Did anyone remember to take pictures?

Randy Olson is putting together the DVD extras for the release of Flock of Dodos, and he’s gathering photos of showings of the movie. Did anyone out there take photos at the February screening at the Bell Museum? Let me know, or just mail them to me.

Uh-oh — we’re under some time pressure. The deadline is today!


  1. Aris says

    And why exactly should we have any respect for Randy Olson? Has anyone read this comment of his at Chris C. Mooney’s site supporting Mooney’s & Nisbet’s insipid WP framing article?

    Richard Dawkins is symptomatic of the lack of leadership in the world of science. If there was strong and effective leadership, there would be a strong voice reprimanding him for what he has been doing, and the backlash against him would be as strong and loud as it has been against intelligent design. They are both examples of scientists speaking forcefully, stridently and dogmatically about ideas that are no more than intuition.

    The NY Times Book Review of Dawkins book said that on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is clear proof of God, and 7 is clear proof of no God, Dawkins openly admits he’s only at 6. That means he has no science to offer, only his gut feelings — his intuition. Which is the same deal as intelligent design. The world of science should do a little better housekeeping in making clear that Dawkins writes only as a citizen, not a scientist, when it comes to atheism. Or even better, everyone should watch the South Park episodes that really show the similarities in these two ends of the spectrum.

    I present it without much comment. Surely, I don’t really need to point out that anyone who’s calling for “reprimanding” Dawkins, and puts unapologetic atheists in the same category as creationists is a tool. I have no interest in supporting anything this person does. I’m dumbfounded that PZ seems to think well of him.

    link: http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/responding_to_pz_and_others_in.php#comment-403388

  2. says

    Not photos, but I have poor-quality video of most of the discussion after the movie at the DC showing. The audio is mostly intelligible. Does that count?

  3. says

    Hi Aris,
    Randy Olson made a terrific and vitally important movie which highlights, in an entertaining and edifying way, just how important it is to better communicate to the American public on evolution.

    I’m dumbfounded that you would treat his view of Richard Dawkins as some kind of litmus test.

  4. David Marjanović says

    is symptomatic of the lack of leadership in the world of science.

    What? He wants LEADERSHIP in SCIENCE? Please explain to me how the suggestion that there should be leadership in science is not an INSULT. If we’d follow leaders, it wouldn’t be science.

    (Yes, I am shouting. I have not suddenly forgotten how to make <b> tags.)

  5. David Marjanović says

    is symptomatic of the lack of leadership in the world of science.

    What? He wants LEADERSHIP in SCIENCE? Please explain to me how the suggestion that there should be leadership in science is not an INSULT. If we’d follow leaders, it wouldn’t be science.

    (Yes, I am shouting. I have not suddenly forgotten how to make <b> tags.)

  6. Aris says

    I am so very tempted to discuss Flock of Dodos and its deficiencies; I am even more tempted to discuss your own ideas on how rational people ought to “frame” eminently rational arguments so that the irrational are not turned off by reason (let’s just say I found Larry Moran’s reaction at the time appropriate, if a bit tepid, and I do regret not participating in the discussion since I have had some experience in communicating with the devout). But that’s another discussion and I don’t want to change the subject. I’d rather explain why I find Olson’s comment extremely objectionable.

    First of all, in defense of litmus tests, some statements can be terrifyingly revealing of someone’s mentality and therefore can be sufficient in dismissing someone, even if they have previous accomplishments. In this case, Olson’s whole comment is an indictment — although I admire Dawkins and his contributions, I’m not prone to hero worship and this is not about someone dissing Dawkins. Instead, read the comment:

    Olson is talking about reprimanding someone because he speaks his mind; he seems to advocate some sort of Soviet-era Official Ministry of All Science that will administer reprimands and do better “housekeeping”; he provides aid and comfort to the supernaturalists who insist that atheism is no different that religion by accusing a leading atheist of being “dogmatic” and “intuitive” (i.e. irrational) because he’s forceful in his arguments; he accuses Dawkins — and, most importantly, by extension others who maintain that there’s no proof god exists — that unless we can prove transcendentally and beyond any and all doubt, at a level 7 on a scale of 1 to 7, that god does not exists, then we’re not using reason but “gut feelings” and “intuition” (i.e. we’re irrational).

