Monday, March 3, 2008

Science, Evolution and Creationism: A podcasty follow-up

I blogged about the National Academy of Science’s recently revised booklet on the evolution-creation controversy the other day. As luck would have it, Matthew Nisbet, of Framing Science fame, is this week’s guest on Point of Inquiry and he discusses the publication and how it was written. Interestingly, and appositely, the NAS took an evidence-based approach to figuring out how best to communicate with the public on these issues by using focus groups to identify key stumbling blocks and effective strategies. According to Nisbet, the importance of evolution to medicine and the compatibility of evolution with religion were two of the key elements identified. As I mentioned before, the booklet does a particularly good job on the latter – among other things, it features statements by both religious scientist and pro-science religious leaders that I’m guessing would assuage many religious laypeople’s concerns.

Nisbet also criticizes the strategies employed by the atheist movement and, particularly, by Richard Dawkins. In Nisbet’s view, the “metaphor of war” which both religious fundamentalists and some atheists (Dennett, Hitchens, Dawkins etc.) employ marginalizes the majority, consensus, view that religion and science are compatible. In this sense, he thinks the atheist movement is shooting itself in the foot because it is polarizing. While I disagree with Nisbet on many of these points, they’re certainly interesting and worth considering.

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