Seeing Myself Through Another’s Eyes

By | 2005/12/20

Jeff Shallit pointed out to me that a chunk of a Salon.com article describes a lecture I gave at Chabot College in November.

Elsberry launched the series to a standing-room-only crowd, with a detailed review of the history of evolutionary theory from pre-Darwin days until now. It was thorough and fair and totally lacking in hype or flair. As one who has long studied evolution and natural history, I managed to follow along. But judging by the drooping heads and the dozen or so empty seats when the lights came up, I’m not sure how many of the Chabot students did.

(Gordy Slack’s “Survival of the unfittest”)

Ouch.

On the other hand, it does reinforce the point that public debates aren’t really about the content, but rather about the relative debating skills of the speakers. Of course, it’s a bit hard to take the realization that I’m right in the pack of my peers on the ability to hold an audience’s attention. It would be so nice to have a little bit of the pizazz that Ken Miller brings to a stage. I’m just going to have to work on it. I hope to work my way to a presentation that is lacking in hype, but is thorough and fair with flair.

Update: I corresponded with Gordy Slack, the reporter, who said that he thought my lecture was good, but that his appreciation of it in the article was diminished during the editing process at Salon. He also said that he felt that I earned the respect of the students as they were able to compare my presentation to the others. It’s unfortunate that that information ended up on Salon.com’s editing room floor.

There was a videotape made of my lecture. I am trying to obtain a copy of it.

There’s something of a mismatch between what Sperling requested in the way of topic of my talk and what seems to be reported in the Salon.com article. I specifically asked her if she wanted a response to “intelligent design” and other creationist materials in my talk, and she said that I should stick to straight evolutionary biology. The Salon.com quote from Sperling indicates that she actually would have been better served to have me address the claims of the antievolutionists. However, that was exactly what she had discouraged me from doing.

I’ve had a couple of prior outings. My 2002 CSICOP presentation materials include a Powerpoint file and a text script. Some of that information demonstrates the duplicity of Phillip Johnson, who authored the text of the “Santorum Amendment” but at the same period wass telling reporters that legislating views was something bad that the opposition did, not ID. That would have been useful for the students to know before Johnson appeared to speak to them.

In 2001, I presented at the CTNS/AAAS “Interpreting Evolution” conference at Haverford College. That was videotaped and made available online:

One thought on “Seeing Myself Through Another’s Eyes

  1. Karen

    I don’t know what your speaking skills are like, but I have heard Ken Miller and he is unusualy gifted as a speaker. It’s great that you want to work on your presentation skills– this country desperately needs mainstream scientists who can communicate forcefully with the average American. I also think it would be great if one or more scientists had a syndicated column on the topic of science and religion.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

Comments are closed.