Posts Tagged ‘Science’
“Communication Is a Two-Way Street” is a trite metaphor that, although useful at times, is an incomplete description of the reality of the process of communications. Yes, there are senders and receivers in communications. The senders can only control how they present messages. They can’t control how messages are received. Only receivers can control their reception.
Through these experiences, I found out how religious people “know” what they know. There could be no doubt, because the words came directly to me while I was experiencing the ecstasy. There was no induction needed, because through those experiences I had the Truth.
For many topics of interest to the average person, there seem to be two utterly different and diametrically opposed worlds of information. These worlds are so different that one might be called “Normal World” and the other might be called “Bizarro World.” It is possible, in fact likely, that each of these worlds works the way it does in large part because the other world exists. Not just good and evil, right and wrong, obverse and reverse, but in true yin and yang fashion, one world is shaped by the shape of the other, and this can be said of both.
I will tell you now that I am more interested in having a beer with a creationist than I am with someone who insists that he or she knows the “right approach” to build enthusiasm for evolution. I get to the point where I can’t stand to be around people who know this answer, but can’t see the irony in the idea that they have come to this conclusion on how to increase the acceptance of science without using science to find out.
My two favorite historical quotes are, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” and, “I owe my greatness to the smallness of my contemporaries.” Taken separately, each quote has its charm. Together, they explain…well, academia at least.
This month’s submissions to the Circus of the Spineless web carnival represent an astonishing array of organisms, and the full range of the kinds of interests people take in those organisms, and each post is illustrated with at least one, often many, very pretty pictures.
I encounter the second year grad students. The ones who earned their class the name “The Class From Hell”. They had a poster up in the TA office the previous year with a running total of how many female students came to see each TA. These amazing specimens move from dirty looks or come-on looks to comments: “You wear that just to show off your legs, don’t you?” “Not many skirts around this place.”
Scientists can talk forever. They can do it eloquently. They can express their passion and the wonder they find in discovery. They can be funny and clever and humble. But a listener who isn’t prepared to engage with the material will, at best, walk away with a slightly better view of scientists and about two and a half facts with which they can impress those of their friends who are impressed by that sort of thing.
I was taught that at birth I carried the sin of Adam and Eve and that I needed to practice certain rituals or pray certain prayers to be cleansed of the sin that I never committed. I needed baptism, confession and contrition to access the creator. In another version of Christianity I needed to be “born again.” I could never be good enough for the creator on my own, being human. And being human, I was condemned to be separate from the creator unless I chose the right way to accept redemption.
Rusty-red rocks against an electric blue sky were an exact color match for the mix of brilliant intellect I knew to be in Phoenix on Monday. I had just flown into Sky Harbor Airport from Minneapolis, and any Minnesotan will tell you that we don’t waste a day like that indoors. It was a sparkling spring morning alive with color and radiant sunshine. But I happily joined 3,000 other science fans inside a dark auditorium for a full twelve-hour day of physics, cosmology, biology and more.
You didn’t hear about it? It was the much anticipated and sold out public event called the Origins Symposium. The media may not report it, because they don’t get science. But regular, everyday people do and are hungry for it. We came to hear the new, and what we know will be stunning, discoveries about how the world works. We filled up the concert hall on the campus at Arizona State with anticipation.
Monday morning began with an amazing line up of rock star status scientists who spoke for an hour, one after another. Does lecture style delivery at a podium with PowerPoint visuals on a large screen sound boring to you? Not a bit—it was mesmerizing for five hours straight. Steven Pinker, Don Johanson, Brian Greene, Richard Dawkins, Craig Venter, and Lawrence Krauss presented their unique views on evolution, origins and their research with charismatic delivery. We laughed and cheered and bonded knowing we were witnessing an historic event. As the late afternoon panel of six, count ‘em, six noble laureates came on stage, we stayed right where we were. Ira Flatow, the nationally known science journalist and host of Science Friday, expertly juggled the egos and zingers that the physicists on either side of string theory tossed at each other.
Listening to these brilliant minds was like hearing a symphony performed by the original composer. The world of ideas and the appreciation of beauty is an aesthetic artists share with scientists. This trans-disciplinary approach is one that Michael Crow, President of ASU, and Lawrence Krauss, physicist and director of the “Origins Initiative” are developing. Along with college courses, the Initiative will also reach out to the public and journalists through workshops and future events.
Between presentations, I noticed how many in the audience were curious about the people around them. We found each other interesting and smart. We’re creating a trend, riding a wave of discovery, taking part in a cultural transition don’t ya know. Many people told me how relieved they were to see our intellectual lives respected after eight years of oppression.
So with spring and science in the air, I felt a little giddy heading back to Minneapolis. I’ll revisit my bookmarked pages at the Origins web site during the year, watching how the Initiative develops and hoping to catch next year’s big event.