Panel Discusses The Human Spark and the Nature of Science
Last week I had the opportunity to moderate a world-class panel here on campus featuring AU film professor Larry Engel, science education advocate Eugenie Scott, and National Academies science education expert Jay Labov. The evening started with a screening of a segment from the PBS Series The Human Spark, directed by Engel and recipient of the AAAS science journalism prize for television.
We then gathered on stage for a world-class discussion featuring the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of Engel, Scott, and Labov. Video of the panel should be available next week, in the meantime, Mike Unger, one of our top communication students at American, wrote a terrific web story on the event. Here's an excerpt:
Led by SOC professor Matthew Nisbet, the discussion, cosponsored by SOC and the College of Arts and Sciences, touched on several issues surrounding the series and the state of science today.
Scott has been fighting the teaching of creationism and other religiously based views in science classes for years. Often, she said, science is beside the point.
“There are a lot of people who don’t like the idea that they share common ancestors with apes,” she said. “Many scientists are people of faith, many are not. It doesn’t matter because we’re all trying to explain the natural world.”
Often the public does not comprehend the very nature of science, Labov said.
“Science is simultaneously reliable and able to change,” he said. “We need to help people understand that’s the nature of science. We have to help people to understand that we don’t always have the definitive answer.”
The Human Spark provides some answers, but raises many more questions. That’s one of its many strengths.
“For most of my career I’ve heard, ‘you have to dumb it down,’” Engel said. “What I’m trying to do is distill so [scientists] can convey the information and engage the various audiences into thinking about the contexts. I don’t think documentary is a vehicle for facts, it’s a vehicle for narrative.”
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.
- The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
- It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
- Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.
The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
- Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
- Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
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