Sunday, April 15, 2007

Im done with the Frame.

After a comment on Pharyngula, my question as to whether Mooney and Nisbet are that naive has been answered.

Quotes are from Nisbet, Post#28:

The question is this:

Over the next five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, in a diverse and pluralistic society that has to reach collective decisions relatively quickly regarding political debates over global warming, the teaching of evolutionary science in science class (and only evolutionary science), stem cell research etc...what's the best way to engage the broader public by way of the media?

Our answer:

While remaining true to the underlying science, you have to recast messages in a way that connect to people's social identity. And yes, in the United States, that means connecting to people of diverse faiths.
Duh. Duh. Duh. Duh. DUH.

Do you honestly think this is news? You think youre bringing novel ideas to the table? What??

I guess this is our major difference in opinion. If I understand you correctly, you see this as appeasing religion. I don't see it that way.

Dawkins will always play an important role. As we write at the Washington Post, we agree with him on evolution and admire his books. Indeed, our credentials as skeptics and defenders of science are well established.
Here is a real problem, that you and Chris are either unable or unwilling to address. Brace yourself here: I am not Richard Dawkins.

I am a 5'8" chick with blue eyes, long brown hair, and (Ive been told) a *cute* voice, that wears polo shirts from Old Navy. Im not how most Christians/Muslims/etc would picture an 'atheist', so I can slide in cognito through even the most fundamentalist theistic environments.

And I have difficulty getting past the Iron Curtain gate keepers.

Stop enabling their behaviors by 'blaming' atheism. Oh, or even better idea, why dont you all focus your energies on solving the Iron Curtain problem, rather than pointing out the sky is blue.

One tool is to understand how to frame issues--not spin the facts--but recast a complex topic in a way that makes it meaningful to a non-traditional audience. In addition, you have to figure out the media platforms that reach these non-traditional audiences.
Like blogs. Like books. Again, thanks for that fantastic revelation.

As Ive said before, this blog is an outlet for my frustration at being stopped over and over and OVER by the Iron Curtain. Its currently the only way I can reach non-traditional audiences.

That means for example the religious news beat, entertainment media, blockbuster movies, targeted documentaries, and places on the Web where people are not expecting to find science-related information. It even means reaching people interpersonally, as I layout in my latest column for Skeptical Inquirer Online.
Fine. Ive already offered to help these endeavors. Wheres your script? Wheres your director? Lets go.

In these contexts, it is often most effective, to remain true to the science, but sometimes not actually talk about it.
We're just gonna pretend you didnt say that.

Not all of the themes addressed here can be sorted out in the blogosphere. After all, every medium has limitations. Indeed, Chris and I are trying to work across mediums--including magazines, newspapers, blogs, radio, and public presentations--to raise attention to what we see as a partial answer to a very specific question that a lot of people are trying to figure out.

We even want to go the old fashioned route and talk about it over beers or over the phone.
This is the phrase that would have made me throw my drink at you if we were 'talking about it over beers.'

Aw gee, Chris and you are trying to work across mediums. If only other people would take your lead! If only there were science magazines! If only there were science sections in newspapers! If only there were science blogs! If only there were science podcasts! If only there were science public presentations! If only scientists talked with their friends about science over beers and over the phone!

Lets raise our glasses to Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney, True American Science Pioneers!

My question has officially been answered. Nisbet and Mooney are that naive.


Trevor said...

hey, nothing to do with the post above; apologies all around. I just came across your blog via PZ and wanted to share my appreciation of your site. Good stuff...well written.

Unknown said...

Well said, ERV! Time to move past these clowns. The fact that they keep getting precious column inches in high profile publications such as Science and WaPo only further illustrates what you call the Iron Curtain in the media. They appear to prefer to remain part of it, instead of helping us find a way to tear it down. I just hope they aren't setting us back here...

Foxy said...

Hey Abbie, have you seen the 'Day in the Life of Joe Republican' Essay? I was thinking today that you should take that and rewrite it in terms of what science does for people. If anyone could do a crackerjack job of it, it would be you.

And even if you don't get past the Iron Curtain, you and everyone like you who works to increase the level of discourse and put the information and discussion out there, you all have my appreciation and admiration.

Regardless of how nice your boobs are.

ERV said...

Trevor-- Nice to meet ya too!

Madhu-- I really loved and appreciated Mooneys 'RWoS.' But I dont know what to make of these events, other than your conclusions.

Confusion, betrayal... feels like a bad break up.

Foxy-- Wow! I havent seen that before! Im on it!

Anonymous said...

The worst thing I've seen so far is Nisbet's favorable citation of this dreck from (unfortunately) Randy Olson.

"Richard Dawkins is symptomatic of the lack of leadership in the world of science. If there was strong and effective leadership, there would be a strong voice reprimanding him for what he has been doing, and the backlash against him would be as strong and loud as it has been against intelligent design. They are both examples of scientists speaking forcefully, stridently and dogmatically about ideas that are no more than intuition.

