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Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,13:38   

Over at Ed Brayton's blog, a commenter had this to say:

Quote



POnce again Ed you totally manage to miss the point. The argument is NOT a legal one. Winnning legal battles will get you nowhere, nor will your insistance on seperation of church and state (You only need to look to Europe to know that having an established church does not cause problems like you think it does). The issue is one of hearts and minds, and winning hearts and minds is something America has never been good at.

Posted by: Matt Penfold | May 15, 2007 11:08 AM


This thread is for further discussion of the "hearts and minds" angle.

Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on May 15 2007,13:42

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,13:49   

I think that scientific culture is long overdue for revision to encourage social engagement. Scientists should be rewarded for community involvment in explaining the role of science and what science does. Currently, though, pretty much the opposite applies. Scientists who do spend time in community outreach are penalized for those activities. The penalty is often the automatic one that there is only a finite amount of time, and those who do community outreach are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do not.

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
MattPenfold



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,14:16   

I was the original poster of the post Wesley quoted and want to expand somewhat on what I said.

The blog in question deals with the evolution vs creationism debate in the US (I include ID in with creationism so whenever I say creationism I will also mean ID unless I state otherwise). The issues he deals with often concern legal disputes over the seperation of church and state and are nearly always based on events happening in the US.

Ed is a strong supporter of challenges to the teaching of creationism in the classroom. His favoured avenue of challenging them is through the courts, although I suspect he would rather any such proposals got reject. The legal battles in the US are battles that have to be fought but the idea that by winning a court case you are changing people's minds is nonsense. They are a holding action at best. In later post in that blog I compared it to the Russians holding the German advance at Stalingrad. All well and fine but not a sustainable position. Sooner or later the Russians had to take the battle to the Germans. Of course we know from history they did that very well indeed. One can only hope that the war against the creationists goes as well.

I also went to argue that having theistic evolutionists such as Miller supporting is fine, if their role is one of excellent scientist. If Miller's role is to be one of showing that you can be a christian then there is no point for two reasons.

First if you arguing that creationism does not belong in the science classroom then a scientists relgious views are irrelavent. The issue is to be decided on the scientific merits of evolution and creationism. If the purpose is to show to creationists that you can be a christian and accept evolution then it will not work. It will not work becuase the people who reject evolution will also refuse to accept the likes of Miller as being christian. (In Miller's case he is a catholic so that makes having him accepted as being christian by evangelicals even less likely). Those I know who were once creationists but now accept evolution all say that what changed their mind was the science and it is the science that argument should concentrate on.

My point about the US not being good a hearts and minds was a cheapish (but not without a bit of barb) shot at how the US failed in Vietnam, and is failing in Iraq, to win the hearts and minds of the population.  What is needed are scientists to get up and just tell the science. Richard Dawkins does that, Ken Miller does that, many others do as well. When people criticise Dawkins for being too strident they seem to ignore the work he has done promoting evolutionary theory. Do the "Blind Watchmaker" and the rest not matter ? If you know a person who denies evolution happens go and buy them a copy of the Blind Watchmaker.  Make sure every school library, every public library in America has copies of his books. Gould's, Miller's, Jone's, Zimmer's and many many others. Make sure they are on display. And encourage people to borrow them. I mention the Blind Watchmaker becuase until I read that book I was unaware there are people who reject evolution people they think their god wants them to. I live in the UK, and had a middle class upbringing which prehaps explains why. I borrowed the Blind Watchmaker from the library, it was part of display it was putting on about science and they had some science books on prominent display. I was amazed to learn that is some parts of the US public libraries would not dare mount such a display, and many would not even stock books about evolution,

  
George



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,16:56   

Quote
First if you arguing that creationism does not belong in the science classroom then a scientists relgious views are irrelavent. The issue is to be decided on the scientific merits of evolution and creationism. If the purpose is to show to creationists that you can be a christian and accept evolution then it will not work. It will not work becuase the people who reject evolution will also refuse to accept the likes of Miller as being christian. (In Miller's case he is a catholic so that makes having him accepted as being christian by evangelicals even less likely).


I think the key word in "hearts and minds" is the second.  

