Once more unto the frame

You’re bored with it? I’m bored with it. All bored now. But since the discussion is still going on everywhere, and I’m frothing rabid (as everyone knows) and always ready to snarl and bite even when (especially when?) I’m beset with ennui, I’ll call your attention to Greg Laden again. He’s pointing out that Nesbit/Mooney have poorly framed — I swear, I never want to use that word ever again — their argument for the evolution-creation conflict, which might explain why they are being so poorly received by some of us who are focused on that ugly mess. That, and the fact that parts of their report read like a pious Discovery Institute press release, which sets our jangled immune systems on fire like a bee sting triggering anaphylactic shock, and no one’s slinging any epinephrine our way.

It looks like they talking about approaches more like we find in Kennith Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God: A scientist’s search for common ground between god and evolution.” This needs to be clarified, and if this is in fact what they are talking about, then there is something very important that they don’t get, and they need to be flogged, then ignored. If, on the other hand, they are just kind of talking vaguely about this issue and are not explicitly arguing for a god/science chimeric view, then they should be very eager to be educated on this and then to move on with framing but using a very different approach.

We can’t use an approach that brings god into the evolution picture. This is not because of atheism (though that position would make this same argument). It is because it is a) bad science; b) a wedge for bringing various forms of creationism into the classroom and c) illegal.

OK, Greg has put up some very specific issues and questions that fans of the f-word should deal with it. Please do.

Now, since I’ve bored myself again, but since I did mention “rabid” and “flogging”, I’ll recommend that everyone read this article. It’s much more entertaining, even if the thought of 103 literally rabid Christian fanatics gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s alright if you’d rather talk about that than the f-word, too.

Crud. Laden has added a link to an interview with Nisbet. How would you f-word the idea that the earth goes around the sun for Copernicus? He gives an answer I guess I should have expected.


  1. Will E. says

    I used to think “framing” was interesting, but I hate it now like I hate marketing jargon (which I guess that’s what framing is) or business jargon: a whole lot of talking about talking about something, without ever actually talking about that something.

  2. Rey Fox says

    Ritual self-flagellation and “voluntary crucifixions”. Heh, tell Dobson and Robertson and their followers that they’re a bunch of pansies.

  3. says

    Wasn’t the whole point of the Jebus story so that we wouldn’t have to go through the whole ‘pain and suffering for our sins’ thing?

  4. occam's comic says

    I would say the best way to reframe the Science vs Religion fight is to start calling the fight Science vs Idolatry. Take the fight away from science and fighting them on religious grounds. Always call biblical literalists idolaters, say you are not worshiping God you are worshiping a book. You can always point out that biblical literalism violates the fist of Moses’ Ten Commandments, and completely violates Christ’s first commandment. Christ’s fist commandment says to love God with your whole heart, whole mind and whole soul. How can you love God with your whole mind if you shut out the rational part of your mind? Which is what you would do if you believed that the English translation of the Hebrew adaptation of the Babylonian creation myth is a scientific fact.

  5. Tulse says

    So, just to make this explicit, the people telling us to be better communicators can’t communicate their message clearly? Even Alanis would see the irony in that.

  6. says

    I hope we will soon see our way to leverage the symbiosis possible at the nexus of frames and paradigms. By interfacing our paradigmatic framework with creative interactivity, we’ll soon be able to actualize our interpretive goals and relate our message to the public.

    That’s how framing works, what’s the problem?

    Glen D

  7. says

    “Framing” is newspeak for “spinning” which itself is a vaporized, doubleplusungood newspeak word meaning “bullshitting.”

  8. says

    I have one brief note to add to my comments from the previous framing post:

    In addition to telling stories, we also need soundbites–short pithy phrases with no jargon that people can remember and tell to their friends. Word of mouth is even more powerful than media attention.

    Now, regarding framing, I think it ties into this idea, plus the idea of relating to people personally and emotionally in addition to presenting facts (or sometimes, in lieu of presenting facts depending on the audience, time allowed, and so forth).

    Frames make the difference between people thinking:

    Taxes are a burden and I don’t want to pay them.
    Taxes are an investement in the future and I want to make an investment for myself and for my children.

    Reducing CO2 emissions is an economic burden that we can’t afford.
    Reducing oil dependency will create new economic opportunities that will enrich our country and make our children’s lives better.

    Comprehensive sex education encourages promiscuity.
    Comprehensive sex education reduces unwanted pregnancy and therefore is a good way to prevent abortions.

    These are just thing I made up off the top of my head, so I’m not saying they are the best examples, or even particularly good ones. They won’t change the mind of the 30 percent of idiots who still support George Bush or those who do not believe in reason at any level (that is, the ones who think a zygote has an eternal soul). Nothing will. But I think that this type of communication can be used to sway the “swing voters.”

