Addressing the public about science and religion

Murray Peshkin in Physics Today:

I have been speaking to diverse small groups about science and religion in the context of the ongoing national debate about the teaching of evolution in our public schools. The response to my talks has been almost uniformly positive. It would be useful for other physicists to do as I have been doing.

My audiences have been service clubs such as Rotary, high-school and college students of science and science journalism, a school-based community event, a League of Women Voters chapter, a Unitarian church, and a microscopy club. They have ranged from a dozen to some 60 or 70 people. Access is a problem but not an insuperable one, since organizations have program chairs hungry for speakers, and local newspapers, especially small suburban ones, are interested in publicizing such activities.

I am not trying to convert the convinced anti-evolutionist. I am trying to inform people about the issues and their importance. That goal is important for scientists because the integrity of science teaching in our public schools is under serious attack. So far, the courts have mostly come to the rescue, but in the end public opinion will carry the day. Reasonable people need to know what science is about, especially what an established scientific theory is and how scientists know when it’s right. Nonscientists are vulnerable to arguments like “Evolution is only a theory” and “What’s the harm in teaching alternative theories as well?”

More here.

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