The general public will not be persuaded, unless they are convinced of the scientific merits of evolution and also that they can retain the core of their faith.  The fundamentalist accusation of TEs not being "true Christians" is a sticking point, I'll grant, and I'm not sure how to get around it.  However, I think that the majority of those who do not "believe in" evolution, but are not active anti-evolutionists, have simply been duped.  They have the idea that somewhere in Origin of the Species and the textbooks is the phrase "and therefore God does not exist".  The alternative of a middle way does not come into their black and white minds.  That's the way they should be persuaded to go- where the scientific facts are and where they don't have to give up their faith.

I agree, Wes, that scientists should have greater incentives and opportunities to engage with society.  There are already plenty of difficulties finding an audience or a forum.  If the media in the US are like they are here (Ireland), then arts and humanities coverage completely overwhelms the attention paid to science.  Special events like science weeks or festivals can have their uses, but often are just preaching to the converted.

  
"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,18:44   

Quite frankly, I don't care what people think, and I don't waste any effort in chan ging their minds.  There are lots of idiots in the US, always have been, always will be.  Even as idiocy goes, ID/creationism is pretty far down the list (more people think that space aliens are kidnapping people from their beds, than think evolution doesn't happen).

It's no crime to be an idiot.  And as long as the idiots aren't in any political position to fotrce their idiocy onto everyone else (and the fundies tried to do exactly that), then their idiocy is harmless.  And when their idiocy is ILLEGAL, on top of it, then it's even more harmless.

As far as education, it ain't just creationism that's the problem.  Americans are, by and large, very widely spread idiots.  We can be idiotic about LOTS of things, all at the same time.  (shrug)

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,22:14   

Lenny, how inspiring.  I don't think you'll ever be mistaken for an optimist.  :D

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 15 2007,22:48   

Quote
The legal battles in the US are battles that have to be fought but the idea that by winning a court case you are changing people's minds is nonsense.


hardly.

results from major court cases often swing people into one camp or another.

no, you're not going the change the minds of the IDiots; nothing can do that but serious therapy sessions with a mental health care professional, but for the vast majority of others, the results of a court case lend a lot of weight.

--------------
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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,00:33   

Not that I completely disagree with you but you might want to consider how much of the general public is aware of the actions of the court.  Even in so-called high profile cases I would guess that only those that are specifically interested would be paying attention.  I'd be interested to see a poll that asked the average citizen what the Dover decision was.  I bet most would be hard-pressed to answer that correctly.

If I were to offer a theory I would say that trust has much more to do with it than ideology.  Consider average Joe and where he gets his information.  He's more likely to accept ideas from his family, community members, clergy than impersonal media sources or unknown scientists.  Couple that with unfamiliarity with science in general and you get an individual who is more likely to accept an explanation from average Bob on the golf course than from a peer-reviewed journal or even a popular science magazine.  Just as an example, and I know we deplore anecdotal, I overheard a conversation at McDonald's in which one elderly gentleman told his friend that vioxx was taken off the market in order to make more money off people like him when the next drug was introduced.  That story got nothing but agreement from his companion.  

maybe the "hearts and minds" concept is appropriate because to affect the mind you have to win over the heart.  Just a thought.

  
snoeman



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,01:08   

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 15 2007,13:49)
I think that scientific culture is long overdue for revision to encourage social engagement. Scientists should be rewarded for community involvment in explaining the role of science and what science does. Currently, though, pretty much the opposite applies. Scientists who do spend time in community outreach are penalized for those activities. The penalty is often the automatic one that there is only a finite amount of time, and those who do community outreach are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do not.

Wes,

I read your post and Matt Penfold's follow-up and had a few thoughts on the matter.  I'm not a scientist, and I'm not really familiar with the competitive landscape in which you operate.  So, the notion that there would be a penalty of the kind you describe for trying to do good in the form of outreach and involvement hadn't occurred to me.  It does make a hard kind of sense why that would be the case, though.

If I understood what you wrote correctly, your reference to the change in "scientific culture" meant a change in the culture of the members of the scientific community itself.  I think that notion is laudable, but I see an obvious problem in finding a mechanism that negates the penalty that you wrote about.  

I suppose the issue is: Can real value be found in the kind of involvement you wrote about? Value that could offset the opportunity missed to do research or experiments?  I think it possible that there may be value to be found, of the "soft" kind, but to see it may require a longer view than acceptable in our society that's always looking to this quarter's financial results.  

