11 Things PCTers Can Do to Improve Communication

Um, mutatis mutandis…

Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve
Communication

Randy Olson

  1. Quality Control: So much of the mass communication of
    evolution is dull and uninspiring. For example, the AIBS-sponsored video
    “Evolution:Why Bother?” is tragically bad — nothing but talking
    heads and still images. Any introductory film student could have explained to
    them that in film and video the primary communication takes place through the
    images presented. When all we show are faces talking, we communicate virtually
    nothing. We need the simple, honest feedback gained by showing these
    productions to our neighbors and watching them fall asleep. Just send the
    sponsors a note that this is not good enough. Raise the bar. It’s that simple.
    When evolution media looks bad, evolutionists look bad. Cost to you of this
    suggestion: $0.

  2. Attitude: Never “rise above” one of the simple
    principles we learned in acting class. Whenever we condescend, we lose the
    sympathy of our audience. When evolutionists call ID proponents
    “idiots”, it just makes the audience side with the people being
    ridiculed. It is a simple principle of mass communication. Even though Stephen
    Jay Gould was my hero in graduate school nearly 30 years ago, my students at
    USC fmd his style and voice to be arrogant, elitist, condescending, verbose the
    list goes on. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  3. Concision: It is a by-product of the information era. Get
    used to it. In fact, practice it. The most effective means of communication is
    through storytelling. The shorter, more concise, and punchier the story, the
    more engaged and interested the audience. Scientists need to maintain accuracy
    and precision, but shorter, punchier stories will not hurt anything. Observe Hollywood and advertising
    pitchmen: they are able to tell entire- stories in very few words. Cost to you
    of this suggestion: $0.

  4. Modernization: A recent CNN poll showed that 44% of
    Americans get their information on science and technology through television
    — more than through any other medium. So why isn’t the world of science
    communication geared towards this, even just a little bit? There are now dozens
    of science writing programs around the country; why no science electronic media
    programs? Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  5. Setting Priorities: Effective communication costs money
    — real, cold, hard dollars. Scientists sit through technical talks with
    bad visuals and poor sound, and seem to accept it as standard practice. On a
    wider scale, this is mirrored in the tiny allocation for science communication
    in research grants (occasionally a few dollars are allocated for outreach). Compare
    this with businesses making products and spending perhaps half of their budgets
    on marketing and advertising.Everyone needs to accept that we live in an
    information-glutted world, and if we do not pay sufficient attention to
    communicating effectively what we have to say, then we will be unheard. It is a
    matter of priorities. Cost to you of allocating more funds to communication: as
    much as you can afford, but it is time to make it hurt a little, to make up for
    the lack of priority on communication in the past.

  6. Understanding: Intellectuals are handicapped as mass
    communicators. I had this line in my film, and took it out because it sounded
    too insulting, but it’s true. Mass audiences do not follow people who think,
    they follow people who act. Try taking an acting class and you’ll get to know
    about this intimately. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  7. Risk Taking/Innovation: Every stock investor knows you
    allocate at least 10% of your stock portfolio to high-risk ventures.There are
    no signs that formal investment in high-risk innovation of science
    communication has been taking place.You need to ask your science agencies what
    percentage of their funding is going to high-risk, wild ideas for mass
    communication.They may sound irresponsible, but without these ideas, you end up
    with homogenization. Come on, folks, we’re talking about basic out-breeding
    dynamics here. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  8. Humor: This is yet another by-product of the information
    era. It is no coincidence that news anchors, who were stoically serious 30
    years ago, today tell jokes and tease each other, or that The Daily Show on
    Comedy Central is the most popular form of news for kids (as well as a lot of
    adults); or that Michael Moore, Al Franken, and Bill Maher have become such
    popular news critics. Humor has become a major channel of communication. So
    lighten up, evolutionists. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  9. Unscripted Media and the Mass Audience: This goes with
    modernization.The mass audience has changed drastically in just the past
    decade. About half of the acting jobs available a decade ago in Hollywood have been lost
    to reality television — which is unscripted entertainment. The mass
    audience is bored and desperate for anything unpredictable. This is why, at our
    Yale University screening Flock of Dodos, when evolutionist Richard Prum, in a
    moment of brilliance, yanked the microphone away from me as I droned on about
    the need for spontaneity, the audience erupted more than at any other moment in
    the entire evening. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

  10. Sincerity: Even though Prum was a bit ungainly after
    grabbing the microphone, the audience didn’t care.The gesture was so sincere,
    came from such a visceral level, showed such passion, such risk-taking, so much
    desire to act (rather than just pontificate as I was doing), that he stole
    their hearts.There is a great deal to be learned from that. Cost to you of this
    suggestion: $0.

  11. Casting: All advocates are not created equal when it
    comes to communicating with the public. Suffice it to say: even if you have a
    Nobel prize and even if you give really great lectures, you still might not be
    the best person on camera. One bad twitch will set back your cause despite all
    your knowledge and advanced degrees. But … pick the right person even if this
    is only the chair of a state curriculum writing committee— in my movie
    this was Steve Case, who is the most popular and instantly likable scientist
    I’ve ever seen on film — and the impact can be far greater than what you
    get using any Nobel laureate. And by the way, there’s only one group of people
    who can decide for certain if your spokesperson is effective: your audience.
    Theirs is the only opinion that matters. Cost to you of this suggestion:
    potentially bruised egos and $0.

Value of better public understanding of science: priceless.

[From Rick Marken (2007.05.23.0900)]

···

On 5/22/07, Ted Cloak <tcloak@unm.edu> wrote:

Um, mutatis mutandis�

Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve Communication

Randy Olson

1) Quality Control:..

2) Attitude: Never "rise above" one of the simple principles we learned in
acting class...

These are great suggestions. If I were capable of doing all these
things I'd be rich and PCT would be famous. Maybe we should get Randy
Olson on board (who is he, anyway?).

Best

Rick
--
Richard S. Marken
Adjunct Professor of Psychology UCLA
Statistical Analyst VHA
rsmarken@gmail.com

[From Rick Marken (2007.05.23.0900)]

Um, mutatis mutandis.

Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve Communication

Randy Olson

1) Quality Control:..

2) Attitude: Never "rise above" one of the simple principles we learned in
acting class...

These are great suggestions. If I were capable of doing all these
things I'd be rich and PCT would be famous. Maybe we should get Randy
Olson on board (who is he, anyway?).

[From Ted Cloak (2007.05.25.0900)]

http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/biosci/faculty/olson.html

-- and check out his NYT link!

While re-reading the central chapters of B:CP (after 34 years), I kept
thinking how I would like to see this material in the form of animated
charts with voice narration. As it is, I have great difficulty even in
forming intelligent questions -- as you all are about to find out.

Ted

···

On 5/22/07, Ted Cloak <tcloak@unm.edu> wrote: