I don't think I would actually 'publicly' call myself an 'intellectual', even an 'aspiring' one, but I am very interested in intellectual pursuits, and I aspire to publicly promote them, so I guess I fit the description.

My agenda is to spread the idea that we collectively need to popularize science and reason. Ignorance and anti-intellectualism is very popular these days. To counter this trend, it's not enough just to pursue science and reason ourselves. We also need to spark that interest in other people, who will spark it in other people, etc. Like using one candle to light another, to light two more, etc.

To that end, I've been working over the past few years on a philosophy which is intended to achieve just that. I use successful popularizers of science as role-models, such as Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, Richard Dawkins, etc. In trying to come up with a name, I hit upon the common thread which they all seem to express, which is an appreciation of wonder at nature and science. Hence, wonderism. I've started a Wonderism group here to further develop the idea. I would appreciate any feedback, comment, or criticism. Anyone is welcome to participate.

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By the way, I just posted a better description of What is wonderism? for those interested.
I am all for this effort. My question is: who is qualified to speak on topics of science and wonder?

In a more specific example, I participate and contribute to an atheist group in my area. We have occasionally arranged some subject matter experts on a topic. But we only seem to be able to do that two or three times a year. As we meet once a month, we struggle to find engaging presentations and often resort to watching a video like "Religulous".

We had no ideas for a November meeting so I volunteered to prepare a presentation looking at the colonization of North America by Europeans and many of the religious motivations and ideas that shaped American culture. I learned a lot about a subject that was of interest to me. I made the presentation and received many compliments.

For our February meeting I suggested the subject of evolution (in connection with Darwin's birthday). The response was the standard "who knows a PhD evolutionary biologist that we can ask to speak to us?" I did not ask the question then but I ask it now:

Why can not any interested individual research a particular topic and make a meaningful, factual, and insightful presentation to their peers? Why do we feel that only published PhD's are qualified to present science?
Good point, Jimmo. I'm certainly not a PhD in any science, but I see no reason that should stop me from talking about what I *do* know about science. I think the key is just to recognize your limits and be more than willing to say "I don't know" when you don't.

If I was to try a presentation like that, I think I would approach it with the attitude, "Here's what I found out, here's what I'm fairly certain of, and here's how others can find more information if they are interested further."

Preachers will spew on and on about topics they really have no clue or business talking about. They are overly confident. Many of us atheists on the other hand tend to be overly cautious. I think we need to break down that caution barrier a little bit. As long as we don't overstate our claims, and as long as we make it clear when we are speculating for the purpose of speculating, we should feel free and open to talk about science, reason, history, and whatever other topics interest us. Our voices need to be heard, too, to counteract some of the ignorance that's so rampant out there.

Maybe your group could try something fun/challenging like how in Toastmasters each person has to talk about some topic. It's all in good fun, not competitive or anything like that. Just take turns standing up and start talking about some interesting freethought topic that comes to mind.




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