    And I agree with Mooney that framing will be more and more important as science is politicized more and more. One long term goal should be to stop that from happening. It’s just bad for everyone.

  9. CalGeorge says

    “…just kind of talking vaguely…”

    That’s the feeling I got from their last article. A touchy-feely piece (maybe whipped off at the last moment to meet a deadline). Dull as dishwater, with a little button-pushing provocation thrown in to attract attention.

    Can we please frame George Lakoff out of the public eye?

    His framing ideas have been out there FOREVER. They don’t change anything. I remember reading about them in the ’80s.

    It’s just common sense wrapped up in fancy academic dress.

    If people want to attack religious nutiness, they are going to do it, no matter what Mooney Nisbet have to say. They aren’t going to develop long-term framing strategies and okay it with everyone first before proceeding.

    What it comes down to: after a very short time being out there in the public eye, atheists are being told to shut up and make nice. Screw that.

  10. Francis says

    can religion and science get along? well, yes, but only if the believers agree to stop playing in science’s sandbox.

    since even the Pope won’t stop talking about the role of (a version of) god in the evolution of man, it’s pretty clear that they won’t.

    alternative a: concede. try, like Collins, to integrate faith and science.

    alternative b: PUSH BACK! the current success of the evangelical movement comes from a multi-decade strategy of a small group of religious leaders to bring a strongly anti-science version of christian faith into the political and public sphere.

    PZ: you know what would be great? Counterprogram against these lunatics.

    1 Every time that DI hits the road, have the biology and astronomy departments of the local university put on a program on the age of the universe and the evidence for evolution.

    2. Develop Science Sunday programs. Have biologists and astronomers send letters to local churches requesting the opportunity to speak, and copy the local newspaper. If the newspaper won’t publish the letter, call the editor then call the publisher. Ads in local newspapers aren’t that expensive, so challenge the congregations to come listen to you.

    3. Outreach, outreach, outreach. Why aren’t you personally running for the local school board? Project Steve is very nice, but how many Steves committed to public speaking?

    4. Public money. When was the last time you read the budget of the city in which you live? How many education programs do they support? Are the programs any good?

    5. Lawyers, media consultants and other aggravations. The other side gets great mileage out of using these kinds of people effectively. Scientists need to do so also.

  11. Michael says

    I agree with Laden’s points and would like to add a few more. (This comment contains text originally posted at Effects Measure.)

    1) In my view, Dawkins book and recent work is not only (or at all, perhaps) directed at the “James Inhofe’s” (to borrow Nisbet and Mooneys example) of the world, but rather to the vast legions of rational, thinking people who are inhibited or hesitant to give full voice to their atheistic beliefs in a society that actively represses such views. Count me in as one of a new legion of “Dawkinsonians” who have emerged, after reading his recent “God Delusion”, energized and empowered by his arguments, logic, passion and rationality.

    That we should go out and begin to openly discuss our views among our fellow citizens, as I have, is the real seed of change that Dawkins has planted (and his NYT bestseller statistic should be viewed not as a metric for the prevalence of his views, but rather as the first hopeful steps forward for a neo-atheist movement).

    This is apropos of the “long-term strategy” that Laden points out is seemingly absent from Nisbet/Mooney’s consideration.

    2) Any discusion of framing the issues using the “mainstream media” news outlets* that does not consider the deep bias and corporatism that governs the tone and content of the debate across these channels is severely limited in its scope. No amount of clever framing in the world can stop the wealthy, intellectually lazy and arrogant TV talking heads from mocking a view or cutting off a microphone…i.e., putting their own “frame” around whatever is presented, regardless of the manner in which it is presented.

    3) I was quite disappointed and sorry that Nisbet and Mooney, two writers whose work (on other topics!) I enjoy, seem to be unclear about Dawkin’s (very high, in my view) value to the advancement of science along multiple fronts (Laden does a nice job of pointing this out). They could have easily made the same points without choosing to malign Prof. Dawkins so prominently (their WaPo article begins with an attack on his approach) and undeservedly. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for their invocation of PZ’s public proclamations of his views, and as a Developmental Biologist myself, these cut closer to home.

    To me, this is all very off-putting, and unfortunately reveals that they do not feel it is necessary to heed their own advice, especially if their intent is to appeal to scientists.

    * Here’s how Nisbet framed the question in comments over at Pharyngula: “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?”

  12. Matt Penfold says

    Greg talk abouts certain actions being illegal, referrering to introducing relgion into science classes. Well the courts in the US had said it is not legal but the framing issue surely extends far beyong the shores of the US. I know PZ has touched on this issue before when criticising Ed Brayton for assuming the relgion versus science battle is one confined to the US.

