Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

*Fangirls Robert Bakker*

Once again, paleontologist Robert Bakker shows just what an amazingly cool and insightful guy he is:

Q: [Switek] Finally, as someone who works with the "bones of contention" and the fossil record, what do you think about the current controversy surrounding evolution in the United States? How can we do a better job of communicating science to the public?

A: [Bakker] We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science. What's the greatest enemy of science education in the U.S.?

Militant Creationism?

No way. It's the loud, strident, elitist anti-creationists. The likes of Richard Dawkins and his colleagues.

These shrill uber-Darwinists come across as insultingly dismissive of any and all religious traditions. If you're not an atheist, then you must be illiterate or stupid and, possibly, a danger to yourself and others.


There's a lot of discussion about this lately on Scienceblogs, and probably other places as well, specifically in relation to some drama happening around the release of Ben Stein's new bullshit . . . um, film, "Expelled." It's been quite interesting to follow, but also a bit disheartening as some of the pro-evolutionists can be quite strident, something which is one of my biggest pet peeves about the science community - at least those parts of it with which I'm familiar. Science and spiritual belief are NOT mutually exclusive, even though loads of people on both sides seem to believe that they are.

Bakker, btw, is my favorite paleontologist. IMO, he kicks Jack Horner's butt. :P I've heard them both speak and Horner's personality didn't engage me. (That's a nice way of saying I thought he came across as more than a bit self-involved). Bakker, on the other hand, is funny and articulate and really great with children. Plus, I tend to agree with his theories. He was one of the first to be vocal about the warm-bloodedness of dinosaurs, and I think he's also suggested that dinosaurs be included in the class Aves (although right now I can't find anything on the internet to confirm this; I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere a while back, though).


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
You've been reading that Sb wankorama? Incredible, no?

A lot of those people (i.e. the cheerfollowers in the commentariat, but also some of the bloggers, too) have incredibly naive ideas about truth - I have no problem with the idea of objective truths (e.g. we have common descent with apes), but there seems to be this view that it's self-evident what science should be done, if only politicians would stop being stupid.
Apr. 7th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
Ha ha! Wankorama is right. And it's not just politicians being "stupid" - it's all the religious folks, too. Which, to (some of) these scibloggerati, includes not just the fundamentalists (with whom I certainly disagree), but also agnostics and anyone who doesn't proclaim militantly "THERE IS NO GOD, and you're stupid and should STFU if you think there is!"

I find it SO frustrating that this group of outspoken atheists don't even SEE the harm that they're doing, both to the public's view of science, and to science itself. They mock things they call "woo" and are disdainful of anyone who has any spiritual belief at all . . . and yet, what they're doing isn't "science" in it's most enlightened form, either. Making up your mind that something is false, and being unwilling to budge from that, is equally as closed-minded as blindly believing something is true, without proof. I thought science was about testing things, trying to push the boundaries of human understanding. How can you do that without an open mind, and an attitude that you don't already KNOW what you'll discover? We don't yet know everything. If we did, what's the point of science? And I agree that saying, "God Did It" and considering the case closed is ridiculous. But it's equally ridiculous to say "There's no way you'll ever convince me to believe in something I can't see!" And I'm not saying that anyone should have to believe in things, just because . . . but I'd love them to stop being so rude about it to people who choose to have a more open mind about such matters.

Personally, I prefer to think there are still mysteries out there waiting to be solved. I think a bit of open-mindedness to the possibility that there might be things out there that can't yet be explained scientifically is a very good thing. And I don't have a problem including some notion of divine intelligence in that category. I happen to believe in a unifying force; at the same time, I can respect people who don't - but not if they're telling me (and others like me) that I'm insane, an idiot, and have no business being a scientist. By that reasoning, Newton and Einstein should have both been booted out of science. Not to mention my man Darwin.

So sad that there has to be this bickering among people who really do want the same things. Did you read this post, by Janet Stemwedel? I particularly loved this quote:

That scientists share a common goal with the scientists with whom they most strenuously disagree -- the goal of building a body of reliable knowledge about the world -- makes science a very different kind of activity then politics. For many of us, this is central to science's appeal. Why not lead with this strength?

It is possible to strenuously disagree without being insulting. I wish more people would "get" this. It's gotten to the point where sometimes I wonder if I should just add my favorite blogs to my RSS feeds page, and stop reading the sbselect feed entirely - that way I could miss out on some of the worst of this stuff. Then again, I'd also miss out on some great stuff, so probably I'll just keep my hand poised to skip those articles/bloggers with which I strongly disagree.

I need more science icons, I think. I don't want to overuse this one. Particularly since I'm sure there are a fair few people who would find it reasonably offensive. :D (I don't want to be hypocritical here, and do the very things I'm accusing others of doing).
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
"so probably I'll just keep my hand poised to skip those articles/bloggers with which I strongly disagree."

Not sure where those articles/bloggers are, but under most circumstances, according to your belief in opening one's mind, wouldn't it be better to read not just those comments from those you agree with, if they're not just morons out to inflame, but those who you vehemntly diagree with?
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Yes . . . but there is such a thing as flogging a dead horse.

Well, maybe that's not the right metaphor (not sure if it makes them, or me, the horse :D). But I *have* been reading their stuff, for months now, and when it's just the same old, same old, week after week, I think it's fine to come to the point when you say, "enough already!" and move on to something that's more interesting. That's not closing one's mind. It's just making a new choice about media input. :D Really, there's only so many times I have to hear the same old arguments before I'm tired of it.

BTW, the feed I read is sbselect, and many (most) of the bloggers there write wonderful stuff. Even some of the guys about whom I'm complaining write wonderful stuff, when they're not being rude. And some of the stuff is boring. But on the whole, I enjoy reading most of the blogs.
Apr. 7th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Just a bit more to add . . .

After I hit post (and went afk to get C from school), I was thinking about this. And I do want to add that I agree with your statement above. It is important to read the comments from a wide spectrum of people. Both from the standpoint of opening one's mind, and also from a "know one's enemy" perspective. Since we're talking more about the former here, I wanted to share a recent anecdote so you'd see that I really am listening . . .

There's a sciblogger named Orac (Respectful Insolence) who bugs me a lot. I just don't like his attitude, and I think he's particularly closed-minded about a lot of things that actually interest me (acupuncture, for example). One of his "pet" subjects, which he blogs about frequently, is the anti-vaccination controversy. He spends a good deal of time mocking and insulting people who choose not to vaccinate their children for fear of autism, and in particular he hates that people can opt out for "religious" reasons. At first, in reading his posts, I completely disagreed with him. Not that I think there is a link between vaccinations and autism (there seems to be good evidence that no link exists); I just have a problem with the government, or any other group or individual, telling me what I MUST do with my child (or my own body, for that matter), unless it's a case of abuse. (For the record, though, I did have C vaccinated against all the usual stuff, so this isn't a personal issue for me).

However, I kept reading - both his posts, and people who commented upon them, and over time (and particularly in light of the recent outbreak of measles in San Diego), I've changed my position on this. I still don't like the idea that the government would force people to vaccinate, but it seems that we might be in danger of reaching a "critical mass" of unvaccinated people, in which case we lose our "herd immunity" and put loads of people at risk - not just the ones who made the choice not to vaccinate. So, right now, I'm leaning toward making vaccinations mandatory, or at least putting a more rigorous system in place for folks who want to opt out. If there is a genuine cause to think a child might be at risk from a vaccine, that's one thing. But just vague "religious" reasons; I'm not sure that cuts it for me anymore.

