Friday, December 30, 2005

Science: Still Not Getting Any Respect

Did you know that an exhibit on Charles Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History hasn't been able find a corporate sponsor? London's Daily Telegraph suggests its “because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution.” Come on Microsoft, step up to the plate here! Without sponsorship, the museum will have to depend on the sale of Darwin-related paraphernalia, including, I kid you not, Darwin finger puppets (too late for my Christmas wish list!).

You might want to check out the podcast (not a direct link unfortunately). They also interviewed one of my personal heroes this afternoon: Oliver Sacks.

Speaking of NPR and science, I'm looking forward to this coming Monday's installment of "This I Believe," which I always find engaging. This time round we'll here from Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams and Good Benito. If you'll indulge me a moment, I'll share a story about why the former book is so special to me.

In May of 1995, I graduated with a Master's degree from Bob Jones University (yes, that BJU), a school known for its fundamentalist Christian bent. Evolution was not taught in the science classes there, except briefly to dismiss it and to endorse the Biblical seven-day creation. However, by the time I graduated, I had effectively parted ways with the university intellectually (how that happened and why I stayed there is a story best told over a few beers), and I have little in common with the institution any more. Well, on the day of graduation, I slipped a copy of Lightman's Einstein's Dreams up the sleeve of my gown and took it through the entire ceremony with me. I believe I even had it in my hand when I went up the stage in front of several thousand people, took my diploma and shook Dr. Bob Jones III's hand. I took the book for a couple of reasons: one, to entertain myself should the proceedings grow a little dull, and two, as a metaphor (known only to myself) for the new intellectual path I'd be taking upon leaving the institution (something by Bertrand Russell would've been, um, harsh).

So I look forward to hearing what Lightman has to say on Monday morning. It'll be a welcome reminder of a conscious path I took just over a decade ago.

A couple of meaningful related quotes:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. - Charles Darwin

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true. - Carl Sagan
(Crossposted over at Saheli's since she's gadding about India!)

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