NCSE Past Events
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia
Scientists are often puzzled when members of the public reject what we consider to be well-founded explanations. They can’t understand why the presentation of scientific data and theory doesn’t suffice to convince others of the validity of “controversial” topics like evolution and climate change. Recent research highlights the importance of ideology in shaping what scientific conclusions are considered reliable and acceptable. This research is quite relevant to both the evolution wars and the public’s opposition to climate change.
Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
17 Gauss Way
Berkeley, CA 94720-5070
Both evolution and global warming are “controversial issues” in education, but are not controversial in the world of science. There is remarkable similarity in the techniques that are used by both camps to promote their views. The scientific issues are presented as “not being settled”, or that there is considerable debate among scientists over the validity of claims. Both camps practice “anomaly mongering”, in which a small detail seemingly incompatible with either evolution or global warming is held up as dispositive of either evolution or of climate science. Although in both cases, reputable, established science is under attack for ideological reasons, the underlying ideology differs: for denying evolution, the ideology of course is religious; for denying global warming, the ideology is political and/or economic.
Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
Bell Memorial Union
California Sate University Chico
The challenge of keeping seven billion people alive may well reach crisis proportions, with chronic food shortages and spasms of overpopulation-induced genocide taking their toll. Two converging factors exacerbate this: (1) The inexorable decline of the fossil fuels that enabled this temporary population spike (2) Global climate change caused by the burning of these fuels. Sea level rise and episodic agricultural failures will create famines and ecological refugeeism on an unprecedented scale. Here is our ethical dilemma: Do we revert to past low-yield farming practices or do we employ the latest in agricultural technology to feed our existing population until through encouraging replacement-sized families we have reduced our population to a sustainable level? Using the most advanced scientific tools and an intercultural, interreligious, and intergenerational ethic, we must strive for an agriculture that (1) maximizes genetic diversity of plants and animals, (2) is ecologically rich and sustainable, and (3) is respectful of local autonomy and agricultural customs.
W.C. Morris Building
University of Central Missouri
Scientists in general and especially climate researchers are convinced by the evidence that the Earth has been warming since the Industrial Revolution, and that the rate of change in the last 30 years has been unusually rapid. There is similar agreement that human activities are a primary driver of this change. Yet a substantial proportion of citizens deny this consensus, although they don't deny other scientific conclusions. Research suggests that the primary motivation for such science denial isn't the perceived quality of the science, but rather ideological views that conflict with perceived consequences that would occur if climate change truly is occurring.
Room: Regency B
Hyatt Regency Chicago
151 E. Wacker Drive
Survey research shows that fewer scientists believe in God or a higher power than members of the general public, but by no means does scientist equate to atheist. Scientists, like bricklayers or ballet dancers, can be religious, non-religious, anti-religious, or religiously indifferent. Scientists who are nonbelievers sometimes generalize their views to all scientists, which can miscommunicate to religious communities and the public in general that science is incompatible with religion. Although some religious views clearly are incompatible with the discoveries of science, and certain religious perspectives clash with the evidence-based method science uses to derive conclusions, most religious perspectives found among Americans do not reject either the methods or the conclusions of science. This in itself, though a simple idea, is also one that scientists need to communicate to the public. Conservative Christians, in particular, often reject science because they believe that in accepting science, they will be forced to accept materialist philosophy. Distinguishing between the methodological materialism of science and the philosophical materialism of humanism and other non-theistic views frees science for acceptance on its own terms. Scientists also must realize that the presentation of science, though necessary, is not sufficient in itself. For topics such as religion or climate change, where there may be religiously-based opposition, “mere” science will not be persuasive on its own. Research shows that ideological orientation trumps empiricism: liberals are more likely to accept information if they believe the position originates from a fellow liberal, conservatives are more likely to accept the identical information if they believe the position originates from a fellow conservative, and so on. To overcome ideological barriers to the acceptance of science requires establishing a relationship of trust and respect. This relationship is most easily established by individuals of the same ideology, but it is not impossible for “outsiders” to do so. Otherwise, an adversarial relationship is the default, to the detriment of the public understanding of science.
A talk for the Symposium on
Religious Communities, Science, Scientists and Perceptions:
A comprehensive Survey
Rotary Nature Center
600 Bellevue Avenue
Lake Merritt, Oakland, California
Take the whole family back a billion years and walk forward to the present around Lake Merritt (5 km = 3.1 miles). Follow dozens of signs describing the history of our Earth and its life. Personnel from UC Berkeley and NCSE will answer your questions as you travel through time around the lake and back to the Rotary Nature Center. Start anytime before 3PM to finish before the Center closes at 5.
[Billions of dinosaurs and other animals were harmed in the making of this history.]
Snacks, drinks, and goodies for the kids while they last. Test your knowledge with a trivia quiz. In-park parking $5. Street parking free.
The Billion-Year Walk is sponsored by the
Rotary Nature Center,
University of California Museum of Paleontology,
in partnership with the Lawrence Hall of Science.
Science Community Center
Modesto Junior College
2201 Blue Gum Avenue
How is science education, particularly related to socially and politically controversial issues, being taught in public schools? Who is working to undermine quality science education? How can scientists and science advocates work to ensure that good science is taught in our schools? In this presentation, Dr. Berbeco will discuss these topical issues and the landscape ahead.
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queens Park
Many elements of the modern American creationist movement would be familiar to Darwin, especially the argument from design, which of course was very well known (and well-regarded) by educated people of his time. Young-Earth creationism, on the other hand, would be puzzling to him; Bishop Ussher's 4004 BC age of the Earth was not considered mainstream Christian theology in the late 19th century, though certainly the view had its adherents among clergy. Darwin might have heard of the “scriptural geologists” who promoted a young-Earth view during the 19th century, but like other scientists of his time, he would have ignored them. The current creationist strategy of disclaiming evolution as weak science would have seemed more familiar to him, given the criticisms of evolution he encountered during his own time.
Royal Ontario Museum's
Darwin Day Commemoration