Read Chris Mooney's latest posting on The Intersection where he addresses the framing controversy [A Dialogue on Framing, the F-Word, and the Future of ScienceBlogs, Part I: Framer Culpa].
When I teamed up with Matthew Nisbet a year ago to talk about the subject of framing science--which I still believe to be a very important one--it was not my goal to alienate or outrage a group that I consider one of my most important audiences, namely, ScienceBlogs bloggers and readers. And yet when you look at the latest blowup over what I have posted, Sheril has posted, and Nisbet has posted about Expelled, it's undeniable that there is now an audience that reacts very negatively even to any basic mention of the concept of framing.Good for you Chris. The irony has been apparent to many of us and it's really good to see you confess to having created the problem. My respect for you just went up several notches.
And there's just no other way to spin it--this is a painfully ironic communication failure on the part of those of us who wanted to introduce what I view as a very important communication tool to the science world. If we can't explain something so useful to an important segment of our own audience, how can we possibly hope to use it to counter the other side?
Let me just correct one little thing. There are plenty of science bloggers out there who don't like your views on framing science. Not all of us belong to the ScienceBlogsTM consortium.
Now, to be sure, the concept of framing has been quite influential already for many people who care about science, but who are not seemingly well represented on ScienceBlogs. When I go around lecturing with Matt Nisbet, we constantly encounter enthusiastic, receptive scientist-laden audiences at universities. There is simply nothing like the response that we've seen here over the last week. Indeed, I believe the reactions at lectures may have skewed my perceptions, and made me neglect or dismiss, to a significant extent, the way our ideas were faring in the science blogosphere.It's very common for people on the lecture circuit to get an exaggerated—and false—impression of their message. This is because the only people who come to your talks are the true believers. When dissenters do show up it's often hard for them to debate the speaker just by posing questions from the audience.
But no success on the lecture circuit can change the fact that somehow--and I'll have ideas about how it happened in later posts--the concept of framing has been blackened on Scienceblogs, which I consider a truly tragic occurrence. And while I'm hardly the only guilty party here, I certainly played a role in that, whether actively or by omission.
I'm not surprised that the Nisbet/Mooney road show fooled you into thinking that your ideas were widely accepted in the scientific community. The other way of fooling yourself is to organize a conference where the only people invited are those who agree with you. This is what Nisbet did at AAAS.
Allow me to re-iterate the point I made earlier. It's not just on ScienceBlogsTM that the concept of framing has been blackened. I've met many scientists who think that your views on framing1 are an unacceptable way to teach science. A good many of those scientists have never read a single posting on any ScienceBlogsTM blog and, furthermore, they have never even heard of Seed and the group it supports.
I admire the fact that you confess to poor framing of your ideas. Now. how about discussing whether they are even correct? Up to now all you've done is reject any criticism on the ground that we don't really understand framing. Maybe we do, but we're still opposed. Have you ever thought of that?
Your message still seems to be that you just made the mistake of not presenting your ideas correctly. In other words, you didn't frame properly. I hope that subsequent postings won't continue in that vein. It's time to realize that it was not only the medium that was flawed but also the message.
1. Framing is deliberately altering what you want to say in order to make it more acceptable to your audience.