So, you see, I do read things that aren't in line with my own current opinions, and sometimes I even change my opinions in light of new information. I do think, though, that I was swayed mostly by comments by more moderate (or perhaps I should say, less strident) commenters, rather than Orac's blog posts. I still think he's rude. :D Even so, it doesn't hurt to get information on both sides. :)
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
You open-minded elitist you! ;)

I'm in the camp that believes that vaccines should be required. The vaccine-autism link has never been found despite what a few celebs might believe. I get the 'critical mass' idea, but also it is about protecting children from parents who don't have critical thinking skills. WTH? Yes, that's what I said. :) Why should a child be made to suffer because their parent saw something on Oprah? So, it's not so much about the public in general nor that most kids get vaccinated and those that don't should be allowed to risk it...hey, it's America....freedom and all that. What it is, for me, is about but each specific kid that could be free of disease.

I'm for opt-outs, I suppose, but there better be a damn good reason. i.e. Don't tell me you don't want your daughter to get the cervical cancer vaccine (Gardasil) because that will cause her to be promiscuous because we all know that once you tell a 15-yr-old girl that she won't get CC at 50 she'll be hopping into the sack with every zit-covered hick she can get her grubby hands on.

I mainly stick to the political blogs. However, they do have subsets of information that covers other topics which I rarely look at (environ, health, biology, etc...) unless it has some facet dealing with politics. Either that or I just go in and joke in some of the snark diaries.

Normally, in my responses to non-personal (politics) topics on LJ I tend to be less vehement in my tone that I am on DKos. Still, I'm rarely rude there. If someone is a jerk, I just ignore them or give them a donut and I never sink to their level. Not worth the effort.
Apr. 15th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
I hadn't read the Stemwedel post. I thought this bit at the end was interesting, though the commenters mostly missed it:

You can't assume, as your default, that the public will understand science the same way you understand it if you make no efforts to communicate with the public about science.

I think that this is at the heart of a lot of the trouble on Sb. Scientists have their own culture (indeed, different sciences have different cultures), and what they need to do when trying to get society to act on scientific information is cross-cultural communication.

Nisbet and Mooney get this (but ironically failed to realise until too late that this applied equally to *their* attempts to communicate with scibloggers). PZ Myers gets it too, at least at an intuitive level, but his audience is very different. I think his typical target is a small-town American(probably male) who has no religious inclinations but feels he has to fit in with church to get on. N&M's target is sophisticated centre-right big-city people who don't give a damn about creationism but are nervous about son-of-Kyoto - Nisbet's "wobbly middle".

Most of the other scibloggers and commenters don't get it.

The other interesting observation is that it probably does Nisbet no harm with his audience to be yelled at by a flyover state hick, and it probably does PZ no harm with *his* audience to have some smarmy East Coast politico suddenly start biting his ankles. Jus' sayin'...
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Well, Francis Crick was a hero of mine until he said there definitely is no God, but there is a good chance that aliens seeded our primordial ooze. (FSM anyone?)

Or, James Watson was my hero until he said that blacks were inferior.

Hero worship, what a concept.

I've usually pulled up short whenever anyone uses the term "elitist". Too Rush for me. He might be the greatest paleontologist evah. Maybe he should stick to that.

There is no contradiction between evolution/science and faith. The constructionists on either side would say differently, but there are so few of them and they're so elitist anyway.... :P
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
Heh. Yeah, hero-worship is not something I really do, either. I think "fangirling" is a bit different. ;) But I do agree with his use of the word "elitist" in this context, so it's not a problem for me. As always, YMMV. :)

Also, LOL about your last sentence. Only I wish there were fewer of them. Or that the few that there are would just STFU. ;)
Apr. 10th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
I'm one of those who believes that creationism and evolution can (and do) coexist. But ... how can you not like Ben Stein?????!!
Apr. 10th, 2008 04:35 am (UTC)
Well, that's the trouble - I do like Ben Stein. Well, I used to, anyway, before he went off on this crazy anti-evolution kick. I wanted to win his money, darn it! (Is that show even on anymore)? And he seems like a really intelligent man . . . then again, I've known university-educated engineers who believed that dinosaurs were a hoax, and all those bones were buried by 19th century "scientists." So, um, yeah. I dunno what happened with Ben.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Teresa Jones