    Olson’s’ ideas are not only anti-scientific, they are illiberal.

  7. Aris says


    I’m criticizing Olson for what he said, not because he said it. He can speak his mind all he wants, and I will do the same. It really should be obvious that what I’m certainly not advocating is that Olson is being reprimanded by some sort of thought police.

  8. Caledonian says

    We can rule out the existence of traditional gods through simple logical analysis.

    We cannot rule out possible gods, but we can examine whether claims of knowledge about them are justified – thus far, none are.

    As far as scientific thought is concerned, there are no justifications for any form of theism, and no extant arguments that are valid. All available evidence is incompatible with god-belief.

  9. Bob O'H says

    I see, Aris. And what is Olson doing? Saying that scientists should, um, speak their minds (at least as he sees their minds) about how Dawkins is affecting the acceptance of science by the populus.

    Where’s the disagreement?


  10. windy says

    Oh, come on, Bob. Any point that Olson may have had in mind when composing that rant pales in comparison to his implying that science needs absolute certainty.

  11. Aris says


    I’m not sure why this is not clear to you: Olson is not asking that scientists who disagree with Dawkins should speak their minds. Obviously, anyone who disagrees with anyone on anything should speak up and speak his mind. Read Olson’s statement again: he’s bemoaning the fact that there are no scientist “leaders” that can control Dawkins and “reprimand” him. Notice how he’s not constructing an argument against Dawkins’s ideas, he’s basically asking for scientists to repudiate Dawkins for what he’s doing — i.e. his approach, demeanor, etc. Olson clearly wants the establishment of an official science imprimatur, to be bestowed on “good” scientists who are civil to the ignorant and don’t insult the idiots. Dawkins, on the other hand, should be renounced.

    Plus, as windy indicated, Olson implies that science needs absolute certainty. This view betrays the deepest and most fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. I can’t believe this guy actually passes as a scientist, and one who presumes to advice other scientists on how to conduct themselves with the public. Do I really have to explain that science revels in provisional certainly, because any idea has to be open to challenges, at any time? Once you think you’re “proven” anything with transcendental certainly, you’ve lapsed into religion, and you’re not doing science any longer. Hence, any scientist, no matter how utterly convinced he is of any notion, will not accept it with anything more than a 6 certainty on a scale of 1 to 7 — hell, the fact that Olson evidently does not understand this may indeed constitute grounds for issuing a reprimand.


  12. Bob O'H says

    Ah, Aris. You’re reading the Olson quote very differently from me. I read him as saying that we scientists should be reprimanding Dawkins for mixing up science and theology (or a-theology, if you will).

    Are you suggesting that as scientists, we shouldn’t organise ourselves to counter people who are harming (even if inadvertantly) the acceptance of science? Surely even more so if they’re also scientists!


  13. Aris says


    You’re making two assumptions with which I strongly disagree: One is that Dawkins is mixing science with theology, and two that whatever Dawkins is doing is bad for science.

    One: If we need to define what Dawkins is doing, it is philosophy, not theology. And what he’s doing is not so much mixing as reorienting. That is, he’s been attempting to use the tools of science to address what is still supposed to be a philosophical question, the existence of a supernatural superdude. Not only I don’t see anything wrong with that, I think it’s fantastic! Philosophy was the progenitor of science and all questions were originally philosophical questions. But as science has been advancing and progressing, it has been answering more and more of these questions, which had been the subject of unresolved philosophical speculation for eons. Dawkins is merely continuing this process. He’s picked up the stick of science and he’s poking where philosophers have been engaged in endless, and ultimately meaningless, debates. You may think that Dawkins failed and has not disproved the god hypothesis. That’s a legitimate view. But you can’t argue that scientists should restrain themselves from addressing any area of inquiry, and simultaneously maintain that science is the only valid way of advancing human knowledge. You’re either pro-science or you ain’t.

