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Unity and Diversity: Prof. Lui Lam Talks on Science Communication

December 22, 2016: at the invitation of Prof. Xiaomin Zhu from the Center for History and Philosophy of Science, Lui Lam Ph.D. visited Peking University and gave a speech titled after “What to Communicate in Science Communication”. Dr. Lam is Professor of Physics at San Jose State University, California, and Guest Professor at the China Research Institute for Science Popularization. His current research interest is in humanist and complex systems, and he has long been following the progress of the science communication in China. Students from the Center for History and Philosophy of Science, the Department of Philosophy and Yenching Academy of Peking University attended the event. 

In his speech, Dr. Lam talked about the definition of science from the perspective of science communication, including the relationship between science and liberal arts, and the role of science in our daily life. Dr. Lam used the concept of “human science” to refer to the “human-related fields of science”, which could be further divided into humanities (e.g. philosophy, history and religious studies), social science (e.g. economics and sociology) and medical science. Therefore, in terms of the research content, science could be considered as consist of the “human-irrelevant” natural science and the human science. 

As the main part of the speech, three topics of science communication was introduced explicitly by Dr. Lam, i.e. the basic knowledge of science, the uncertainty of science and the complex system, and the scientific innovation. In his opinion, the human-related knowledge based on solid scientific methods may be more important than fields that don’t concern the organic lives. Introducing the notion of complex system to the general public will help them understand more complicated problems and eventually instill a sense of responsibility in citizens, which, in turn, could make China a leading country in the field of science communication. Also, the popularization of scientific innovation will help improve and optimize the economic structures in China.

Through the interactive discussion, students reached a better understanding of the unity and diversity in science communication: the academic research as well as science communication requires an integrative and unitive view on the problems, however, when it comes to problem solving, a diversified approach may be beneficial in practice.