Schedule Oct 17, 2008
Bridging Two Cultures: Science and Journalism
Jacob Berkowitz, KITP

Here at KITP, we're in the midst of the most scientifically advanced culture in the history of humankind. Yet, 500 years after Copernicus, half of Americans still aren't certain whether the Sun circles the Earth, or vice versa. A quarter of Americans, including a current vice-presidential candidate, believe that humans walked with dinosaurs. What's up?  In a series of four presentations over the next month, I'm going to explore one of the greatest cultural and intellectual challenges of our time: the integration of science and story. It's a struggle that I think is at the root of the Culture Wars -- the hot public debates on science and religion, science and the arts, and science and journalism - the latter the focus of my presentations. Helping scientists and journalists interact more productively is often boiled down to sharing basic PR skills -- the ins-and-outs of a good press release, a good quote, or interview -- on the one hand, and scientific facts on the other. These are, of course, important. But there's another key factor which is often the make-or-break one : professional cross-cultural understanding. In the first seminar on the topic, I'll use the upcoming 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture at Cambridge in 1959 as a point of departure to discuss how cross-cultural issues - from the value of story, to the role of the individual scientist in these stories - play a critical role in the success or failure of science popularizing efforts.   It's my hope that these seminars will make it not only more enjoyable and useful for scientists sharing their research, but will be another small step towards further integrating the view of the world offered by science into our grand cultural stories.

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