The NY Times Book Review of Dawkins book said that on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is clear proof of God, and 7 is clear proof of no God, Dawkins openly admits he's only at 6. That means he has no science to offer, only his gut feelings -- his intuition. Which is the same deal as intelligent design. The world of science should do a little better housekeeping in making clear that Dawkins writes only as a citizen, not a scientist, when it comes to atheism. Or even better, everyone should watch the South Park episodes that really show the similarities in these two ends of the spectrum."

We need "leadership" in science? Great, so now science needs it's own version of the Pontiff and the College of Cardinals? To reprimand Dawkins, nonetheless? And he thinks that because Dawkins speaks in terms of probabilities, he's only relying on "intuition" and that it's exactly the same as Intelligent Design? And he basing his glib dismissal on the second hand source of the NYT times book review? What a load of unmitigated crap, and to think this is the same guy who brought us A Flock of Dodos. But at least it's quoted here, lest we forget that defenders of evolution can also be serious idiots.

Anonymous said...

"In these contexts, it is often most effective, to remain true to the science, but sometimes not actually talk about it."

Is that like remaining true to your relationship without talking about it?

This framing stuff is really far out, man.

Orac said...

I'm truly puzzled at all the rancor directed at Nisbet and Mooney. In reality, they say nothing new, and, to those of us in the "practical" sciences (like medicine), it's quite obvious that everybody frames their message according to their audience. Maybe it's just because I'm a doctor and I have to explain complicated medical science to patients who may have little or no scientific background, but to me this whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, and I'm just as puzzled at the vehemence of your (and PZ's) reaction as PZ apparently is about Nisbet's message.

I'll agree that the swipe at Richard Dawkins was probably ill-advised, but in reality Richard Dawkins is framing his message as being that science is in conflict with religion. He's perfectly free to frame his message that way, but it's also perfectly obvious that such a framing will alienate the religious.DHG3781

ERV said...

Orac-- One of my initial problems with the Frame is that it is nothing new. Why are they trying to pass their ideas off as novelty? Lecturing the entire scientific community as if we were too stupid to figure this out on our own?

I was also irritated at the fact N/M chose to swing at a meatball instead of addressing a real issue with science communication-- getting science into anti-science environments (fundamentalist churches, red state schools, main-stream news programs, etc). I asked Chris for help on this problem, and his response was "Im sorry youre having trouble." That is not the response of someone who cares about science communication.

But the Science article just confused me. Its what came afterwards infuriated me. That WP article was bad form on so many levels. Dissing someone in a pop-culture media, where the target may not have the opportunity to respond (or where original readers might not see the rebuttal) is shockingly immature. "People would rather have a beer with George W" is an unexpectedly trite phrase coming from a professional writer. But their decision to attack Dawkins and PZ with idiotic Creationist Claims is whats nearly unforgivable for me. How can I not be furious that N/M, two people I used to trust in 'the culture war', sided with Creationists to attack two of the most influential men in my scientific education/career?

And let me reiterate my main problem with the Dawkins cheap-shot-- The places I have approached to offer to answer questions about evolution have no idea, no inkling, that Im an atheist. I look like a Nice Jewish Girl(TM). Hell, the lesbians in my apartment complex were afraid of me the first 3 months I was here because they thought I was 'conservative.' This has nothing to do with 'appeaser atheist' scientists or 'fundamentalist atheist' scientists-- The problem with science communication isnt on the side of the scientists!! Its on the side of the gatekeepers that cant let the scientists or their ideas in. Until N/M acknowledge that, until they stop taking moves from the anti-science play book, they are part of the problem! You know, thats part of my anger too. Its a betrayal. You expect asinine comments like that to come from Dembski, but not Mooney.

Considering Mooneys previous opinion on the topic of science communication (the topic of my very first post), I dont believe the Frame is simply a badly worded, badly received, but well intentioned article. It looks like a botched attempt to gain Alpha status. Common, what do you have to do if you want to challenge the findings of an 'Alpha' researcher?

You have to make damn sure you know what youre doing-- with pristine data to support your assertions, ready-made answers to potential rebuttals from the alphas, and very carefully chosen wordings to ally yourself and your 'challenging' position with not only the other betas and omegas, but also the alphas youre overthrowing (theyre at the top for a reason- dont isolate yourself from them).

Do this properly, and youve steered science in a great direction, you get the respect of your peers and your superiors, and everyone goes home happy.

Do this improperly, and youll be seen as a fallen Icarus at best-- an arrogant, worthless scientist who wont work again at worst.

Chris basically screwed everything up. Im hoping he can still salvage the 'Icarus' position. But for the love of god, someone get him to stop digging... He just tried to excuse this with "We didnt have enough room in the article to give details." Im serious, can someone close to him stop this?