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Dealing with Anti-Science Types



Hi,

This is my first post to the group, and I just wanted to relay a story about
what happened to me at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

I had taken my family to the museum to look at the new Chinese Dinosaur
exhibit.  Once inside everybody sort of ambled along at their own pace.
After checking out some of the displays I caught up to my wife who was
having an animated discussion with a gentleman about whether any of the
dinosaur displays were real or whether this was all faked by the scientific
establishment in order to lead the people away from righteousness and into
sin.  As I approached, my wife introduced me to the gentleman who happened
to be the minister of a fundamentalist church and "ZOOM" she was out'a there
like a bat out'a....  Apparently this fellow had taken his congregation to
the museum to view sin and heresy first hand.  Why he hadn't gone to the
local strip joint for a real view of sin I don't know but the preacher and I
started to discuss the nature of scientific discovery in paleontology and
how it conflicts with the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.  I
took the scientific stance but unknown to the preacher was the fact that my
background was also fundamentalist.  As a child I had always been interested
in science and especially dinosaurs, but my father, who despaired at my lack
of religion, sent me to every Bible camp and religious retreat possible
until in my teens he gave up on ever getting me to embrace religion.  At
least he was thankful that I had become a science nerd and not a bum.

Anyway the preacher and I discussed the Bible and paleontology for over an
hour and I'm not sure if in the end I was able to convince him of my point
of view.  My aim at the time was to be respectful of his opinion but to
gently suggest that perhaps there were other interpretations which would not
necessarily result in a conflict between religion and science.  I'm not sure
if I succeeded, but we parted on amiable terms.  With my own father I
noticed that I would not be able to get him to shift his opinion 180 degrees
on a particular point of conflict but with a carefully reasoned and
respectful discussion he would often at least acknowledge that other
possibilities existed; and that was my aim with the fundamentalist minister.

I later found my wife and children in the gift shop buying up all sorts of
dino memorabilia and trinkets.  My wife admitted later that she was at the
point of physically clobbering this fellow when I happened by and gave her
an opportunity to bail out of the discussion.

Arthur

-----Original Message-----
From: rjmeyer@ix.netcom.com [mailto:rjmeyer@ix.netcom.com]
Sent: Friday, October 30, 1998 10:37 AM
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: RE: Review of T. REX -- BACK TO THE CRETACEOUS


Dwight Stewart writes;

>        "anti science".  I now no longer bother.  It's just too stressful
>attempting to pry a closed mind open.  So, I do my job, which does not
>involve public relations in any way and I take public perceptions about
>science & scientists with a grain of sodium chloride the size of a
>Brachiosaurus.  

A few thoughts...

Even the most closed mind can be affected by a reasonable discussion.  I
have had a few run-ins with anti-science/creationist types.  While those
talks have not been enjoyable, and I haven't "converted" anyone, I have
noticed a few trends.  One of them is that some of my observations/comments
seem to make sense to them, rattling their whole phyche.  While they didn't
back off from their position, the memory of what was said will remain with
them.

A part of the problem is that the anti-science people are rigidly
conservative.  To see scientists in a new light they would have to move away
from their political position and accept another point of view; accepting
scientists would force them to accept other "unwanted" people.  Since our
arguments are based on documentable observations and other facts, what we
say makes the most sense and is very compelling; we can defend our position
in a way that no one else can.  Because of this, we become scapegoats; we
are a symbol of all that seems rotten in their world.  If they destroy us,
then they have won a victory for the "good guys."  This is why it is so
depressing to be cornered by one of them.

Our best bet is to stay visible and vocal.  The anti-science leaders can say
anything they want, and any lies will be unchallenged if we hide in our
labrotories and offices.  Treat them as you would treat a schoolyard bully:
Stand up to them.  If we are not intimidated into silence, then we can
continue talking about what we have learned.  It is ultimately a question of
exposure; what is seen is hard to ignore.  Don't let their attacks become
depressing and never take their comments personally.  Also, don't insult
them; they have as much brainpower as the rest of us.  Find that balance and
there is nothing to fear.


Shalom,

Rob Meyerson

***
"Listen to the music, not the words."
              - Ambassador Kosh