Hipster Dodos

Randy Olson, who sparked a massive discussion here a couple weeks ago in connection to his movie, Flock of Dodos and how to explain evolution, sends an update:

Hello Carl –

Big news here — the official World Premiere of “Flock of Dodos: the evolution-intelligent design circus,” will be at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival on the evening of Sunday, April 30 in New York City, followed by three more screenings during the following days. We will have details on our website next week on how to get tickets. Here’s the Tribeca announcement: http://www.indiewire.com/ots/2006/03/tribeca_fest_un.html

Now before P.Z. Myers and everyone else recoils with, “Oh, no, Robert De Niro’s festival — now he’s REALLY gone Hollywood,” I want to clarify one detail.

Your review of the advance screening at Yale on Feb. 13 produced a wonderful round of discussion on at least eight evolution blogs. And quite a few evolutionists took issue with some of my ten suggestions for improving the communication of evolution. Probably the biggest misperception of what I said was the confusion between “concision” (what I am advocating) and “dumbing down,” (which is rightfully the fear of all good evolutionists).

Concision is the essence of effective mass communication, and its not as simple as dumbing down. Think of it as being similar to solving a mathematical proof. The mathematical clod (like myself) takes 100 steps to make the proof. The skilled mathematician achieves the same proof in three steps. And therein lies the beauty and even art of great mathematics. Its all about simplicity.

Simiarly, the communications clod takes twenty minutes to explain something. The skilled communicator takes three minutes to explain the same thing. And I mean EXACTLY the same thing. And therein lies the beauty of great communication.

Some people are naturally better than others at communication, but everyone can get better by raising it up as a higher priority. I have given sloppy. poorly thought out and unrehearsed talks as a scientist, and I have given carefully structured, concise, well rehearsed talks as a scientist. The former were all very easy. The latter took a lot of work and a prioritization of almost as much effort in the communicating of the science as in the doing of the research.

Its not clear how much the research environment has changed over the past thirty years. But what is undeniable is that the communication environment has changed drastically. And this is the central point of my film. So at the risk of annoying a lot of very nice scientists (like P.Z. Myers), I look forward to continuing this discussion over the upcoming year. And hopefully see you all at Tribeca.

– Randy Olson