More Blogger Reaction to AAAS Religion Panel

A few more bloggers who were in attendance at the "Communicating Science in a Religious America" panel have weighed in.

-->The editor of Nature's blog network describes the panel as the most interesting session she attended at AAAS.

-->And if you read French, Agence Presse has this report.

In addition, following the panel, Ken Miller was interviewed by the Guardian and offers these audio remarks on his suggestion that scientists recapture the term "design" from creationists. Miller wowed the packed audience with a brilliant presentation, but I'm not sure this particular communication goal is attainable.

There's a golden rule in political communication backed up by a lot of research in psychology and it applies in this case. As Drew Westen puts it in The Political Brain: "Be First." Once you create a mental association in the public's mind, it's very difficult to break its hold. Think about it this way...recapturing the term and meaning of "design" from creationists would be akin to CNN trying to reclaim the tagline "fair and balanced" from Fox News or Hillary Clinton redefining herself as the true "change" candidate.

When a train of thought is set in motion in the public's mind, instead of trying to reverse the direction of that train, it's much easier to just switch the tracks. That's exactly what the National Academies does in its recent report, where it shifts the communication emphasis on evolutionary science from the ID movement's preferred mental box of "teach the controversy" to one of social progress, focusing on evolution as the modern building block for advances in medicine, agriculture, and industry.

Indeed, there are a lot of interesting potential strategies we can take when it comes to public communication, but ultimately choosing the most effective strategy remains an empirical question, subject to focus groups, survey work, and other methods of testing. I will have more to say about this probably this week or next. Stay tuned.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

Videos
  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less