Whose side are you on, Flatow?

I’ve been listening to Bethell vs. Mooney on Science Friday, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I really need to slap Ira Flatow. Repeatedly. And maybe kick him a few times, too.

He was playing right into Bethell’s hands. Bethell was rambling and vague, and he went on and on, and Flatow fed into it. Mooney had to interrupt several times and demand a chance to rebut (and good for him—he was on the attack, as he needed to be), and at least once Flatow stopped Mooney for a commercial and then asked Bethell to follow up afterwards.

Worse, Flatow wouldn’t allow any depth. They’d start getting into HIV and Bethell’s denial, and just as Mooney was getting into it, he’d say, “Now we need to talk about global warming!” Come on, FOCUS. The strengths of science come into play when we have a chance to dig deep and actually grapple with the issues; Bethell is a superficial flibbertigibbet who knows nothing, and this show gave him a forum for his usual unsupported pronouncements of doubt.

Grrr. Mooney was appropriately assertive, but it sounds like we need to go to new levels of aggression: next interview, bring duct tape and a clothesline. Shut the interviewer up, and charge right into the data. I can’t believe Flatow let Bethell get away with that crap.

It’s a boob-tube night

Leading in to the Carlin-Coulter cage match on Leno tonight, we’ve also got Phil Plait on the SciFi Channel. It should be a cheerful evening, since he’s discussing the end of the world.


I’m watching it now, and I will say that Phil is adorable…but the show is awfully cheesy, sprinkled with clips from science fiction movies and treating nuclear terrorism with the same seriousness as the possibility that the robots might revolt and enslave us, or aliens might land and start disintegrating people. And, as an indicator of their concern for detail, they keep spelling Paul Ehrlich’s name as “Paul Ehlrich.”

Brokeback bigotry

I’m stretched out in my easy chair getting ready to watch the Oscars this evening, when this horrid ‘news’ profile about Brokeback Mountain and middle America comes on. I found it offensive: they seem to have sought out the most narrow-minded representatives of this part of the country—your stereotypical Christian bigot, a clutch of white-haired geezers—who hadn’t seen the movie, who rejected it out of hand, who claimed Hollywood didn’t understand farmers, who thought a good movie was that treacly crap, The Sound of Music. If there is anyone who doesn’t understand this part of the world, it’s the patronizing yahoos at CNN who went out of their way to find people who fit their stereotypes.

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Darwinian theatrics

This sounds fun: a music theatre production illustrating Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Based on Haydn’s The Creation, Darwin’s Dream
imagines the founder of evolution meeting modern children and
challenging them to explore how his theory has advanced since his
death in 1882. Their quest takes them from the oceans where life is
believed to have begun, to Africa to meet a fossil hunter looking
for evidence of the earliest humans.

It’s also got a dance about DNA. Unfortunately, it’s in London…let’s at least have some of the music put on the web!

Where’s your nearest Cafe Scientifique?

Via Jim Lippard, here’s a nice, positive article on the Cafe Scientifique movement, which tries to make science informal and accessible to anyone. We’re doing it again tomorrow, in which I get to be the presenter and talk about “Why all the fuss about evolution?” I hope I don’t turn anyone off with my atheist schtick, in which I clean, fillet, fricassee, and eat a baby on stage.*

*Well, actually, looking at my talk, I don’t seem to actually mention atheism anywhere. I suspect that when the audience notices my horns and tail, though, they might ask about it—so I’ll come prepared for the Q&A with a baby in my pocket. Hey, how about if I cook it over a fire from a burning Bible?

A better strategy for advancing science

Matthew Nisbet has a good list of things we ought to be doing. Number one on the list is what I also think is the biggest thing we have to do:

SCIENCE EDUCATION REMAINS CENTRALLY IMPORTANT.

And I have to admit that educating you, the readers of this weblog, is actually a small part of the task. The real job lies with our public school teachers—they’re the ones shaping the education of the next generation—and no matter what we do right now, the evolution-creation struggle in the public consciousness is going to be going on for at least the next 20 years. It’s very easy to wreck a school and foster ignorance; it’s very difficult to crawl out of the rubble.