Adam Heinze, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Ryan Lange, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication
Caroline Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication and English
Kevin Donnelly, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of History
Panel presentation of “Camus and the communication of science paradox” was given at the 74th annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Communication Association, Erie, Pa.
Heinze: I have loved Camus since I first read him in high school. "The Stranger" (written by Camus) was the first piece of literature I read that elicited a visceral response. It is fair to say Camus vastly widened my horizon of what was important to consider.
Lange: I was interested in discussing how the study of philosophy influences the way I conduct science. I started my career as a logical positivist, and gradually accumulated more absurdist beliefs. This may be an inevitable consequence of studying human cognition, as we don't make a lot of sense to each other or ourselves in many cases. What I think is more important for me is that I help people discover how they can be happy in life. That manifests as me trying to help my students find their calling. If you want to succeed as a journalist or a PR person, you have to find satisfaction in an ever-changing environment that you will never entirely control or understand. The boulder is always going to roll down back at you. You have to be happy in the act of pushing it back up. It's the journey, not the destination.
Heinze: I presented how Camus’s existentialism creates a problem with communicating science because of a portion of the polarization presented by the very idea of existentialism. Now we have similar pro and anti-science groups that choose to create controversy over clear science and this method has been effective at discrediting difficult ideas like existentialism recently in modern history.
Lange: Since we all focused on a piece of his work, I talked about how "The Myth of Sisyphus" related to my teaching and scholarship.
Heinze: There are many challenges to communicating science that are far outside of the realm of science and to be an effective science communicators we have to collaborate with those who have worked hard to communicate effectively and efficiently.
Lange: I hope that I did service to Camus's work. Camus can be a challenging read, and I would not call myself a philosopher by trade. I took what I gained from reading "The Myth of Sisyphus" and applied it to what was going on around me. I think I helped explain to people how you can take that very abstract work and bring it into practice in a new way.
Heinze: Those who are trained in communication as an academic discipline are better at it than I am. I was more intimidated than I ever have been at a conference.
Lange: This presentation took me out of my comfort zone. My presentations usually deal with quantitative statistics about human cognition. I don't normally talk about my process or my overall life philosophy in front of a scholarly audience. Having to do that was constructive for me, and I'm grateful for the opportunity ECA gave my colleagues to do that.