Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style

One of the most memorable lectures I have ever experienced was given by Nobelist Willard Libby. He spoke at University of California, Irvine in 1968 or 1969, but the essence of his talk about the atmosphere of Venus is still fresh in my mind because he told such an engaging, entertaining story. While it turned out that his conclusion (that there ought to be ice caps on Venus nearly five miles thick) was completely erroneous, the weaving of the evidence through narrative is what made his argument stick with me all these years. Filmmaker Randy Olson's perspective on science for the public is also that of a storyteller, and he has a lot to teach us about how science should be presented. He advises us to meet our audience on their own turf and with persuasion rather than argument from authority. If you want to see an example of his work on creationism and "intelligent" design, seek out a copy of his documentary video, "Flock of Dodos" on DVD. It is one of the fairest treatments I have seen. I haven't yet viewed his film on climate change, "Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy", but I intend to do so soon.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Randy Olson

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009