Q: How would you suggest we improve early education in science? Because there are too many education systems, including religious ones, all over the world that don't teach it well.
Pamela Gay: So there are two things I want to say--the first is a reaction to the question and the second is an answer. The reaction part is we need to be very careful with our language. The Catholic Church runs some of the best observatories in the world that are doing cutting-edge science. The reason that much of todays science and math survived the Dark Ages is the religion of Islam and its people writing down what was lost in Europe.
We need to recognize that there are crazies among us in all walks of life who are willing to disregard the world as it's taught to us by science. Sure, a lot of them are extremist Christians. A lot of them are being taught to disregard science in these extreme fundamentalist environments. But we need to make sure to remember all of our adjectives, because there's a problem when people of faith hear scientists who are atheists basically say that religious people don't know science. People hear that and think,' "I can't learn this, I'm going to leave." That is a problem.
The next thing we need to do is inspire curiosity. We all forgot what we learned in fifth grade science. Heck, I forgot a lot of-what I knew in ninth grade science. Back then,! got a perfect score on my biology SATs. Nowadays, I; remember the phrase Krebs cycle--I have no idea what it is. We need to encourage people's curiosity, teach them the scientific technique, teach them the power of data and exploration, and get them to keep asking questions. People can argue the exact curriculum until the sun goes down--until the sun blows up!--and no one will have an answer. But curiosity, participatory science, and hands-on engagement that teaches kids how to learn, that's what needs to happen.
Q: What do you think about the way people's natural, scientific curiosity is sometimes satisfied by mainstream pseudoscience? Like in your field, for example, how they're drawn to astrology.
Pamela Gay: One of my favorite things to point out to people who are really into astrology is that there are actually thirteen constellations the sun passes through. The constellations come in a whole variety pf different sizes. Cancer is luckily small, Scorpius is not, and Sagittarius sits somewhere in between. There's Ophiuchus sitting next to it, but we don't talk about Ophiuchus. According...