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Editorial: Evangelism

by Geoff Hart

Previously published, in a different form, as: Hart, G.J. 2000. Editorial: Evangelism. the Exchange 7(4):2, 6.

Because I’m writing this editorial right before Christmas, it’s not all that surprising that evangelism is on my mind. Though “evangelism” and “science” aren’t two words you commonly see keeping close company in any positive sense, some of the most interesting discoveries in science arose from juxtaposing pairs of seemingly unrelated concepts: identical glacial deposits on adjacent continents plus seafloor ridges led to the theory of continental drift; a thin iridium-rich layer in rock strata plus the extinction of the dinosaurs led to the theory that Earth is one great vulnerable target for large interplanetary debris. Another accidental collision (between chocolate and peanut butter) led to Reese’s peanut butter cups, with the possible extinction of my waistline as a consequence.

So yes, putting together two seemingly unrelated concepts can often lead to surprising synergies. And the synergy I’d like you all to consider as a belated New Year’s resolution this year is to see how you can combine those two strange bedfellows, science and evangelism. Start with obvious things: Mention the Scientific Communication SIG to fellow STC members who haven’t joined us yet, and see if you can’t swell our little flock. Befriend someone at work who’d be willing to volunteer an article for a future issue. Help me keep this cushy job as editor!

If you feel particularly ambitious, go a step further. Contact your local newspaper and persuade them to report more science. Maybe you can earn some extra income doing the reporting! If the newspaper already reports science, encourage the editors to keep up the good work—or take them to task if they blew it. If you’ve got higher ambitions, try the same tricks with local television and radio stations. Lecture your high school’s science class, judge at a science fair, or leave your old issues of Discover, New Scientist, or Science News in hospital waiting rooms and school libraries. Use inspiring quotations from Steven Jay Gould or Richard Feynman as your signature line in e-mail discussion groups. Attend a lecture on creation science wearing a gorilla suit and carrying a placard that says “Creation science unfair to pre-humans—apes are people too!”

In short, attract some attention and get the word out that science isn’t just for geeks—that indeed, it’s crucially important for anyone who wants to understand our modern world. It’s surprising how much of a difference just a few eloquent voices can make when they persuade others to listen—those others take up the cause, talk to others still, and the word spreads. On the eve of the new millennium, wouldn’t it be nice to pick a resolution that could change the world for the better?

My essays on scientific communication have now been collected in the following book:

Hart, G. 2011. Exchanges: 10 years of essays on scientific communication. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Que. Printed version, 242 p.; eBook in PDF format, 327 p.

©2004–2018 Geoffrey Hart. All rights reserved