Since he specifically mentions me [More than just Resistance to Science], I thought I might as well respond.
That is why, Larry's protestations notwithstanding, we desparately need the advice of people whose job is to study communication. We have no idea how to talk to people with hierarchical worldviews and the phatic use of language and we better listen and be prepared to learn.Name some names. Show me these mythical communications experts who are doing such a good job of communicating science to the general public. Where in the world did you come up with this ridiculous idea that scientists have no idea how to talk to the average person?
All the examples that Larry points out - teaching science majors in college, talking to other scientists, writing popular science books, writing science blogs - are aimed at the audience that already is rational and uses language to get and impart information. It just does not work in persuasion and education of the irrational folk. The way to frame the science is completely different.Bull. The way to talk to irrational people is not to get down in the gutter with them and behave irrationally. How in the world do you expect people to trust you, Bora, if you abandon the core principles of science?
So, what do we do?I agree with this. Scientists need to challenge religion since in the USA that's the dominant authority. The first step is to get their attention by making some noise. So far it's working.
Phase 1 is to attain authority (that is why science reporters will not do for this - it has to be scientists themselves). In doing so, the scientists have to do more than just assert equal authority as the priest, sheriff and mayor. For a hierarchically-minded audience, the only way to rise in authority is for someone else's authority to diminish at the same time ("How can the UN tell MY President what to do?"). It is a ladder they think of and only one person or group can be at any single rung of it. Thus, scientists have to displace clergy, lawyers and politicians as sources of authority on scientific matters.
How does one do this? When dealing with kids (and adults who have not yet made the change to a rational worldview), the only way is to appear to be 100% sure. This is not the audience that gets error-bars, confidence intervals, fine points of philosophy of science, and alternative hypotheses. You tell it how it is (even if inside you cringe, knowing that what you are saying is only 98% sure). You tell it with conviction. No need to lie. Just get out of the science-paper mindset. The studies mentioned in the Edge piece confirm this notion as well.You do that and you've lost my respect. What do you get in return? You get the same kind of respect as politicians and everybody else who's prepared to sacrifice truth for spin. What you're advocating is not "framing," it's surrender.
"Truth" is something like "pregnancy." Something is either true or it is not true. There's no such thing as 98% true. That's just a polite word for a lie. "Spin" is another polite word for a lie and so, it appears, is "framing."
Phase 2 is to gain trust. As Sara Robinson explained in her series "Tunnels and Bridges" and "Cracks in the Wall" (both found in the sidebar here), this is a slow and gradual process. No looking down at people. Not calling them stupid or evil. Giving them a helping hand and encouragement. Perhaps promise an induction into a secret powerful society of scientists. Even if one makes small steps, reward them even if you do not like where they got in the process: smile when the individual moves form YEC to OEC, and again when he moves from OEC to IDC, and again when he moves from IDC to Theistic Evolution, and again when he moves from Theistic Evolution to a genocentric, hyperadaptationist form of naturalistic evolution and give them a damned PhD when they understand and accept the modern evolutionary theory.Whatever. You do it your way and I'll do it my way. There's plenty of room for all kinds of personalities in this battle. For the time being I'm impressed with the Dawkins approach. People have been trying it your way for decades and look at what kind of success they've had in America.
For over a century, the creationists have been mocking, criticizing, and demeaning scientists from the pulpit, in books, on television and in newspapers. Not only do they call us stupid but evil as well. Guess what? That strategy has been working for them. It's time to fight back. Think of it in terms of attack adds if that makes you feel better. Except that our attack adds are truthful.
While phases 1 and 2 can, to some extent, be done simultaneously, Phase 3 can be attempted only once the person has already passed the first two phases. The Phase 3 is science education as we understand it. It can only be applied to the audience that is already rational and uses language for the exchange of information, not emotions. Actually understanding the world, not just taking your word for it (phases 1 and 2 are pretty much getting people to trust you on your word, not understanding any science yet) is something that we want them to achieve and traditional science education can do so. I am sure that Larry is really good at this phase, even though he refuses to acknowledge that the first two phases are necessary or even existent before a person can understand and accept what Larry is teaching.Oh come on, Bora, I'm not nearly as stupid as you imagine. If the other phases are to establish trust and gain authority then I'm perfectly aware of the fact that these are important. Just because I think that your tactics will do the exact opposite does not mean that I reject the goal.
The problem is, you can't have it all. You can't expect to get "respect" by lying about science, or framing it in ways that are unacceptable to scientists, and then expect to turn around and teach good science. By the time you've spun your way to "respect" you lost the moral authority to teach.