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Science Just Needs A Slogan?
Great letter to the editor in the Health section of The New York Times:

Re "Eager to Tell the Stories of Science, a Biologist Evolves" (Scientist at Work, April 11): The biologist, Randy Olson, laments that scientists have failed to come up with slogans supporting the theory of evolution and are unable to provide succinct arguments to match those of creationists.

I question the assumption that this is due entirely to inadequacy on the part of scientists rather than difficulties inherent in science.

Indeed I find it hard to think of any well-established scientific theory that can be explained in terms that match the mystical argument "I can't understand this, so it must be the work of God" -- a sentiment invoked to explain evolution, early death and other great catastrophes.

Just try to come up with a convincing simple argument to demonstrate that the earth is round. Having done that, try to prove that the earth goes around the sun, and not vice versa.

While I don't deny that some of my colleagues -- and perhaps myself -- are "dour, pompous and disagreeable," science can be complex, and even nice guys may have difficulty matching the glib arguments of mystical public relations experts.

Dr. William Silvert
São Brás de Alportel, Portugal

Posted by aalkon at April 22, 2006 6:26 AM

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Earth is round: watch ships disappear over horizon. Moon is obviously round, and occasionally you get earth shadow cast on moon. Earth rotates: Foucault's pendulum. Earth goes round sun is harder; you need to see other planets, and preferably see Jupiter's moons. Then you find that heliocentrism is a much simpler model than geocentrism - but that takes hard maths.

I don't have any simple explanation of evolution. As a child, I thought it meant that individual creatures evolved, growing new body parts overnight. As an adult I thought it meant species evolved slowly. Now I'm back to individuals making their day-to-day choices and making the best of whatever phenotype they have been supplied, which over aeons has an effect at species level. But how to explain this to a child? Dunno.

Perhaps someone could invent "Evolution - the board game for happy families." You know - you get dealt a random selection of gene cards. Throw a 6 and get a mutation. Oh no! I've been isolated from the rest of my kind! Etc.

Posted by: Norman at April 22, 2006 1:59 AM

Actually, the creator of the "Sims" games IS coming out with a game called "Spore", where the player controls the evolution of a species. I'm sure Fundies will hate it.

Posted by: Kimberly at April 22, 2006 1:34 PM

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