One point he made that really caught my attention was that we are basically fighting the same battles as we were in the ’20s. In nearly a century, we haven’t even been able to put the “it’s only a theory” farce to bed. As Brian points out, this demonstrates our failure to communicate even very basic scientific concepts to the public. If we are not even able to communicate the scientific meaning of “theory,” how are we supposed to explain something as complicated as evolution?
Here’s how I see it, and this applies to fights over evolution particularly, but certainly not exclusively. The science blogosphere has two major themes. One is writing about scientific issues, like new research. This is important, because conversation between science enthusiasts is a major function of the network we’ve built. The other is what I’ll call humourous attack mode. A creationist will say something outrageous, and science bloggers will hit back. This isn’t a bad thing either. Humour is a powerful weapon.
However, I would propose the addition of a third major category to our communication, and I’ll call it the “philosophy of science.” Brian Switek, being miles ahead of me in most things, alludes to this concept in the fourth paragraph of his post.
I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, and if anyone disagrees with me, please reply in the comments. Most peope who deny science or plead ignorance to it are fully aware of the facts, or at least have easy access to them. The reason they reject it is because they lack the philosophical framework to understand it. Because they misunderstand the very purpose of science, they cannot see the facts in a proper context.
This ignorance is not a completely natural thing. Creationists have fought a long campaign to define science as a direct attempt to destroy religion, and in many ways, they have succeeded. I think it’s time that we start defining the purpose of science ourselves. We sometimes even aid the opposition. By demonstrating how science can replace or disprove religion, we add weight to the long standing misinterpretation of science’s purpose. Science does not exist to disprove religion
So to conclude, if we want to communicate science more effectively, we need to change what we write about. I’m not saying we should stop blogging about research, or stop calling attention to creationist’s crazy antics. What I’m saying is that we should also devote some time to explaining the very basic concepts that form the underpinnings of science.
Instead of simply tearing down creationism, let’s try to build up science, and make our science writing less about religion, and more about science.