Each year the cities of Berkeley and Albany, California, host the Solano Avenue Stroll, “the East Bay’s largest street festival”. A 26-block stretch of Solano Avenue is closed off and reportedly more than a hundred thousand visitors attend, wandering among “…over five hundred vendors including entertainers, food booths, government and non-profit agencies, hand-crafters and more!”
Last Sunday was the 39th annual Stroll, and NCSE was there. As part of our outreach and informal education efforts we traditionally have a booth here at our local community celebration. (Several NCSE staffers live within easy walking distance of Solano.) We bring some skull casts, always a draw for many of the children and their families who attend.
We pass out information about who we are and what we do; we talk to everyone who’s interested about the state of evolution and climate education in the U.S.; we sell a few evolution- or climate-related books; we give away Darwin pins with our URL; we sell some of our popular “ooze” T-shirts.
And we get questions. Oh, how we get questions! Every year someone is sure to ask whether there is “really” still a problem teaching evolution in this country, and we have to assure them that there is indeed, including challenges in California, and, yes, sometimes even right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Every year someone wants to know why, with such overwhelming evidence available, some people don’t accept the fact of evolution, and we try to explain that opposition to evolution does not depend on scientific evidence but is based on other factors entirely.
Some of those who stop by are NCSE members and local supporters, but most have never heard of us. Some do actually know what we do, but just don’t remember our name. My favorite this year was the woman who saw that we were supporters of evolution education and immediately asked if we had heard of Genie Scott! After more than a quarter-century as the public face of NCSE, our executive director casts a long shadow. (In fact, Genie is usually there in our Stroll booth, but this year she was out of town.)
Occasionally someone wants to argue, but usually the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. This year we did attract one man wanting to discuss Atlantis, “forbidden archeology”, and the conspiracy of scientists who suppress the truth, but he soon wandered off among the live bands, martial arts demonstrators, Scottish country dancers, Morris dancers, belly dancers, and all the others, with their shadows beside them, strolling down the avenue on a beautiful, sunny day.