Feb 10, 2014

FVCC Honors Symposium to Address Why Science Matters

After a four year hiatus, the Flathead Valley Community College Honors Symposium will return, offering FVCC students and members of the community five opportunities in February and March to hear science experts address various topics that support this year’s theme, “Science Matters: Skepticism, Inquiry and the Need for Literacy.”  The college brings these free lectures to the community to provide credible and substantive information on important topics of public interest.

This year’s lecture series will focus on the history and process of modern science; the accrued benefits of a scientifically literate society (as well as the burdens of a scientific literacy); the differences between science and pseudoscience; the political, economic and cultural lobbying affecting public policy related to science; and the ethics of scientific investigation.

Kicking off the symposium February 25, Sheril Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., will present “Unscientific America:  How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future.”  The presentation will explore how the vast majority of Americans do not see the ways in which science holds relevance in their lives, and too many scientists are unable to explain why their work matters.  Meanwhile, economics, partisan politics, a new media environment and religious ideologies have exploited the growing rift between science and mainstream American culture.  The presentation will illustrate how science should be a value shared by all, but there exists a “vast gulf of mutual incomprehension” (C.P. Snow) between scientists and everyone else.  Dr. Kirshenbaum will describe how the scientific community must find new ways to reach out to the public and inform the larger decision-making process, so America can rise to meet the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

Dr. Kirshenbaum is director of The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll where she works to enhance public understanding of energy issues and improve communication between scientists, policymakers and the public.  She is the author of “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future.”

The symposium will continue with the following presentations:

  • March 6:  “Informing the Citizenry:  Where Science Can Succeed (and Fail) in the Technology Debates” presented by Christopher Preston, Ph.D., The University of Montana Department of Philosophy;
  • March 11:  “Biotechnology:  One Problem at a Time.  Are you Kidding?” presented by David Sands, Ph.D.,  Montana State University Department of Plant Science;
  • March 20:  “Climate Change, GMOs and Vaccine Safety:  Should We Trust Scientific Consensus?” presented by Kristen Intemann, Ph.D., Montana State University Department of Philosophy; and
  • March 24:  “Harnessing Science in Service of a Thriving Democracy” presented by Pallavi Phartiyal, Ph.D., senior analyst and program manager for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.


Free and open to the public, all lectures will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the large community meeting room inside the Arts and Technology building on the FVCC campus.  The FVCC Honors Symposium is supported by FVCC, Humanities Montana, American Association of University Women, FVCC Alumni and Ambassadors and the Theodore Chase Endowment Fund.

For full presentation descriptions and speaker bios, visit  For more information about the FVCC Honors Symposium, contact Ivan Lorentzen at 756-3864 or at