Below are excerpts from an interview recently conducted with Academy Executive Director, Dr. Gregory C. Farrington, Ph.D.
What are the big-picture ideas that scientists must focus on?
“The Academy's mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world. This mission includes two of the most important issues of our time. First, how did life on Earth develop? How did we get here? Second, how will we find a way to stay? How will we sustain life on Earth?”
Isn't that controversial?
“Almost every issue that is important is controversial in some way and to some people. The scientific basis for life and its evolution becomes clearer every day. The technological options we have to sustain life on Earth continue to develop. What is really controversial has to do with the implications of the life sciences and sustainability choices for people, society, and governments. The evolution of life and its sustainability present major challenges to how we like to think of ourselves—our religious beliefs, our sense of uniqueness, and the economic choices we face for our future and the future of all people. These issues will not be easy to resolve, and yes, they will be very controversial.”
What role can the Academy play?
“We can serve as an honest broker in the debates that will have to occur around the choices society faces regarding sustainability. We can help provide education about the science surrounding these issues. We can spotlight important areas where further investigation is needed. But make no mistake: The California Academy stands for the central importance of scientific investigation and the scientific process in resolving critical questions.”
What activities might the Academy sponsor?
“The Academy can host symposia, sponsor discussions, and gather the best scientists from around the world and give them a venue to communicate to people their research and findings. The California Academy of Sciences—and natural history institutions in general—can play a valuable role in bringing together scientists, researchers, educators, and policy makers to discuss the critical issues that society faces regarding life and sustainability.”
What is one issue you'd like to focus on?
“To achieve effective, accurate, and engaging education for the public about life science and the critical choices we face in promoting the sustainability of life on Earth. Also, to create an experience at the Academy that inspires young people to choose careers in science!”
Are these issues important?
“They are more than important. They are essential for the survival of the miracle we know as life in all of its marvelous diversity.”