Eugenie Scott is Interviewed

HERE are some excerpts from Accept it: Talk about evolution needs to evolve by Eugenie Scott, which appears in Science News. As you know, Eugenie Scott runs the National Center for Science Education.

In the original article, the questions are in bold font. We haven’t touched up anything:

So you urge scientists not to say that they “believe” in evolution?!

Right. What your audience hears is more important than what you say.… What [people] hear is that evolution is a belief, it’s an opinion, it’s not well-substantiated science. And that is something that scientists need to avoid communicating.

You believe in God. You believe your sports team is going to win. But you don’t believe in cell division. You don’t believe in thermodynamics. Instead, you might say you “accept evolution.”

She’s good, huh? Let’s read on:

So people get confused when scientists discover things and change ideas?

Yes, all the time. This is one of the real confusions about evolution. Creationists have done a splendid job of convincing the public that evolution is weak science because scientists are always changing their minds about things.

Here’s the follow-up question to that one:

So how do you explain what science is?

An idea that I stole from [physicist] James Trefil visualizes the content of science as three concentric circles: the core ideas in the center, the frontier ideas in the next ring out and the fringe ideas in the outermost ring ….

[We need to] help the public understand that the nature of scientific explanations is to change with new information or new theory — this is a strength of science — but that science is still reliable. And the core ideas of science do not change much, if at all.

The core idea of evolution is common ancestry …

We can’t copy it all, but we would if that were allowed. This is good. Click over to Science News and read it all.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “Eugenie Scott is Interviewed

  1. waldteufel

    My experience has been that the average American is not only scientifically illiterate, but absolutely unaware of what science is.

    I lay this problem at the doorstep of boards of education run by religious zealots bent of dragging us back to the Bronze Age. Thank you, Texas.

  2. Well, the problem arises in this kind of situation because two connotations of “believe” are often confused. The first connotation is “to have a firm religious conviction.” The second is an inescapable adjunct to the verb, “to know.” When we know something is true, when we have determined it to be true through a rational process of thought, we must also believe it. They go hand in hand.

    When we are asked whether we “believe” in evolution, how we answer must depend on how we interpret the attitude of the questioner. The fact of evolution obviously is not subject to “belief” in the same way that faith claims, like the resurrection, are. We may say, yes, we believe in evolution. We believe in evolution in the same way that we believe the earth is not flat, but a sphere. Belief, in the sense that we use the word, accompanies absolute knowledge of fact–of what is demonstrably, empirically true. We need not be shy of the word as long as we make clear what our use of it means.

  3. Don says: “We need not be shy of the word as long as we make clear what our use of it means.”

    I avoid the word. If I’m asked if I believe in evolution, my response is: “It’s good science.” That shifts the conversation into a direction where I prefer it.

  4. We may also say, more expansively, “Yes. Evolution is a proven fact. Evolution underlies all of modern biology, medicine, botany, genetics, and anthropology, just for starters. Only the ignorant or the deluded refuse to believe was is factually true.”