Sunday, February 17, 2008

How Matt Nisbet Conned AAAS

 
Some of you might recall an earlier posting where I criticize Matt Nisbet for the way he organized a panel at the AAAS meeting without allowing anyone to give the other side of the issue [AAAS Panel: Communicating Science in a Religious America].I sent an email message to Professor Goldston, the panel moderator. Here's part of what I said.
I don't object to Nisbet presenting his point of view at a AAAS meeting but my respect for AAAS and your panel would be greatly diminished if the other side did not get a chance to make its case. Surely you do not want to give the impression that AAAS will only support scientists who agree with Nisbet? Surely you do not want to have a panel where the so-called "New Atheist" perspective is excluded and only religious scientists, or their close allies, are allowed to speak? Is that fair?

Please make sure that you have appropriate balance on your panel. Please make sure you don't give the impression that AAAS endorses Nisbet and his ideas about framing. The other side needs to be heard.
Mike Dunford has followed up with a posting from several days ago [Yeah, could have seen that one coming].

It's about time we realized that Matt Nisbet is not a friend of science. He needs to be strongly opposed before he succeeds in fooling any more naive scientists who might fall for his silly nonsense.

This "framing" thing has gone too far.


12 comments :

  1. It has already taken hold. I've listened to a number of Point of Inquiry podcasts where scientists were asked about "framing" and they supported the notion. I don't think their support was based on any familiarity with what "framing" really is, at least in Nisbet's formulation. Instead they're answering based purely on the name, latching onto the implication that we present differently for different audiences. And what scientist wouldn't talk differently to a colleague, than to an undergraduate class, than to a reporter than to a person at a cocktail party? This is a function of responding to the level of knowledge of your audience and is natural and good.

    Nisbet seems to want us to do something more and conform to the ideology or beliefs of our audience but with his skillful manipulation of language, has managed to hijack this otherwise positive-sounding term.

    In many ways, he's using the same sort of language gerrymandering that the CAM-crowd is using, picking positive/neutral terms ("Complimentary", who could be against compliments?) and using uncontroversial positions (nutrition, massage) to justify the whacked ones (all the rest).

    He's right that this sort of deceptive behaviour can win some battles - look at CAM's success - but the cost is sacrificing all professional standards.

    Thanks for speaking out! The more people that understand what's going on, the fewer will get suckered in by the sales pitch.

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  2. Eh, I yield to nobody in my disdain for Nisbet, but he's so transparently an asshole that I'm reasonably hopeful the problem he presents is a more or less self-correcting one.

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  3. Larry,

    Related to this subject, you might find this debate between Prof Dawkins and Maddie Bunting of the Guardian (who as criticised him in the past) to be of interest:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/audio/2008/feb/14/richard.dawkins

    It's fun for Maddies' pathetic defense of her beliefs, but it also contains some interesting thoughts from Dawkins about his "political" impact, including creationism wars.

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  4. Tyro:

    "I don't think their support was based on any familiarity with what "framing" really is, at least in Nisbet's formulation. Instead they're answering based purely on the name, latching onto the implication that we present differently for different audiences."

    That is what framing really is. In this instance, Matt is doing something entirely different and calls it "framing", thus alienating people who should be interested in framing, but will not give it a hearing because they associate it with Matt's agenda, instead of what it really is - a communication skill.

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  5. That is what framing really is. In this instance, Matt is doing something entirely different and calls it "framing"...

    No, no no, Nisbet has been very clear about this. What he does is "framing." What his opponents do is "spinning." Because he said so.

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  6. "With friends like these...." Never mind; 'Uncommon Descent' probably knows the feeling.

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  7. What he does is "framing." What his opponents do is "spinning."

    It's one of those irregular verbs:

    I frame the issue.
    You spin the facts.
    He dissembles to suck up to opponents.

    :)

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  8. Tyro,

    You appear to be confused by a malapropism when you write "...picking positive/neutral terms ("Complimentary", who could be against compliments?)..."

    There's a difference between complimentary and complementary.

    Pedantry aside, I concur with your opinion.

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  9. I see no difference between Nisbet and your average ID theistard.

    *shrug*

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  10. I see no difference between Nisbet and your average ID theistard.

    I see some differences: Nisbet gets attention at AAAS, gets his writing into Science. Nisbet gets attention from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Nisbet seems more concerned with self-promotion than in getting God back into the schools.

    Oh you mean differences of content and substance? No, not a lot.

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  11. Thanks for this post. Nisbet's always struck me as a total sleazebag. I mean, he lies. Transparently. Blatantly. Constantly. It's his thing. It's what he does. His professional life is all about deliberately distorting and misrepresenting reality in order to further a partisan political agenda. That he's got his own blog on scienceblogs.com brings the entire scienceblogs network into disrepute. I hope they can his ass post-haste.

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  12. At long last, thanks to the comments on this post, I think I'm beginning to understand what "framing" is and how it differs from merely adjusting one's presentation to be appropriate for different audiences. Kinda like having a conversation with your nose stuck up your audience's asscrack.

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