Re-published on the web courtesy of The Florida Keys & Key West



Pulitzer Prize-winning science author Jonathan Weiner, right, emphasizes a point Friday, Jan. 12, 2001, during a discussion at the Key West Literary Seminar while other panelists including, left-to-right, biologist Stephen Jay Gould, anthropologist Robin Fox and Murray Gell-Mann, a 1969 Nobel Prize winner in physics, listen. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys TDC


Science author Lynn Margulis, who specializes in evolution and genetics, delivers her lecture. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys TDC


Carl Djerassi makes a point during a panel discussion. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys TDC


Dorion Sagan, the son of renowned late scientist Carl Sagan, addresses attendees. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys TDC


KEY WEST, Florida Keys - Top scientists and writers at a literary conference said they are disturbed by a lack of science books available to the general public.

"Everyone is so scared of science," said Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter and author of "Galileo's Daughter." "It's been made a real bogeyman."

Three Nobel Prize winners and several Pulitzer Prize winners were among the panelists at the annual Key West Literary Seminar that ended Sunday, Jan. 14. More than 400 people attended the four-day conference, called "Science & Literature: Narratives of Discovery."

"People think they can't understand (science) and they certainly wouldn't want to read about it," Sobel said. "But it's important, because science is about deep-meaningful things that help you appreciate the world in a new way."

Stephen Gould, evolutionary biologist, writer and Harvard University professor, compared science to music. He said "we don't limit the understanding of music to musicians so why limit science to scientists?"

Gould checked off a list of ways science affects people's lives, from maintaining a tropical fish aquarium to being a car mechanic, and from poker players and race track betters using statistics to children learning about dinosaurs.

"There's a general anti-intellectual feeling in our country," said 1995 Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner. "This is a wonderful moment to be watching science and I think more of us should be excited about science."

Carl Djerassi, known as the father of the birth control pill, said scientific literature is necessary in the digital age, "whether we like it or not."

"It's the difference between quality of life and just existing," said Djerassi, a Stanford University chemistry professor.

Murray Gell-Mann, a 1969 Nobel laureate in physics, said "science has to be promulgated much better."

To that end, the son of the late astronomer Carl Sagan suggested the use of "aesthetically powerful" novels to helpspread scientific knowledge to the general public.

"Science by itself cannot be absorbed, because it's too technical, even by scientists," said Dorion Sagan, 41, who recently released "Cooking With Jesus," an offbeat cookbook. "It has to be cast in some sort of mythological form."

"The novel remains to be an extremely encompassing form," he said. "It's one example to accommodate this long-standing divide between science and literature."

Seminar organizers have announced theme and dates for the 2002 Key West literary conclave. "A Sense of Place," exploring the role of place in American literature is slated for Jan. 10-13. For more details and to pre-register go to