Making science fun: ASAP Science videos should be on everyone’s weekly watch list

US beliefs about evolution - chart
Standard

Science, technology, engineering and math, aka STEM, are key areas of knowledge for the 21st century. Heck, they were key in the 20th century, too! Remember JFK and the moon challenge as well as his tribute to science on the 100th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences?

Recent scientific advances have not only made international cooperation desirable, but they have made it essential. The ocean, the atmosphere, outer space, belong not to one nation or one ideology, but to all mankind, and as science carries out its tasks in the years ahead, it must enlist all its own disciplines, all nations prepared for the scientific quest, and all men capable of sympathizing with the scientific impulse. (emphasis added)

How do we create an environment where science (my shorthand) is valued, where “all men” have an appreciation for science? Where denialism is a thing of the past? Because in today’s America, not unlike yesterday’s (Scopes Trial, 1925), science is devalued by the mainstream U.S. population.

US beliefs about evolution - chart

As Gallup shows, for 40 years, 2-in-5 Americans (or more) have believed God created man in our present form.
Less than 10,000 years ago.

 

Americans on evolution, 2006

Pew Research data from 2006 mirror the longer-running Gallup data. Note the difference between Protestants and Catholics.

 

Two smart and entertaining guys started ASAP Science as one way to make science interesting and fun.

Who are they? Mitchell Moffit (@mitchellmoffit) and Gregory Brown (@whalewatchmeplz).  Subscribe to their YouTube channel and get a heads-up each week when they post a new video.

This week, the two “came out” again — to their 2.6 million YouTube followers. Here’s why:

A scientific understanding of the world has always given us the power and autonomy to enjoy the beauty and secrets of life, which we believe should be available to everyone. So, whether it be trying to break gender stereotypes within our scripts, or including stick figure drawings with a range of sexualities, it was part of our mission to include subtle references to the diversity of human culture. Even with these elements remaining discrete in our videos, we were quick to see the harsh reality that a gay stick figure could make somebody just as mad or upset as a gay person in real life.

Now, we’ve always known the YouTube comment section to be a special breed of comments — one that only the bravest of souls dare navigate. But it was the persistence on a channel dedicated to science that really had us scratching our head.

Folks who believe explicitly in a mythical all-powerful being and willfully disregard scientific investigation into the origins of both humans and earth are likely to include the Venn diagram subset of Americans who think homosexuality is both a choice and evil. In other words, they probably disregard the science of sexual orientation as well. (I love the research study that correlated gay men with more fecund sisters, mothers and aunts.)

This behavior falls more in line with “ad hominem” logical fallacies than “shoot the messenger” although both are rejections of rational thought.

Here are a few of my favorite ASAP Science videos.

Have a look. Give them a thumbs up. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and help put pre-age-of-reason thinking where it belongs: in the distant past.

 

 

Memory and The Brain : More Is Easier

Standard

Did you know that mnemonic memory techniques are 2,500 years old?

Their origin is a legend, passed along by Cicero. Greek poet Simonides (c.556-c.468 BC) demonstrated a feat of recall that jumpstarted the theory. He had attended a banquet, where he presented a poem. Afterwards, he went outside, which saved him when the roof collapsed, killing the other guests. Simonides was able to identify the bodies by using visual recall, who sat where during the banquet.   Continue reading

America’s Rejection Of Evolution Reflected In Miss U.S.A. Pageant

Standard

gallup poll evolutionThe first live radio broadcast from a trial was the Scopes trial in 1925. John Scopes, a Tennessee high school biology teacher, was convicted of violating the Butler Act, which prohibited teaching evolution in schools. His trial highlighted the divide between science and fundamentalist (literalist) religion in the United States.

Flash forward to 2011: only one contestant in the 2011 Miss U.S.A. pageant (out of 51) said that she believed in evolution (“I’m a big science geek”) when asked if evolution should be taught in schools. That was Miss California, Alyssa Campanella, and she was crowned the winner on Sunday. Runner-up, Miss Tennessee, Ashley Elizabeth Durham, on evolution: “that’s not my belief” although she said evolution should be taught in schools. Most contestants said that evolution should be taught alongside other points of view, like creationism (or “Biblical stuff”).

It is almost a full century after Scopes and 202 years after Darwin’s birth, yet evolution remains controversial here, and Americans are scientifically illiterate. Read my complete analysis at The Moderate Voice.

Note: The two articles that tipped me to this story have incorrect headlines/information. Think Progress says two contestants “believe in evolution” — that’s not supported by the video clips on YouTube. USA Today (the primary source for Think Progress) is incorrect on several points.

:: WiredPen Permalink : Follow me on Twitter

GM wheat shelved

Standard

Monsanto is shelving its genetically modified wheat due to consumer reluctance to embrace the product. CBC reports that those most opposed live in countries that buy wheat from Canada.

Thus ends eight years of research into the latest “frankenfood.” Monsanto sought to create a crop that was resistant to disease by adding genes from soil bacteria, a petunia plant and a cauliflower virus. This is far cry from the genetic manipulation pioneered by Mendel in the mid-1800s.

Links: CBC (11 May); Seattle Times (11 May)