Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Science in 'Jeopardy'

After a brief description of the growth of biological (and evolutionary) knowledge over the last 150 years, Dean of Undergraduates Robert Holub proposes:
That we are experiencing the recrudescence of a theory dismissed by knowledgeable individuals over a century ago should give us pause. And the fault lies not solely with those individuals who are uncritical, uninformed, or dogmatic in their beliefs, but also with educators, including faculty on the Berkeley campus and on college campuses across the country. In our zeal to pursue our own scholarly goals and research achievements, we have neglected one of our most important duties: the education of a general public, and even the general student public, on issues central to an informed citizenry in the twenty-first century.

Students need to acquire knowledge in all areas of the university. They need to think critically, but they also need to be informed about how faculty and researchers on campus go about their investigations, and why their methods make sense. Apparently, as I found out recently, even some faculty members remain unenlightened about central issues and areas of knowledge, and I must assume many students are similarly misinformed. Until we dedicate ourselves to the task of purveying the vital information and insights of our disciplines to a general public of students and colleagues, phenomena like "intelligent design" will continue to be a blight on our intellectual landscape.
Of course, the same is true of the public at large.

The NCSE, KCFS, and pretty much everyone else with experience is urging people to boycott the subcommittee's hearings, and rightly so. The Board isn't interested in being educated. The defining characteristic of the subcommittee's process is that the rules and stated objectives change every time they meet. This is a hallmark of a process which proceeds with no questions, only desired answers.

TV fans will recognize the rules of 'Jeopardy.' Who wants to put themselves in jeopardy without even a cash incentive?

That doesn't mean scientists shouldn't see the writing on the wall, and start taking public education more seriously. There needs to be an organized series of public events, where scientists can talk about what we do. People need to be better informed.