    I live in the UK and here too we have been having a battle over ID and creationism though nothing to the extent you have in US. In the UK though the issue is not about the legality of teaching ID/creationism, it is about the science. Thankfully the prevailing view at present is that ID/Creationism is bunch of bullshit and belongs nowhere near a classroom. Here this is no major clash between the relgious hierarchy and the scientists becuase both think ID/Creationism is crap and are on record as saying so. Those who criticise Dawkin’s attitude seem to forget, or more likely never even knew, that Dawkins has helped organise letters to newspapers signed not only by scientists by also by leading members of the Church of England and other relgious groups in the UK.

    If Dawkins is such a liability in this debate why do we see C of E Bishops co-signing letters to The Times condeming the teaching of creationism ? C of E Bishops are not stupid people and they will be well aware of Dawkin’s view on relgion, so the claim Dawkins is the problem is bullshit, total and utter bullshit made by people who think the world begins and ends at the shores of the US. Sure Dawkins is strident, but then the C of E Bishops who are his friends seem to be able to live with that (without of course agreeing with him about relgion). Now it is possible that the relgious leaders who are willing to support to Dawkins in condeming creationism being taught in the UK are not representative of relgious leaders in the US. I rather suspect that view is correct, and also suspect that the seperation of church and state have something to do with it. (I have long argued that it is not legal seperation of church and state that is the issue and those in the US who concentrate on the legal aspects of this battle are totally missing the point). However that does not actualy make any difference. If relgious leaders are willing to support efforts by radical atheists (see Douglas Adams for what I mean by radical here) to stop the teaching of creationism then fine. I for one would refuse their help, nor would I become less militant in my views on relgion. If religious leaders cannot support such people, then fuck them. We will go it alone.

    Sorry to have gone on so long, but this is an issue I feel strongly about.

  13. Alric says

    Nisbet said on the interview: “Start recasting the issue in ways that are still true to the science without talking about the science”. WTF?

  14. Matt Penfold says

    Alric said:

    “Nisbet said on the interview: “Start recasting the issue in ways that are still true to the science without talking about the science”. WTF?”

    If that is correct then I must question Nibet’s sanity.

    I have no issue with people putting their case in the best way they can, but there is a difference between that and setting out to mislead. For example anyone who does not make themselves look as good a possible on their C.V is being foolish, but there is a difference between empahising those aspects of your past that will help you get that job and just plain lying.

  15. says

    From the interview, Nisbet apparently wants to cuddle up the wall and tease it with visions of unrestrained greed and godditude.

    Why don’t we, you know, instead of that, um, break through the frakking wall?

  16. says

    I don’t understand this poo-poo-ing of framing. It’s how you win arguments. For example, a friend of mine once pointed out that anti-death penalty people have successfully framed the issue that mistakes can be made and not unmade if you put someone to death. We can toss aside the moral arguments about state-sponsored murder if we can frame the debate about the inability of the system to correct mistakes. People who disagree with the moral argument have a much harder time disagreeing with this new and improved framing of the argument.

    You sound like academics. Framing is ridiculously important if you actually want to win.

  17. sparc says

    anti-death penalty people have successfully framed the issue that mistakes can be made and not unmade if you put someone to death.

    In my country we call this common sense. If you need framing in such cases nothing will help.

  18. eewolf says

    Nisbet: “Start recasting the issue in ways that are still true to the science without talking about the science”

    Michael: “Framing is ridiculously important if you actually want to win.”

    The idea is to educate, not to win. If you lose the “science” in the framing then your win is empty and will be short-lived.

    If Nisbet wants to use a frame that waters the science down, that is fine. But he should stop telling others they’re doing it wrong.

  19. Steve LaBonne says

    In my country we call this common sense. If you need framing in such cases nothing will help.

    Welcome to the beyond-help USA. ;)

  20. says

    No, the idea is to both educate and win.

    And what’s with the quote mining in comments 15 and 16? Is it okay to do that when it serves your own purposes?

  21. says

    When I’m feeling nice, I think of the Nisbet/Mooney treatment of evolution/creationism as a well intended effort to help in an area that they really don’t have the necessary training in. When I’m feeling a little more grumpy, I get cynical and think that their tendency to answer a question with a question and to limit the range of their own discussion on the hopes that they will get hired as consultants, so why give away the store now for free? When I’m feeling really annoyed (like, Trin, when you start telling me I’m being mean … that makes me … want…to…be…mean….) I start seeing the seams around the edge of the masks they are wearing …. who will it be? Michael Ignor(ant)? Bill Dumbski? I mean really, … go read the WaPo piece and the interview … and tell me that they do not do damage to the evolution side of this struggle. Go. Now. Read….

