Better Know a Notable Skeptic: 10 Questions for Eugenie Scott
With the success of the “better know a skeptic” series of articles, I decided to extend a little bit to “notable skeptics.” If there is someone you would like to see included, let me know via the forums.
Eugenie Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a pro-evolution nonprofit science education organization with membership in every state. A human biologist, Dr. Scott has taught at the University of Kentucky and the University of Colorado, where her research has been in medical anthropology. The author of Creationism vs. Evolution: An Introduction, and co-editor of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for our Schools, she has served as chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Anthropological Association, as President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and has chaired both the Anthropology and Education Sections of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She also serves on the National Advisory Council of Americans united for Separation of Church and State, and has served on the Advisory Council of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion committee.
Frequently called upon by the print, radio, and television media as a spokesperson for the scientific view when conflicts arise between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations, Dr. Scott has worked nation-wide to communicate the scientific method to the general public and to improve how science as a way of knowing is taught in schools. She holds a PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Missouri and honorary Doctor of Science degrees from McGill, Ohio State, Mt. Holyoke, and Rutgers Universities, as well as the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
1) Briefly describe yourself. What do you do for a living, etc.
I manage a nonprofit science education organization that tries to keep evolution in the school. It’s a somewhat odd job, but someone has to do it!
2) Why are you a “skeptic”? Was there a “wow” moment?
I don’t think there was a “wow”. I think I have always been pretty clear-headed about claims of the paranormal, even when I was a young person in the 60s and there was an awful lot of woo woo in the youth culture. I had a roommate who was a practicing witch, in the sense of casting spells, etc. She had a small if not especially remunerative business making charms for various purposes: love charms, health charms, job charms. Even after some friends got interviews when they had Linda’s job charms in their pockets, I never really thought that some mumbo-jumbo and hand-waving over a piece of clay fired in a cat food can in a hibachi was likely to produce an object with magical powers. But it was a fun time, and lots of people played at various superstitions. Many people still do. It’s the people who go beyond playing that we have to worry about.
3) What are your hobbies/interests?
hah! When would I have time!!?? But if I’m not working, which is pretty much all the time, I like to read (fiction, fantasy, science fiction, natch) and garden. Someday….
4) What are you passionate about at the moment?
Other than the creationism/evolution controversy? The desperate need we have for comprehensive medical care in this country.
5) Do you have a hero? Why him/her?
Henry Waxman. Really. He’s fearless. Others, too.
6) If you could have dinner with 5 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Henry Huxley. Because he was a generally cool guy. I’d ask him about his “workingman’s lectures”, and if he would have been more enthusiastic about natural selection if he had known about the genetic discoveries of the 20th century. Kurt Vonnegut. Isaac Asimov, because he knew so much about everything. William Jennings Bryan, who wasn’t the clown portrayed in Inherit the Wind. I’d ask him if he was pleased that we passed so much of the progressive agenda he championed, like women’s sufferage, unionization, etc. And of course I’d want Glenn Branch there because he knows everything.
7) Do you have a favourite: album, musician, sports team, movie, TV show, book? (Feel free to list one, some, or all.)
I am virtually ignorant of popular culture. I watch very few TV shows. Daily Show is fun, Colbert Report can be brilliant. I like fantasy books: Neil Gaiman, Phillip Pullman.
8) What grinds your gears?
People who don’t cut others slack.
9) Tell me something I don’t know about you.
I’m really a homebody. I love having people over for dinner, or staying the week, and fussing over them.
10) Why are we here?
To make this a better place when we leave it than when we entered it. That is an individual “purpose”. I don’t see universal, or cosmic purpose in the universe