Café Scientifique tonight, in the Twin Cities

I’m going to be driving to the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown this afternoon. It’s time for a Café Scientifique on the subject of “Understanding Evolution” at 6:00 this evening. We have a 3 person panel, with Mark Borello of UMTC talking about the history of evolutionary thought, Scott Lanyon of the Bell Museum describing evolutionary patterns, and me saying a few words about public misconceptions about evolution. It should be fun.

One word on what to expect, though: this is Café Scientifique. It’s not just us three babbling at you; we’re each going to give a 10-15 minute overview, but the main objective is to get the audience talking and asking questions. So show up, but be prepared to contribute!


  1. says

    CASH will be there! (In past years, we’ve programmed our own Darwin Day events, but the Bell Museum has done such a great job that we thought we’d just piggyback on them.)

  2. Kseniya says

    Off-topic, but did anyone see Michael Crichton’s op-edpiece in today’s NYT in which he come out against patenting genomes, and in favor of the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act? It makes sense to me, but I confess I’m a little uneasy about taking his words at face value these days…

  3. Avery says

    Oh no… I can’t think of anything good to contribute… okay, I’ll show up anyway and look stupid…I’ll make everyone else look smarter.

  4. YuppiTuna says

    I’m sad, because I love Cafe’ Scientifique, I love the Bell Museum (as a guide, I’m obligated to,) and I love this blog. I’ve been planning on attending this little shindig for weeks. However, it turns out I’m forced to be in an organic chemistry lab huffing ether.

    I feel cheated.

  5. says

    It was a great little talk, but I wish more time could have been spent on science rather than the anti-evolution movement.

    I sat next to the bald fundy in the back, and I watched as he became more and more distressed throughout the talk. Hearing him spew his nonsense right at the end was icing on the cake.

  6. says

    Do tell. What did/could the guy say? :) Let’s hear a summary of the evening.

    Out of class early tonight, yay. I think I feel another Extended Phenotype post coming on…

  7. Tony Popple says

    I need to pay better attention to your travels. I walked right pass the theater this evening on my way back home. I could have taken a break from my mile long trek through the cold to my car.

    Are you still going to attend the showing of “Flock of Dodos” on Thursday?

  8. says

    I walked in a few minutes late, but I’ll do my best to describe the event.

    Most of the discussion centered around why creationists believe silly things and how we should approach them with the topic of evolution. Most people agreed creationists are just arrogant and ignorant. Improving science education at the K -12 level, popularizing science with social events, and simply refusing to take them seriously were brought up. Atheism was mentioned several times, often drawing woops and whistles from the crowd.

    As for the fundamentalist, I can’t give his exact words. He began by saying he wasn’t a believer and that he had read Dawkin’s Selfish Gene. He talked about how it wasn’t a sufficient explanation and how scientists are the arrogant ones. To be honest, that’s when I stopped listening. It was just waaaay to tempting to crack jokes at this guy with my friends in the back than to take him seriously.

    Last was a young, obnoxious Christian girl who thought she was doing something new and revolutionary by reconciling evolution and the Biblical account of creation. I’m sure she thought she was ended the discussion on a pro-theism note, but I walked out before I suffered the rest of her tired argument.

  9. Sonja says

    I also attended and Jon is summing it up pretty well. In order to demonstrate the anti-science mindset, PZ read a sample of some creationist emails/postings. PZ did not question their intelligence, but assumed they are arrogant because they won’t consider the possibility that their view might be wrong.

    My first reaction was that PZ hadn’t hit the nail on the head in his characterization of creationists as arrogant. I suspect that fear is a larger motivation for remaining in ignorance. Later on, PZ specifically talked about the arrogance of the leaders of the creationist/ID position. Then I understood what he was talking about.

    But it was that “arrogance” comment that most angered some people. I wonder what their reaction would have been if he had said they were afraid. (Maybe not much different.)

  10. rockafeeler says


    I don’t think fear is in any way a motivational force for creationists in terms of their scientific ignorance. They really do believe that the answers to empirical inquiries can be biblically determined and therefore they relentlessly denounce anything that says otherwise. Fear is an effective tool for indoctrinating children in religious dogma (see Jesus Camp), but it loses its potency with age and experience. As PZ mentioned in the talk most creationist aren’t stupid. They’re smart people who believe stupid things for cleverly stupid reasons. Or… they’re just stupid.

  11. says


    Just to clarify, “The Fundamentalist” said, and I quote, “I myself am not religious.” So he was either not a fundamentalist or he was lying, in which case he is definitely going to hell.

    Of course, he was not making sense. Except I suppose to say that there is arrogance in science. There is. The thing is, we scientists can back up a certain degree of arrogance with stuff like a preponderance of evidence.

  12. eric says

    Hi all,
    I attended as well (though a bit late). I’ll confirm that the “bald fundy” emphasized that he was not religious (and I don’t think he was totally bald either).

    However, I laughed out loud when he challenged PZ about Francis Collins’ book “reconciling” science and religion. Obviously the speaker didn’t read PZ’s vivisection of Collins’ interview! Greg was correct that he wasn’t making much sense, though I did notice many heads nodding in agreement.

    Jon, I would take issue of your criticism of the “young, obnoxious Christian girl.” I’ll give her props for (1) showing up (2) believing in evolution despite her faith, and (3) speaking up in an environment where her opinion was in the minority. I think her beliefs were sincere, and she was making steps in the right direction.

    If we are ever to overcome the irrational fundamentalist creationists out there, we need to make in-roads with those reasonable people in the middle ground.

    I look forward to “Flock of Dodos”.


  13. Sonja says

    I’m not a scientist, so I’m as ignorant as the next person about specifics regarding evolution. And I’m as arrogant in my position in support of evolution. So what separates me from the creationists? Fearlessness.

    As a computer professional, I am often drafted by my friends to help them with computer problems. They always wonder why I understand computers and they can’t (and I’m mostly self-taught). My answer is that I was fearless in approaching computers. I highly recommend that people who want to understand their computer should at least once short-out a motherboard or lose all their data. Once you get over the fear, you can try all kinds of things and learn a lot.

    There are different kinds of fear. There is “real” fear caused by intimidation or threats, and there is paralyzing psychological fear. Fear of change, fear of things that are new or different, fear of making mistakes, fear of being different from your peers, and fear of letting go of “comfortable” ideas.

  14. says

    I accept your rebuke. I definitely give her credit for the reasons you mentioned above and I probably shouldn’t be so hostile. Her fanciful religious tone was like nails on a chalkboard for me after such a great discussion. Her comments just seemed misplaced as the last input from the audience.

    @ Pharynguloids
    Yes, the bald comment was a cheap shot. Balding would be a bit more accurate.