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Editorial: Advocacy sometimes means seeking a middle ground

by Geoff Hart

Previously published as: Hart, G.J. 2002. Editorial: Advocacy sometimes means seeking a middle ground. the Exchange 9(4):2.

The ongoing debate (some might say “outright warfare”) between evolutionists and creationists is an occasional source of stress to many of us who work as scientific communicators. I’ve never had much problem reconciling my personal faith with an equally profound belief in science, skeptical though I am about “scientific creationisism”. What distresses me most about the debate is how polarized it becomes, and how many people feel the need to adopt extreme positions to defend their beliefs. If, like me, you’re bothered by this situation, it may help to have resources available to support your arguments. Two good resources from the scientific side:

I’ve chosen not to recommend sites that support the religious side of the debate for several reasons. The two most relevant are that religious discussions aren’t really relevant in the Exchange and that selecting any small sampling of sites would inevitably offend some large portion of my audience, either through my inclusion or omission of certain sites. Instead, let me suggest an alternative familiar to anyone who must communicate complex issues to a diverse audience: seek to understand “the enemy”. Understanding sometimes makes it possible to find a middle ground that at least lets both sides continue the debate in a civilized manner and thereby learn from each other.

As communicators, our responsibility is to communicate our ideas clearly, but not at the expense of alienating a large part of our audience. There may be no safe middle ground in this debate, but we won’t know that until we seek to find one. And as is often the case in our profession, that seeking must begin with the desire to understand and to use that understanding to help us communicate.

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.

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