Although it seems naive as I write it, perhaps one place to find that value is to encourage and reward much more heavy involvement by working scientists in primary and secondary science education, in addition to their regualr work.  (This isn't meant to suggest that a lot of fine science teachers don't inspire their students, but how much more could be offered in addition by working scientists?) The value to be gained is in the long view:

- More kids exposed to more people pursuing their interests or passions in science
- A real opportunity to demonstrate that science at its core is a method and way of knowing and learning, and isn't required to be a threat to their religious convictions
- More kids retaining an interest in pursuing science

The value in the long view to the scientific community is more overall interest in supporting or participating in science.  For example, Wesley Elsberry, PZ Myers, Icthyic and Ken Miller may not have produced as many new results while they was working with eighth-graders in the kids' biology classes last semester, but the long term impact they (and others) have on those students could mean that there may be more new Wesleys, PZs or Icthyics than otherwise.

At the very least, perhaps there's a more science-supportive next generation.

Probably unworkable and naive, but perhaps there's another way to find and quantify the value community involvement brings.

Edit: Fixed an annoying spelling error that I know I'm going to make every time if I'm not careful, and yet still managed to do it anyway.  :(

  
BWE



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,03:09   

Very few things in this world flip my bell curve of eloquence as neatly as science education for kids.

For many of us, maybe even most of us, science wasn't out of reach. We largely understood that a moderate amount of science education would be nesessary to keep our world as open as possible. We also largely knew what we were supposed to learn from science. Even before biology, we knew that we were supposed to understand how cells work. We knew that we were going to learn the difference between plants and animals and fungi. We might have suspected even more. We already knew that later on we would be expected to use various measures like Joules or Kelvins. We knew that we needed to at least understand what e=mc2 implied about our world. We knew that people who could think could do these things. We knew that science was a viable career path and we knew what kind of training we needed to go down that path if we so chose. I knew a lot of real scientists when I was growing up. I often knew what they were working on and I got to see their labs.

I know I'm speaking with the royal "we" here but it is a cultural thing. Other people, I suspect many of you, shared this understanding as children. Many kids don't. Science is done by "Them" not "Us". Mostly they do it to make "Us" look dumb. Many kids with what you might think of as educated parents do not have those references. They truly cannot concieve of being able to differentiate between kinds of mushrooms or kinds of rocks. They have never stopped to consider why a lever makes it easier to move a rock. THey would not believe you if you told them that there was a measurable relationship between force and distance in a simple machine. They would look at you perplexed if you claimed you can express the relationship mathematically. I've met them. I've created labs for them. I've guest lectured to them. I've answered the questions.

They simply have never met a scientist.

Yes. The karma factor is huge. If you have the ability to entertain kids and communicate clearly, call your local middle school and offer something to the science class. Figure out extremely simple labs that demonstrate measurement and post them on the internet.

In fact, there should be a lesson plan resource here. Maybe teachers could post topics and we could all pitch in ideas.

This is far more painful to see than I'm giving it credit for.

Once you're all grown up, hey, you're on your own but as a community, not knowing that the bulk of our students can't even concieve of what a ph test might do.

Quote
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They were put there by a man,
In a factory downtown.
If I had my little way,
I'd eat peaches every day,
Sun-soaken bulges in the shade...


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Louis



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,03:41   

I'm going to partially disagree with Lenny, and very much agree with BWE and others.

The partial disagreement first: yes, there are always going to be idiots, but no, we shouldn't be fatalistic about it.

Science, or more precisely the kind of thinking and reasoning that is the practice of science, is the single most valuable invention of our species. It has wider implications than (just!!!!) garnering understanding of the universe around us, it is the very mechanism we can use to fight political and ideological oppression, to solve personal problems, to rise out of the mud and mire of human history and to take the best, and only the best, lessons we have learned from the past with us. Science is liberation. If understanding how planets move or how the common ancestry of Cnidarians is structured or how the reaction surface of the Diels Alder cycloaddition affects product distribution is a bit esoteric for people, then remind them that it not only solves their technological worries but the very root of it will set them free.

Ubi dubium, ibi libertas.

Louis

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Bye.

  
guthrie



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,04:00   

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 15 2007,13:49)
The penalty is often the automatic one that there is only a finite amount of time, and those who do community outreach are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do not.

Speaking as a non academic who went to university and has friends who are going down the academic route, I think that is entirely correct.  However, it is due to the larger issue of increased specialisation at work, high levels of competitiveness and a focus upon narrow goals.  (partly because narrow goals like number of papers published a year are easier to check up on.  It is much harder to measure how many people you successfully educated so that they went away knowing more than they did before and open to learn more.)

  
guthrie



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,04:50   

Also I get the impression that Ed and his ilk are of the "I don't care what you do as long as you don't force it on me" kind of outlook.  Therefore, a hearts and minds campaign would not be something they would want to engage in, since it involves crossing the gap between different people and their outlook, the gap which they prefer to keep.  

