Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, was the first distinguished scholar brought to the College by Phi Beta Kappa. He held a lecture titled “Science Under Attack, from the White House to the Classroom: Public Policy, Science Education and the Emperor’s New Clothes.”
During the lecture, which took place Oct. 25 in Kendall Hall, the internationally-known physicist combined science and popular culture to argue the case for science and the truth. With a PowerPoint presentation, he called upon people to help defend against bad science and ignorance. This includes everything from the media manufacturing scientific controversies to “people believing that the Earth is 6,000 years old.”
“Everywhere, people are being barraged by nonsense,” Krauss said.
He used the television network Fox as an example of “100 percent nonsense” for its created controversy over a fake alien body a few years back. To the amusement of the audience, Krauss highlighted a statistic that said only 50 percent of America knew the Earth was round. “What about the other half?” Krauss said.
The focal point of his lecture was the discussion of three case studies: global warming, missile defense and intelligent design.
“Business as usual is not acceptable,” Krauss said when referring to the issue of global warming.
He quickly criticized the U.S. government for prioritizing the economy over global health. With missile defense, Krauss highlighted the assumption that Americans believe we have an operating missile defense system.
“This country has no missile defense system and we wasted $60 billion over six years on a system that doesn’t work,” Krauss said. “It is abstract nonsense.”
He labeled his last case study, intelligent design, as “simply opposed to evolution.” Taking on the issue of science vs. religion vs. philosophy, Krauss defended science. “Evolution happened whether you like it or not,” Krauss said as his defining rebuttal to intelligent design.
A question-and-answer segment was held at the conclusion of the lecture. Krauss spent the majority of time discussing religion and science. Asked whether or not he believed God and evolution could co-exist peacefully, Krauss said, “If there is a God, it has to be consistent with the timeline of evolution.”
Statements such as this often leave him open for criticism. However, Krauss was well-received by audience members.
“I thought I was going to be offended, but I wasn’t,” Victoria Kudrak, junior special education major, said. “He was a fair-minded man in a non-combating way.”
Dan Cardinale, junior biology major, also said, “What Krauss said needs to be said more often and with the same passion.”
The College’s year-old chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was awarded a visitor from a roster of 12 to 13 scholars.
Nancy Freudenthal, assistant provost of the Office of Academic Affairs, said, “Krauss had the greatest interest in coming to the College.”