#69) Who You Gonna Call: The Climate World MUST Learn from the Evolution Wars (a climate NCSE is needed)
September 16th, 2010
EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP. It’s something the evolution science world has been given from Dr. Eugenie Scott, Director of the National Center for Science Education. It’s something the climate science world could use more of.
WHO ARE THE CLIMATE SCIENCE DEFENDERS GONNA CALL?
Joe Levine is co-author of the biology high school textbook, “Miller and Levine,” along with famed evolution defender Ken Miller. He recently told me was in Texas when he was told that questions had arisen about the treatment of homology in one of the chapters on evolution in their textbook. He realized he needed to confer with some experts, right away, to clarify a few points. What do you think he did?
He did what all defenders of evolution are able to do — he called The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California for help. Within minutes he had a list of several experts he was able to call for immediate advice. Problem solved.
That’s how it works in the defense of evolutionary science. There’s a strong spirit of cooperation, and powerful leadership provided by Dr. Eugenie Scott and her organization, NCSE, for which she has been Executive Director since 1987. Despite it’s governmental sounding name, it is a totally independent organization funded by grants.
I had a long phone chat with Joe Levine yesterday about this and he asked me, “Now if I were to find myself in the same situation regarding issues of climate science, who would I call?”
VERY GOOD QUESTION.
THE DEFENSE OF CLIMATE SCIENCE IS 5 TO 10 YEARS BEHIND THE DEFENSE OF EVOLUTION
Here are some options and likely answers you’d get over the phone:
A Climate Scientists Professional Organization: “Sorry, we just help scientists organize their annual meetings.”
An Environmental Group: “Hmmm … don’t know, but would you like to make a donation to us in exchange for a stuffed polar bear?”
The Climate Project: “Not real sure, but would you like to have someone present our slide show to you?”
Real Climate Dot Org: “Yeah, I think you’ll find something about that on yesterday’s blogpost, somewhere around comment number seven hundred eighty three.”
The answer is that there is no answer. These are some of the folks who are independently working hard to defend climate science, but they lack this sort of single “clearing house” organization that everyone can turn to. There is no comparable organization to NCSE for the climate science world. This is the point Joe was making to me — there needs to be one. The defense of climate science is 5 to 10 years behind the defense of evolution science. I’ve gotten to know both of these communities through my two movies (Dodos and Sizzle). He’s right.
A VOICE FOR THE “DO NOT DEBATE” INSTRUCTIVE
One aspect of this came up a month ago as I offered up my advice to people potentially involved in a global warming debate in Aspen. I told them I had made the “DO NOT DEBATE” recommendation about Marc Morano last spring after my interview with him, but I also pointed them to the defenders of evolution where they addressed this issue of debating anti-science folks several years ago. More specifically, I asked Genie Scott to offer up the standard advice of NCSE, as well as cited this essay from Richard Dawkins on why he doesn’t debate creationists.
In 2006 I got to see the effectiveness of the NCSE’s leadership efforts when we scheduled a screening of “Flock of Dodos” at William and Mary that was set to include a creationist on the post-screening panel. I was informed that an evolution scientist who was set to be on the panel announced he was withdrawing. He cited as his reason not that he had ethical problems with debating a creationist, but rather that he had sought the advice of NCSE who had told him they recommend against it. Which was perfect.
What that meant was that the scientist didn’t have to engage in a squabble with the organizers of the event explaining his reasons. He only had to point them to NCSE. That’s a benefit of effective leadership — the ability to point people to the proper person who is prepared to make the arguments.
Of course we resolved the issue eventually by making it clear there would be no “debate,” only a post-screening discussion of the contents of the film, which is what happened (also thanks to an excellent moderator who had the audience write their questions on note cards which were then sifted through to make sure the discussion stayed focused on the film). But the authority that came from the clear voice of leadership from NCSE played a big part in the way it unfolded.
THE CLIMATE COMMUNITY NEEDS AN NCSE
Nothing of this sort exists for the climate community. Oh, you may tell me you know of some program here or there that has some recommendations, but I’m telling you that virtually EVERYONE in the evolution science world knows the NCSE, has huge respect for them, and uses them for the services they provide. There is nothing like that for the defense of climate science.
What I see right now for the issue of climate science is huge amounts of money being spent on poll after poll and messaging study after messaging study trying to figure out what the American public wants to hear. What kind of leadership is that? And what has it all amounted to, given the current collapse of the entire climate mission?
As far as I can tell, nobody has thought to look to the powerful and effective resources the evolution science world has developed to defend itself — namely a well organized grassroots network of such superstars as Barbara Forrest, Ken Miller, Robert Pennock and the others who put on such brilliant performances at the Dover trial of 2005, all of whom had a single organization serving as a clearing house and guiding light for the scattered grassroots voices — the NCSE.
The same sorts of individual resources exist for climate science, but perhaps because of all the well-intended activist groups, there hasn’t been the development of anything similar to the NCSE.
There needs to be.