In Praise of Eugenie C. Scott

By Chris Mooney | May 27, 2009 12:01 pm

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My latest Science Progress column sings the praises of Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education, or NCSE–who has been winning a lot of accolades lately, so I just wanted to pile on. Here’s an excerpt:

….if you want some idea of how difficult [Scott’s] job is, just try the following. First, peruse the web for all the creationist attacks on Scott. According to Wikipedia, she likes to joke that sometimes she thinks her first name is “Atheist,” they call her “Atheist Eugenie Scott” so much. Then, when you’re done sampling the anti-evolutionist  barbs, flip over to this recent post by University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, which takes Scott and NCSE to task for their “accommodationist” stance on religion, calling it “offensive and unnecessarya form of misguided pragmatism.”

As this evidence suggests, Scott is regularly under fire from the culture war combatants on both sides. Not only does NCSE have to monitor the endless permutations of the creationists, who are constantly coming up with new ploys for attacking evolution. It also has to deal with the pugilistic evolutionists who want to make this battle about the truth or falsehood of religious belief, rather than the truth or falsehood of what science discovers about the world. In this gauntlet, Scott has remained an eloquent defender of the view that people of science and people of religion can and must work together to solve conflicts—and indeed, this is the best and only way forward.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t commend NCSE’s single best initiative: Project Steve. In riposte to creationists who are constantly promulgating lists of scientists who allegedly question evolution, NCSE created an even bigger list of scientists named “Steve” who support it. Yes, that’s right: Scott and NCSE made a statistical argument hilarious and memorable. How many people can you say that of?

I know Scott, although not particularly well. I’ve interviewed her, seen her at the typical conferences, and witnessed her on the ground in Pennsylvania during the Dover conflict. And for some time, I have been asking myself the following question: Given that we’re barely holding back the creationist tide as it is, what on Earth would we do without her? I sincerely hope these latest awards bring added recognition and support to the woman who is working every day in one of the toughest jobs imaginable: Keeping our schools, and our society, safe for science.

You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Science and Religion
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Comments (1)

  1. You hit the nail right on. Genie is the exact right mix of hard nosed science and an understanding of the fact that people will be religious, and so there had better be an accommodation between them, or both will suffer.

    The NCSE may have made the Project Steve thing work, but it was first proposed on the talk.origins newsgroup.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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