Thursday, March 25, 2010

Darwin and the Origin of a Science Symposium

I'm still grinning over last night's successful presentation by my friend MK Sandford, on "This View of Life", the concept of evolution as the process by which life has emerged and developed on earth, originated by Charles Darwin and expressed eloquently in The Origin of Species in 1859.

I have been increasingly appalled by the lack of interest and understanding of the scientific method, the outcomes of science and their impact on human life, and the outright denial of clear and unequivocal knowledge which science has produced. It's one thing for people to have different interpretations of facts; it's quite another to deny the facts that are staring one in the face.

Rachel Maddow said recently on her show, in arguing with a denier, "This is not a difference of opinion, sir, this is empirical knowledge. This is fact." Go, Rachel!

What I see happening in many sectors of American thinking is a desire to return to an age where we didn't have to face the facts of life, we didn't have to contemplate a shifting paradigm of legend vs. science, we didn't have to consider the consequences of our behavior on future generations. We don't want to think about global climate change, we don't want to think about humans not being God's "special" creation, we don't want to think about sharing DNA with nearly every species, some of them (gasp!) chimpanzees.

MK's presentation last night was so clear and understandable---and gripping----that we were all glued to our seats. Her manner of speaking is gentle and wise and funny; she answered every question sympathetically and without sarcasm, even the challenging ones. She answered them in clear scientific language, but without jargon.

And she gave us a rejoinder to use when we are challenged by those who deny evolution as the way the earth and its creatures have changed over time, when they say, "do you really believe in evolution?" (implying, "you atheistic fool"). It's "I accept the evidence of science."

The evidence of science is solid, well-documented, replicable; evolution is not "just" a theory, as some would say. It has a century and more of solid, well-documented, replicable evidence to bolster it. It is the foundation of all biology and physical anthropology. Genesis is beautiful but not testable, not measurable.

So our little task force of scientists and science buffs will be meeting soon to decide on parameters for continuing this community outreach, a series of presentations on such topics as Bioethics, Technology, End of Life, Brain Science, Physics and Philosophy. It is my dream to include a conversation about the ethics and meaning of each issue, perhaps even having a local religious leader (including me) offer thoughts about the religious meaning of the topic.

Stay tuned!


Desmond Ravenstone said...

Here's a suggestion: Sexuality and Science - subtopics can include...
1) What science tells us about sexual orientation and gender identity
2) Neuroscience and sexuality
3) Ethics of sex research
4) The psychology of fantasy
5) How a truly scientific study of sex improves all our lives
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

ms. kitty said...

Good ideas, Desmond! I'll add it to my growing list.