said that on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is clear proof of God, and 7 is clear proof of no God, Dawkins openly admits he's only at 6. That means he has no science to offer, only his gut feelings -- his intuition. Which is the same deal as intelligent design. The world of science should do a little better housekeeping in making clear that Dawkins writes only as a citizen, not a scientist, when it comes to atheism. Or even better, everyone should watch the South Park episodes that really show the similarities in these two ends of the spectrum.
Posted by: Randy Olson, Head Dodo | April 15, 2007 11:39 AM
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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