My observation of the UK is that simply put, our unification of church and state doesnt matter because the battle for hearts and minds was won in the 19th century, and so the dangers do not arise.  Whereas in the USA, they have a well organised popular movement, which would be capable of capturing legislatures.

  
"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,07:24   

It should also perhaps be pointed out that all the science education in the world won't help with the creationism fight, because the entire creationism fight simply is not about science.

People are not won TO creationism because of science, and they won't be won AWAY from it because of science, either.


Creationism is a political movement, and it ebbs and flows as the political situation changes.  It's ironic, I think, that Falwell (the one man who did the most to cement the Republicrat--fundie alliance that has dominated US politics for the past 25 years) is dead now, just while the political coalition that he formed is also in the process of dying. The fundies are becoming more and more politically irrelevant.  Kuo's book and others demonstrates that the fundies never had the political influence within the Republicrat Party that we thought they did -- which is why, after six years of single-party Republicrat rule, the fundies got nothign for their trouble.  The Republicrats themselves are about to receive the biggest political thrashing they've gotten since Watergate, and with the Republicrats gone, the fundies are nothing but a sewing circle.  The 25-year reign of the fundies, it looks, is coming to a close.  They will become like the labor movement -- they make lots of speeches, hold lots of rallies, raise lots of money, but accomplish nothing whatever.  They are simply irrelevant.

The times, they are a-changin'.  It ain't the 1990's anymore.

I think in a few years, this whole fight will be an irrelevance, of academic interest only.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,08:09   

Quote ("Rev Dr" Lenny Flank @ May 16 2007,07:24)
Creationism is a political movement, and it ebbs and flows as the political situation changes.  It's ironic, I think, that Falwell (the one man who did the most to cement the Republicrat--fundie alliance that has dominated US politics for the past 25 years) is dead now, just while the political coalition that he formed is also in the process of dying. The fundies are becoming more and more politically irrelevant.  Kuo's book and others demonstrates that the fundies never had the political influence within the Republicrat Party that we thought they did -- which is why, after six years of single-party Republicrat rule, the fundies got nothign for their trouble.  The Republicrats themselves are about to receive the biggest political thrashing they've gotten since Watergate, and with the Republicrats gone, the fundies are nothing but a sewing circle.  The 25-year reign of the fundies, it looks, is coming to a close.  They will become like the labor movement -- they make lots of speeches, hold lots of rallies, raise lots of money, but accomplish nothing whatever.  They are simply irrelevant.

Lenny, this is so off-base I don't even know where to start.  Creationism starts in children before schools or politics.  It's what they learn first, it's what they understand, it's what they are exposed to constantly.  It is not a political movement! ("This is not a boating accident!" - sorry got alittle carried away there).  It's the default and it's communicated on a much more personal level.

You can dismiss entire sections of the population if you wish, actually according to polls - the majority of the population, but you do so at your own expense.  You ignore what's really happening and what the actual attitudes of people are.  

Politicians do not present ideas, they regurgitate the most popular ideas.  One thing is for sure if you want to convince people of anything I'd put my money on the local barber over any politician.

I'll make you a wager right now Lenny, on '08.  Just a friendly little bet about this so-called landslide defeat.  What do you say?  I think you might be surprised when all is said and done.

  
Louis



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,08:38   

Quote
It's the default


People are BORN creationists? Colour me sceptical!

Louis

P.S. Extraneous quote removed in edit. Skeptic I'm thinking that this debate of ours needs to occur sooner rather than later and not in this thread! ;)

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Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,09:00   

I think altering the culture of science can have economic benefit if one takes a long-term, big picture view. In the USA, graduate enrollment in the sciences has been trending down for some time now. The trend toward increasing proportion of foreign graduate students had a major divot put into it, because of draconian restrictions put in place after 9-11. At the time, about half of the science and engineering graduate students studying at US universities were US citizens. It used to be that the US retained a substantial proportion of foreign graduate students who studied here, but that figure is declining as students are finding good opportunities back home, and they don't have to put up with some of the byzantine immigration policy the US now employs.

