23 March 2008

Expelled!: another reason to build the new Beagle

Is anyone out there as disgusted as I am with the Expelled! brouhaha and it's nasty aftermath? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed a big, hearty laugh at the Expelled! producers' expense when the story broke. But since then things have taken a down-turn: not only is the Expelled! camp playing dirty trying to cover it up (as expected) but the scientists (well at least the science bloggers) are arguing amongst themselves.

Advocates of Framing ScienceTM assert that when scientists endeavour to debunk creationist propaganda it elevates the creationists in the public eye, while framing skeptics like PZ Myers and Larry Moran (who has written some excellent criticism of framing) contend that compromise and science-as-sound-byte are surefire ways to lose our integrity. This debate has been escalating for a while, but today it went nuclear.

Is there anyone else out there wondering, like I am, whether weighing in on the framing debate might just be a big fat waste of time? I mean, aren't there some better things to be doing than having a turf war in science about who is allowed to do the talking? Last I checked science was supposed to be a democratic undertaking (and is thankfully moving even more in that direction thanks to open access). There are all kinds of scientists, hailing from all parts of the religious and political spectra, and I don't think we should pretend otherwise. I mean, doesn't highlighting the diversity of personalities and ideologies within science lead directly to the conclusion that anyone can be a scientist or at least think like one? And isn't that one of the Big Messages that we all want to promulgate?

In other words, science is both bigger and messier than either Myers/Dawkins or Nesbit/Mooney would have us believe. Myers/Dawkins contend (to the Expelled! producers apparent delight) that atheism is (or should be) the logical end point of scientific progress. Nesbit/Mooney contend that in public we should pretend the Myers/Dawkins position doesn't exist, and instead propagate the lie that all scientists are friendly, fuzzy religious moderates for the sake of political expediency.

So, what's a scientist to do?

May I humbly suggest joining me in support of The HMS Beagle Project? Anyone can make a direct donation with Paypal, or an indirect donation via one of our shops, but if you're in science then there's something else you could help us with...

Are you or your employer in a position to sponsor us? If so, get in touch. If you are an academic, is your University in a position to adopt us? If so, get in touch. If not, why not help spread the word? That's what I'll be doing, every single day (outside of working hours of course) until we have the 3.5 million GDP we need to build the new Beagle.

And then the real fun will begin: we'll leave the Nesbits of this world to their shore-bound squabbles and sail off into the new future of science outreach. Just like our tag-line says, we'll be "bringing the adventure of science to life".

The framing din will be muted by live web-casts of new species being discovered and trans-atmospheric classroom chats. We'll leave creationism in our wake as we circle the globe not just "promoting" but doing science and demonstrating that, well, that it rocks.

The new Beagle, through her mission, through her projects, and through her downright sexy tallshipness will speak for science on science's terms: out there, in the natural world, where things and ideas of beauty and wonder still await discovery.

1 comment:

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

I think you have a great point here. The best way to promote science is to show how exciting it is, and not worry about whether or not certain oxen will be gored.