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Talking Science and Society at Church

Let’s Put Aside Differences to Tackle Society’s Biggest Challenges

Matthew C. Nisbet is professor of communication at Northeastern University and editor-in-chief of the journal Environmental Communication. He also writes at and can be found on Twitter @MCNisbet.

Over the past two decades, high profile debates over human origins, abortion, and stem cell research have distracted from the opportunities that scientists, skeptics, and religious Americans have to forge relationships built on common values and goals.

Though topics such as the teaching of evolution may generate disagreements, other areas of science (such as health, sustainability, climate change, and food security) may not. Even in the face of disagreements, dialogue-based efforts can help break down stereotypes between scientists, skeptics, and people of faith, cultivating mutual respect and personal relationships, leading to collaboration on society’s most pressing problems.

These are some of the main points emphasized in a recent report Scientists in Civic Life: Facilitating Dialogue-Based Communication, which I authored on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (Nisbet 2018). The booklet provides an overview on relevant research, practices, and examples that scientists, skeptics, and their partners can draw on to encourage more thoughtful dialogue about science and society.

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