    Two: What not only Olson, but also framing fanatics like Nisbet and Mooney have utterly failed to do is make a credible case that Dawkins and other unapologetic atheists and scientists like Harris, Dennet, etc. are harming science. I find the claim ridiculous. There’s no need for a new frame because the Dawkins approach has been working very well. Just think: As late as 5 years ago there were no prominent rationalists arguing for science and against superstition. Now they have best-selling books, and are invited to be on TV. Rationalism, as expressed both in science and godlessness, has become part of our cultural debate; it is no longer delegated to an intellectual ghetto. Right now the major media are at least acknowledging that there is a debate between religion and rationalism, and are allowing the voices of rationalism to be heard. Mysticism has not been extinguished, but we’re having a debate about rationalism and irrationalism and that’s far more than we had half a decade ago. Honestly, don’t you see how good it has been to have rationalists fighting for once? All the moaning and gnashing of teeth we hear is from the religious and the pious who — finally, finally! — are feeling the pressure. It’s a horrible mistake to acquiesce to their complaints about getting their tender feelings hurt and try to defang our most assertive proponents of reason.


  14. windy says

    Another insightful comment from Aris. But on a more positive note, I would like to see this film but it seems kind of hard here in Europe. Maybe Olson should make more of an effort to reach us? ;)

  15. Bob O'H says

    Olson, Can I take it that you have conceded my point?

    On your points, one, I’m not assuming that Dawkins is mixing science with theology, I’m assuming that he is being perceived and presented as mixing science with theology. That is enough to cause the problems, and I don’t think Dawkins is doing enough to combat that. Neither, obviously, does Olson.


  16. windy says

    That is enough to cause the problems, and I don’t think Dawkins is doing enough to combat that. Neither, obviously, does Olson.

    Jumping Jesus. Do you accept that saying that Dawkins is wrong since he is not ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of the non-existence of gods is NOT the way to combat misconceptions about science?

    And if you accept the regrettable phrasing that Dawkins should be “reprimanded” by scientific leaders, should Ken Miller and Francis Collins get this reprimand too?

  17. Bob O'H says

    windy – you’ve totally mis-understood my point. It’s not about whether Dawkins is right or wrong. It’s about how he is perceived. That’s what’s causing problems, and it’s the perceptions that need to be combated.


  18. Aris says


    People who are stupid and ignorant and therefore rely on mysticism for answers to life’s riddles will perceive anyone who’s rational, and therefore subscribes to a scientific perspective, as being against them. There’s no way around this; there’s no way to sugarcoat support for science as not being a threat to the mystical worldview. This is an inescapable predicament: It doesn’t matter if the rational person is an outspoken and unapologetic atheist who loudly disdains religion, or someone who tip-toes around any mention of religion and goes out of his way not to say anything that may be construed as insulting to those who hold mystical beliefs. It really doesn’t matter. If you’re pro-science, religious idiots will perceive you, and treat you, as the enemy. And you know what? They are right. So, what do we do? Well, there’s nothing anyone can do not to make them feel threatened. Any support of science is a challenge to their sacred texts, and that much they can discern. So, it’s time for those of us who still trust in the values of the Enlightenment to fight them, tooth and nail, and stop worrying about hurting their feelings. We can’t convince them. We can only marginalize them. And we won’t do that by being afraid to state the truth about religion plainly and clearly.


  19. Bob O'H says

    We can only marginalize them.

    I totally agree with this. And how do we do this? We target the “waverers” – the people who are religious, but not so strongly. We have to bring them onto our side, and the way to do that is to get them to appreciate that science and religion are not incompatible. That way we can get them to understand and agree with science, without them having to give up their deeper-seated religious beliefs.