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Re: BAD vs. BADD (was: Re: Most popular/common dinosaur misconceptions)
At 7:42 PM +0000 8/19/06, Phillip Bigelow wrote:
>A lot of this depends on your intended audience. Compared to the rest of
>the developed world, the average American is "science-challenged".
>"Science-illiterate", to be more precise.
This is a big part of the problem. Read the policy forum in last week's
Science, and you'll see a disturbing example:
>Phylogenetic nomenclature has one *huge* advantage over classical
>(Linnaean) nomenclature: It shakes up the system, it forces lay people
>to reevaluate their beliefs, it forces them to go back to the books and
>learn new concepts every few years, and it forces them to understand that
>science is not a stagnant discipline. Science is not just a bunch of
>facts written in a dusty old text book. If "done" correctly, science can
>be as volatile as a lit stick of dynamite.
Which is fine for scientists and the more sophisticated part of the public. As
a science writer, I know that the public loves neat new astronomical objects,
interesting new fossils, and "discoveries" in general. But the distressingly
large part of the public without a proper training in evolution gets seriously
confused by the dynamic reshuffling of the evolutionary family tree. If the
"facts" in science change, why should they give them any more credence than the
latest nutritional study, which tells them X is bad, when the previous one said
that X is good for them?
>If the average American becomes confused or upset by the term "non-avian
>dinosaur", then so be it. That same American probably hasn't heard of
>String Theory either, and the Earth hasn't stopped spinning on its axis
>because of their ignorance.
Bad analogy because physicists are now having very serious second thoughts
about string theory, which has not succeeded in predicting new observations.
Actually, a term like "non-avian dinosaur" (or "avian dinosaur") can be useful
if it the listener is paying attention, because it raises a question and gets
them to stop and think. Then they may notice that the local crows are strutting
around rather like the theropods did in Jurassic Park and say "oh" to
themselves. Or at least that's wha we hope.
Jeff Hecht, science & technology writer
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 USA
v. 617-965-3834; fax 617-332-4760