The US economy is in a shift from industry to technology as the driving force. While science enjoys a broad acceptance as a respected source of information, students are choosing careers in non-science fields by preference. The US is at risk of falling behind in the competition to be at the leading edge of science and technology innovation, and failure in that regard will be reflected in declining economic status. Providing our K-12 students with good science education and interaction with scientists is a critical component of continued economic prosperity here.

If you are with me so far on this, the question of how to reward scientists for taking time to do community outreach becomes a matter of investment, not just cost. As such, it is something that we can consider as a factor in budgets at various levels of government, because one simple way to reward scientists for community outreach would be to pay them for the time spent. That doesn't address some of the issues about competition and reputation, but it could be a start.

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guthrie



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,09:12   

Sounds OK to me, Wesley.  I'm also glad to see you agree with something I've been saying for a few years now- one of the reasons few people do science is because they do not know anyone employed in it.  Here in the UK, before things went wrong and Thatcher sent cremated the old boy rather than rejuvenated him, british industry ensured that you knew people who were scientists and engineers.  You would grow up with an uncle who worked in a lab, your neighbour was involved in R&D, and your schoolteacher had spent a few years making stuff in a factory.  

Now, that is no longer the case.

  
JohnW



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,11:57   

Quote (skeptic @ May 16 2007,08:09)
You can dismiss entire sections of the population if you wish, actually according to polls - the majority of the population, but you do so at your own expense. áYou ignore what's really happening and what the actual attitudes of people are.

The majority of the population is fundie creationist?  Source, please.

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Math is just a language of reality. Its a waste of time to know it. - Robert Byers

There isn't any probability that the letter d is in the word "mathematics"...  The correct answer would be "not even 0" - JoeG

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,12:05   

Quote

If you are with me so far on this, the question of how to reward scientists for taking time to do community outreach becomes a matter of investment, not just cost. As such, it is something that we can consider as a factor in budgets at various levels of government, because one simple way to reward scientists for community outreach would be to pay them for the time spent. That doesn't address some of the issues about competition and reputation, but it could be a start.


well, since we were discussing tenure in a different thread, perhaps that would be a good place to start.

the universities themselves could easily orient their focus more towards the community at large (I know most communities would highly favor that); and one way to do that would be to add community outreach as a carrot on the tenure track.

to do this, all you have to do is talk with the regents for any given university, and convince them it's a sound business decision, which really shouldn't be all that difficult, given that the university can easily qualify the time spent in outreach with the future gains in qualified students, at the very least.

now getting the regents to sit down with you to discuss something that affects the focus of the tenure process...

that's an entirely different matter.

I know from personal experience working directly with the regents for the UC system that you need not only an "in" with those folks, but perfect timing and some serious luck, too.

your best bet is if you can figure out how to get the chancellors and regents in competition with each other to implement your ideas as their own.

all that said, again, based on personal experience, it's doable.

there are also other ways to put pressure on the university to encourage more outreach.  public funding organizations like the Hewlett Packard Foundation send gazillions through the university systems (often with much grumbling and regrets, truth be told).  many times the heads of these foundations are quite approachable, and can often grant you a lot of leverage in "back door sessions", so to speak.

and of course, there's always the "bottom up" approach as well, getting dept. heads within a given university to support the idea of community outreach (either through the tenure mechanism or other) will ensure the ideas get brought up at faculty meetings.

hmm.

Wes, if you're serious about this, I might have some names for you.

--------------
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-CC

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,12:15   

Quote
Politicians do not present ideas, they regurgitate the most popular ideas.


sheep bleat, herdsmen herd.

you don't know enough about politics evidently to realize how a concerted effort CAN change "popular opinion".

go have a talk with Karl Rove.  he'll learn ya.  He single-handedly changed Texas from primarily democratic to overwhelmingly republican in just over 10 years, among other things...

as to court cases... time educates.

are you trying to tell me that the scopes trial had no major impact on public opinion?

how about Roe V Wade?

should I go on?

just because YOU'RE ignorant of the effect of court cases on public opinion, doesn't mean they don't have such an effect.

heck as an informal look specific to ID, there was a thread a while back where the stats for "searches on ID" were posted, (IIRC, because Dumbski claimed they were "up") and it was obvious there was a HUGE decrease in interest in ID shortly after the Kitzmiller trial concluded.

anecdotal, perhaps, but it sure doesn't support the notion that the trial results had little impact on public opinion.

