Alright fine, I must write. The fury that has hit twitter and the interwebz in the wake of yesterday’s #Creationdebate has not left me alone. I must be accountable for the statement I made on twitter (which has now been shared by many of my peers - thank you!) The tweet:
You all probably know what happened, but in a nutshell, Bill Nye aka The Science Guy, traveled to the Creation Museum in Kentucky and debated Ken Ham, the founder of said Museum and the site Answers in Genesis. Mr. Ham is a creationist; believes the book of Genesis accurately describes the creation of Earth. He believes that our planet is 6000 years old and doesn’t believe in evolution. When I had first heard of the debate I got a little excited, thinking what a great opportunity Dr. Nye had to educate someone (and their fans) about scientific truths and shed light on… how do I put this delicately and not offend anyone’s beliefs… ummm … no way around it: Crazy talk. But as a friend of mine pointed out — just debating the man was a bad idea as it brought unneeded attention and press to him. Which I ended up agreeing with when I tuned into the debate yesterday. I listened to Ken Ham for 20 seconds and then had a physical reaction and had to turn off the stream. His words physically sickened me. Not because he is a malicious person spreading hate, but that he so vehemently believes in an impossible narrative and wants to educate children with these non sensical ideas.
But that is all I am going to say about Mr Ham’s beliefs. The Bible is a sacred book to millions of people that has been an important and pervasive element in the framework of multiple civilizations for centuries. I will leave my views on religion and Mr. Ham’s fundamentalist views for another day far far in the future.
But what Mr. Ham made me realize (so thank you Mr. Ham), is how passionate I am towards the scientific community and how much I want to help share the brilliant work that its members are dedicating their lives towards. I want to bring that knowledge into the mainstream, make STEM issues and careers something that the general population is excited about. I know that I tweet a lot of science article links and even blog and post about them but I need to do more. I want to do more to share the importance and wonders of science literacy… maybe even lend a hand in growing it.
Why? Two reasons:
First, I believe that our society needs to become scientifically literate if we are going to survive as a species (oh is that all). This point exists in two sub-topics for me. One, is that technology we can’t even fathom today will be an integrated element of our near future. Think of the tech we have today vs. 10 years ago. Now advance that exponentially. Nano tech, bio-implants, smart cars, smart houses, smart grids, quantum computing, AI — The science fiction we consume for fun is making it’s way through the blood brain barrier of a writer’s noggin and into reality. It should be concerning that a majority of the population which will be dependent on such integrated technology will have little to no knowledge of how it actually works (see Carl Sagan’s quote). Two, we have put our planet on a potentially irreversible path to destruction, where we will be unable to sustain our soon to be 10 billion people population due to carbon emissions and the climate change which it spurs. Only minds versed in biology, geology, genetics, oceanography, physics and the like can spur innovation that will reduce emissions, find solutions to energy issues and reverse damage that has already been done. Innovation won’t miraculously occur — It needs science trained brains.
Second, I believe that being exposed to science is awe inspiring. It inspires you to be curious. It puts your life into a unique perspective — it enables you to see your life in a relative sense, so small and insignificant in the scope of time and the universe (so why not go for your dreams!) and it enables you to see how miraculous your life is — the brilliant miracles of molecules and consciousness, the fact that you are inhabiting a beautiful planet in the far corner of one of a 100 billion galaxies (so go for your dreams!). The miracle of existence, the beauty of nature is FRIGGIN AMAZING!
So those are my reasons.
But who am I to get involved in this topic? I have no PhD in Physics, I didn’t even study science in college! (Though I did some math as an Econ major). But it’s for these very reasons that I am so passionate about this endeavor! I am self taught. So you can be too. In starting to write science fiction, I began my science research and became enthralled. Then the research and study became a reason in and of itself. And I started subscribing to news feeds, and became joyfully assaulted by the daily news briefings on the discoveries that scientists around the globe were making — how could I not be hearing of them in the mainstream?!
So here we come full circle to my original tweet and hashtag — #ActressesforSTEM. Why female actors? Because we would appear to be the antithesis of science ambassadors. When you hear the word Actress, you think Hollywood, glitz and glamour, divas, drama — you don’t think Science, Tech, Math and Engineering. The roles that female actors are often relegated to are ‘wife’, ‘mother’, ‘babe’, ‘waitress’ — not a chemical engineering badass. And I happen to know a lot of amazing (badass) actresses who are huge science enthusiasts: Rileah Vanderbilt, Tamara Krinsky, Clare Grant, Michele Boyd, Christina Ochoa Lopez to name a few — and some of those ladies have science degrees to boot. And there are actresses out there who I am not acquainted with (yet) like Danica McKellar who are active in their STEM work. The word ‘actress’ grabs attention and makes people take notice, maybe even take interest in what we are saying, if only out of curiosity — but that’s a great place to start.
So what if we all band together and make STEM outreach and exposure part of our career mandate:
— where we seek to create and or portray female characters who are scientifically literate, characters that ideally have careers in STEM fields.
— where we strive to be a part of / or create projects that have educational science elements to them.
— where we band together and support STEM causes and projects.
This endeavor can only help the work that many groups are doing to increase female presence in media and entertainment. If you haven’t seen this site yet, please visit Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media and read her recent piece in the Hollywood Reporter. The BlackBoard posted a great article on media portrayals of women in STEM just today.
So as I start down this more public journey and hopefully band together with my fellow #ActressesforSTEM, what are the things I can suggest that you check out to get educated and inspired about STEM? I’m glad you asked!
- Danika McKellar’s new Math Webseries on the Nerdist.
- Minute Physics
- ViHart’s Videos (math + music = magnificent)
- Star Talk Radio from Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog on SLATE
- Google the names of scientist Lisa Randall and host Cara Santa Maria (just go on my twitter feed and see who I follow, 50% are science related)
- Jason Silva’s 'Shots of Awe' videos for some scitech existential awesomeness.
- Set your DVR for the grand momma of them all: COSMOS!
I will be adding more, this is just to start. I especially want to put together a list of all the wonderful STEM ladies on twitter.
On a closing thought, I wanted to relay an excerpt from a book that I am reading. It chronicles Science and Physics articles over the past century in the New York Times. There is a section I stumbled across:
“It was curious to notice the intelligent interest taken by the humbler ranks of the Paris population in the great discovery of Marie Curie, when a few weeks ago, a small atom of radium was exhibited upon the boulevards. Even the artisans on their way to their work stopped to inspect and discuss it.”
This was dated March 6, 1904 in an article about a lecture which Marie Curie gave on Radium where 3000 people attended, standing for hours to get in. Many were turned away.
Humanity is curious by nature. Let’s stoke the fire.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter at @tarynoneill. Thanks for reading.