Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

To Arrokoth! with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters

Hello Science Fans,

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the need for museums (I would include schools in this as well) to stand up to bad, fake, false, or pseudo-science as well as support, promote, and teach real science.  I did get some responses to what I mentioned.  I received one in particular that really hit home.  It was from the son of Tom and Marlene Dickerman, both docents at the California Academy of Sciences that I was privileged to work with.  I think it is a better statement than any I have made.  So here it is…

I had discussed with both my parents, for quite some time, how the CAS (California Academy of Sciences) needs a permanent exhibit explaining how discern provable fact from conjecture, fable, and (for fans of the musical The Book of Mormon) metaphor. With mom on the evolution cart, and dad discussing climate change, each saw their share of debate on topics which are widely considered indisputable.  

There is a resistance to scientific acceptance which is worryingly strong in the US compared to other parts of the world, but is hardly new. Great researchers have been jailed, tortured, and killed over concepts we accept as obvious today. Worse, many today begin biased against science, viewing it as the antithesis of religion, a debate which is reinforced by many scientists as well, but acceptance of religion must remain independent of accepting of scientific understanding as a whole. The exploration of why people struggle with science, however, is confined to these “preaching to the choir” events. Academics understand cognitive bias, how to make peace with the balance of old and new ideas, and use of language like “*theory* of gravity,” but the population at large struggles to overcome this.   

Please work with these presenters at the explOratorium and urge those who craft exhibits at the CAS to create something which can help people understand these concepts. The explO and CAS are in unique positions, attracting visitors of a broad background to a science-centered exhibition, and needs to use the opportunity to help the general public understand how to sift news from propaganda, and why it’s important to have theories like gravity, in which we improve our understanding over time by adding new information, rather than dismissing them as invalid whenever challenged.

Note:    Marlene and Tom were amazing docents to work with.  They are missed.  Dan included the explOratorium in this as he knows of my involvement there as well as the Academy.

I encourage you at any science presentation or institution, when they ask for questions or comment, to stand up and speak for real science.  In many cases (maybe not all) it would be appropriate to ask how they help recognize what isn’t!  Ask what some of the false representations about the topic are.

As always there is more than any inquiring mind could attend this week.  Here are a few that look interesting to me.

  1. FLOAT, A Documentary On Science, Creativity and Champion Spirit | Tue 6:30 Castro Valley
  2. Wonderfest: How To Be More Uncertain | Tue 8:00 Sunnyvale
  3. Sea-Level Rise, Extreme Water Levels, and Coastal Erosion … How bad could it possibly be? | Thu 7:00 Menlo Park

Special mentions…  After Dark: Nonsense Machines Thu, is the opening of the winter show Curious ContraptionsWonderfest: Gene-Engineered Crops Tue,  and Celestial Mapping and the Amateur Astronomer Wed all make me wish for more days in the week and hours in the day!

On a spacecraft far far away, ‘Blind’ Willie Johnson is ready to sing for you. 

A few other things to ponder for the week… Don’t plan on visiting Arrokoth any time soon.  Here’s a new type of fasting, what do you think?  Did you hear this?  Ohio House passes bill allowing student answers to be scientifically wrong due to religion.  I hope that you will consider this… Celebrate Science and co-sign the letter

I think it is good to think about where I started this again… Do you think science…

Have a great week figuring out the universe
herb masters

“Play is serious business. At stake for us are the ways we socialize and teach future generations of scientists, inventors, artists, explorers, and other individuals who will shape the work in which we live. It is safe to say that humans, as a species, have always had a concept of play. But only recently has play begun getting the serious attention it deserves as a source of discovery.”   Arthur Molella, Lemelson Center Director, (Creativity at Work Newsletter July 02)

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