In fact, why on earth do you think that the DI has been so hell bent on trashing everything about the kitzmiller case ever since the verdict came down, if it really didn't mean anything for public opinion?  They're a PR machine, for christ's sake!  all they care about IS public opinion.

heck, why do you think the media focuses so heavily on important trials going on with the Supremes?  for laughs?

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
BWE



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,12:59   

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 16 2007,09:00)
I think altering the culture of science can have economic benefit if one takes a long-term, big picture view. In the USA, graduate enrollment in the sciences has been trending down for some time now. The trend toward increasing proportion of foreign graduate students had a major divot put into it, because of draconian restrictions put in place after 9-11. At the time, about half of the science and engineering graduate students studying at US universities were US citizens. It used to be that the US retained a substantial proportion of foreign graduate students who studied here, but that figure is declining as students are finding good opportunities back home, and they don't have to put up with some of the byzantine immigration policy the US now employs.

The US economy is in a shift from industry to technology as the driving force. While science enjoys a broad acceptance as a respected source of information, students are choosing careers in non-science fields by preference. The US is at risk of falling behind in the competition to be at the leading edge of science and technology innovation, and failure in that regard will be reflected in declining economic status. Providing our K-12 students with good science education and interaction with scientists is a critical component of continued economic prosperity here.

If you are with me so far on this, the question of how to reward scientists for taking time to do community outreach becomes a matter of investment, not just cost. As such, it is something that we can consider as a factor in budgets at various levels of government, because one simple way to reward scientists for community outreach would be to pay them for the time spent. That doesn't address some of the issues about competition and reputation, but it could be a start.

Wes, respectfully, this is not an economic issue. It is a cultural issue. Yes better educated people contribute to9 an economy that relies on education but if we grew manioc and lived without airplanes and automobiles the point would still remain that a basic understanding of science, a generalists appraoch, is a requirement for our culture. You are immersed in science so your lens is colored by the career aspect. Kids truly don't have any references. They don't have a clue what Archimedes discovered in the bathtub. They giggle like beavis and butthead over the idea. They can't conceive how to measure something at all.

There is no fundemental difference in many middle-schoolers' minds between magic and science. None.

That is why it's so easy for creationists astrologists or whatever to convince people that they are viable alternatives to science.

I did a lab several years ago where I extracted some dna from my spit using soap salt and alcohol. My point was how lab procedures aren't actually mysterious. In the quiz I had them fill out the next day, maybe 7 or 8 out of tem of them said I had extracted saliva from my spit. They were mesmerized while I was doing it but they didn't have a real reference for what DNA is. They were studying cells at the time and could point to DNA (and RNA for that matter) in a diagram of a cell but the connection to reality Jjust wasn't there. They couldn't make the leap from map to world.

This disturbing moment brought to you by Brawndo- it's got electrolytes.

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Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,17:59   

Quote
There is no fundemental difference in many middle-schoolers' minds between magic and science. None.


well that's unfortunate that your experience with middle-school kids was such a letdown, but they aren't ALL like that.

I've taught elementary school kids, even, that have a pretty decent grasp of how basic science works.

My guess would be that kids who have a decent grasp of what science is learned it from parents that had a decent grasp of what science is, or else had several damn fine teachers along the way.

I don't recall, even when I was in middle school so long ago (damn, I hate middle age), that even half of the students were flunking the basic general science/biology course they offered there, and things like the carbon cycle were being taught, along with basic cellular biology, and even a smattering of evolution.

I'm curious if there is an area effect to your observations?

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

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"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,18:18   

Just a quick note -- back when I was doing live reptile shows for middle school classes, I was always (pleasantly) surprised by how much they already knew.

From my own experience, my interest in biology was almost killed by a dreadfully dull "teacher" whose idea of "teaching" was to sit at his desk and read straight from the textbook, in the most droning tone of voice you can imagine.  I learned far more about biology from one walk around a pond than I ever learned from him.

Kids are naturally fascinated by the world around them.  They only lose that interest when it gets beaten out of them.  Alas, school does a pretty good job of beating curiosity and initiative out of kids.  After all, the entire PURPOSE of American schools is to train people to go out and get a low-wage service-sector job, then shut up and do what they're told.

Oddly enough, American *UNIVERSITIES* are some of the best in the world.  While American *primary* schools are one of the *worst* in the world.

As in so much of American culture, those at the top of the social/economic ladder get the very best, while those at the bottom get . . . well . . . shit on.

