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
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