I recently attended the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS). It was generally a wonderful experience. I loved meeting many of the people I have conversed with online in the real world and also meeting with many of my skeptical heroes ( I’m looking at you, SGU crew, George Hrab,Dr. Cady Coleman, and Julia Galef). But, I was also witness to a a bit of the disreputable side of our movement.
I introduce you to Dr. Lawrence Krauss. A prominent physicist and popular science communicator. Also, in my recent personal experience watching him talk at NECSS, a bit of a self absorbed curmudgeon. He also, in my opinion, is more than a bit sexist.
During his keynote speech, Dr. Krauss was correct in all of his science and physics,yet he came across as dismissive of the intelligence of the assembled crowd. With repeated statements like, “if you had paid attention in geometry class…” and, “had you listened to your physics teacher, you would remember this formula…”, I found him distasteful at the least and offensive at the most. Granted, we all might not have his aptitude to grasp physics at the level that Dr. Krauss can, but to demean his sympathetic audience? Not needed. Being smart does not give you license to be a smart ass.
The next day, He was the guest host of Rationally Speaking with Dr. Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef. This is where I had my biggest point of contention with Dr. Krauss. He all but ignored the two hosts. Dr. Pigliucci got polite (but sparse) conversation. Julia though, got none of this. Dr. Krauss either ignored her questions, only allowed her to get only barely into her question, or was nodding/shaking his head during her questions. It seemed to me, he was only tolerating her. I have listened to Julia during all of the RS podcasts. She is not worthy of dismissing and often asks questions that are true insights into the given subjects.
What really brought all of these thoughts into focus was my delving into the Skeptics Guide to the Universe archives. The SGU crew had Dr. Krauss as a guest on episode #124. While listening to him speak back then, I can see why he became a popular science communicator. But it is amazing to see what seven years and popularity can do to a person.
Contributor: Jonathan Tindell
A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.
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