Sunday, February 10, 2008

Unobservant Humanist?

The University held its Darwin Day Celebration Saturday. I had meant to catch some of the morning session but the call of my bed and SWAP's Saturday Sale proved more alluring.

The fact is, Darwin Day makes me a bit uncomfortable. Not because of what it celebrates but because of the capitulation it represents. Detractors of the event are only too quick to point out that a majority of Americans don't believe in evolution but this is precisely why it's held. Promoters of public scientific literacy have been saying for years that the scientific community has been remiss. Science hasn't promoted itself and it's been outstripped in the public marketplace of ideas by religion and superstition. People are happy to take for granted the vast array of technological achievement and medical advancement that surrounds them without any concept of the knowledge and methodology that made it possible, despite the fact that it's taught in schools! So the University of Wisconsin and similar institutions around the world hold these events to try to explain to the public why it is that, yes, science actually is the best way to explain things.

The difficulty lies in explaining science to people who don't think scientifically. To most people, what someone says really is less important than how they say it. A whole lecture of right, complete with visual aids, isn't as convincing as that emphatically, ecstatically wrong preacher they listen to every Sunday. Should science really start acting like a religion and respond to these people on their level?

I suppose it may be necessary. Regardless of how it's done, people have to be educated. Having a majority of people disbelieving one of the central tenets of human self-understanding is a very dangerous thing in a democracy. The church of humanism may yet have to spread its message of hope and objectivity across the land. Just don't expect me to get up for services.

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