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"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,19:01   

A side note:  I have noticed that, in many cases where someone thinks that "education" and "winning hearts and minds" is the way to beat creationism, what they're really saying is "everyone should convert to atheism".


Whether we like it or not, the only thing that has kept ID out of school classrooms were a handful of lawyers in Pennsylvania.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,20:14   

Louis, I'm not trying to make a biologic link but given the fact that the vast majority of Americans believe in God (JohnW) the influence on children is tremendous.  They are constantly and initially exposed to creationism (at least the soft form - God created the universe) and it is many years before science education begins.  Of course, I don't believe this to be a bad thing or fatal in terms of science education just the initial condition.  You can look at Wesley and I and see that religion and science can be completely compatible.  (For those that object to my inclusion above just sustitute Miller for me, is that better?)

Ichy, I think you oversimplified all three of those examples.  I'm not saying that court decisions have NO impact.  I would say that they don't have the MOST impact with the general population.  I would support a focus on the heart rather than the mind for the general population and I agree with Wesley and guthrie that educators can (and should) take a
greater role in infusing trust as well as education.

Looking back on this I can see my bias also.  I'm not an activist so I tend to minimize the role of courts on issues.  I'd always prefer that people decide rather than courts when it

comes to anything.   :D

  
Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,21:03   

Quote

Whether we like it or not, the only thing that has kept ID out of school classrooms were a handful of lawyers in Pennsylvania.


They were excellent. They were, however, not alone. Add a handful of expert witnesses and a handful of expert consultants and you would be closer to the actual situation.

The point that the court case made the difference, though, is solid. The win in PA has had a ripple effect, helping get the IDC intrusion in Ohio rescinded, and contributing to the eventual settlement in the Selman case. All you need to know about the importance of it is the continual wounded moaning from the IDC advocates over the Kitzmiller decision.

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



Posts: 2560
Joined: Feb. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,21:28   

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 16 2007,21:03)
Quote

Whether we like it or not, the only thing that has kept ID out of school classrooms were a handful of lawyers in Pennsylvania.


They were excellent. They were, however, not alone. Add a handful of expert witnesses and a handful of expert consultants and you would be closer to the actual situation.

Just an expression -- no slight intended to the rest of the very excellent team at Dover (and of course modesty prevents Wes from mentioning that he was a part of that team).

And I will note once again, as I have in the past, that the real death of ID began not in Pennsylvania, but in Kansas.  At the Kangaroo Kourt, the IDers were forced, for the very first time, to stand up in public and PRESENT THEIR CASE.  The opposing side *didn't even bother to show up*.  . . . And the IDers *still* made idiots of themselves.

It was Kansas that showed the world what the IDers were really made of.  After that, it was a cliff-fall.  

Dover was the fatal impact at the bottom of that cliff.

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"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



Posts: 2560
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(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,21:31   

Quote (skeptic @ May 16 2007,20:14)
Louis, I'm not trying to make a biologic link but given the fact that the vast majority of Americans believe in God (JohnW) the influence on children is tremendous.

Let's just make the note here that the vast majority of Christians, worldwide, think fundamentalism and creationism is a big steaming crock of cow crap.

Not to mention the simple fact that well over two-thirds of the people here in the US who accept evolution, are theists.

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www.RedandBlackPublishers.com

  
Ichthyic



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Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 16 2007,22:44   

Quote
I would say that they don't have the MOST impact with the general population.


neither I, nor you in your rebuttal, ever attributed court cases with having the MOST impact on public opinion.

stop making strawmen of even your own damn ignorant arguments.

to remind you, this is the presentation of your initial rebuttal:

Quote
Not that I completely disagree with you but you might want to consider how much of the general public is aware of the actions of the court.  Even in so-called high profile cases I would guess that only those that are specifically interested would be paying attention.


to which i responded with three high profile cases (JUST LIKE KITZMILLER) that should have answer the question of how aware the public is and was wrt to the resultant decisions of various high-profile court cases.

and your confusion never ceases to end, does it?

 
Quote
They are constantly and initially exposed to creationism (at least the soft form - God created the universe) and it is many years before science education begins.


followed immediately by:

 
Quote
Of course, I don't believe this to be a bad thing or fatal in terms of science education just the initial condition.  You can look at Wesley and I and see that religion and science can be completely compatible.


utter confusion.  are you talking about creationism, relgion in general, your own private Jesus?

what the fuck are you talking about, idiot?

damn, it is just SO fucking POINTLESS to debate anything with you.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
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