    (But I admit my level of overall aggravation is significantly heightened by current events. Is it indeed the case that every f*kn news anchor has been paid off by the NRA to point out that if you can’t find a gun you can always blow people up, so why do we want to make buying a semi-automatic 9mm pistol any harder than buying a quart of milk? And do I really need rumors of bomb threats in my classroom building two hours before class? Jeessh…)

  22. eewolf says

    Win what? If you educate, everybody wins. And if these quotes were out of context, then what is the context that will make them, uh, sensible?

  23. says

    It’s been a hard slog through the wishy-washy platidutes, but I think I get it finally. N&M don’t think that the “conflict” frame is a good one for evolution because if Americans believe they have to choose between science and religion they’ll pick religion. So instead of adding fuel to that fire Dawkins and that ilk should STFU. Several problems with this thinking.

    1) There *is* a conflict between evolution and literal Biblical creation. That’s what the whole ID nonsense is all about.

    2) It’s not our frame. It’s the creationists going up and down the country in churches and in debates and in court that “Darwinism” is an atheist religion. Disagreeing with the frame still reinforces the frame.

    3) As Laden notes in the article linked above, Dawkins and Myers are some of the very best science popularizers. How is pulling them out of the fight a strategic move?

    I also don’t know what any of this has to do with global warming. Dawkins has never had anything to do with that, except perhaps just being a scientist. If it’s guilt by association then they should focus more on the influence of Dr. Frankenstein than Dr. Dawkins.

  24. Tulse says

    I don’t understand this poo-poo-ing of framing. It’s how you win arguments.

    I don’t have any problem with the general message that scientists need to be aware of how to communicate their message effectively, how to point out the aspects and implications of their research that are most relevant to the public, and how to bring aspects of science into the public debate. I think these things are all important, and that message is a worthy one to get to scientists.

    What I do have a problem with is N&M suggesting a) that the science should be dumbed down, or even hidden from the public, thus treating voters as if they are idiots b) that the whole atheism issue is at all relevant to their other concerns, c) that Dawkins in specific is not an effective communicator of science (how many copies of Blind Watchmaker were sold?), and d) that all scientists should share their goal of changing short-term public policy, rather than work for long-term change.

    I also have a big problem with a lack of explanation as to how we are supposed to do framing — what are the specifics of their proposal? This is alll the more troubling given that, in communicating this notion to scientists themselves, they seem to have been profoundly ineffective at producing the outcome they desired — that is good evidence to me that they don’t actually know how to carry out such framing on a practical level.

  25. says

    Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD: ARe you saying those quotes need context?

    That’s the sort of question I’d expect to see on Dembski’s blog, not here.

  26. windy says

    In what alternate universe did Copernicus ‘run up against a wall’?

    Looks more like there was no wall, but a backlash much later when the evidence really started rolling in. Hmm, that sounds sort of familiar.

  27. says

    Michael says:

    Any discusion of framing the issues using the “mainstream media” news outlets* that does not consider the deep bias and corporatism that governs the tone and content of the debate across these channels is severely limited in its scope. No amount of clever framing in the world can stop the wealthy, intellectually lazy and arrogant TV talking heads from mocking a view or cutting off a microphone…i.e., putting their own “frame” around whatever is presented, regardless of the manner in which it is presented.

    Nobody’s addressed this. I brought up a similar point on Orac’s most recent framing post, namely that we’re dealing with a hostile audience, and it’s not clear how framing helps if people are going to tune you out because they’ve been told by their favourite Trusted Authority Figure that you’re a liar who wants to trick them into giving up God, trading your SUV for a hybrid, or whatever else.

    It also seems to me that the framing discussion assumes copying-fidelity, namely that any “frame” that scientists and science supports use will be repeated faithfully, without cropping or distortion… or complete disregard. What world are these “framing” people living in where that’s possible?

    In a world where the mainstream media itself has a political agenda, usually in opposition to science, why are we concerning ourselves with trying to work through the mainstream media? It seems to me that we have a good movement going with blogs and popular books and, perhaps best of all, word of mouth? Obviously, we’d like to own the mass media and get them to retransmit our message, but the framers haven’t provided any evidence that we can do so with their “short term” proposals. The only way I see to do it is a long term approach that makes resistance to science an untenable position.

  28. Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says

    That’s the sort of answer I’d expect from a concern troll.

  29. Michael says


    This goes back to something Greg Laden wrote in one of his excellent posts on the subject…that the issue must be addressed at the level of public perception; i.e., beginning in the schools. The creationists and anti-scientists recognize this and have been waging this battle for years now, turning our children’s schools into idealogical holy battle fields in their crusades (hey, nice “frame”, that!). Maybe the problem with the US media can be blamed on this also…after all, are they also not the product of our inferior system of primary science education (Matt’s comment above about the situation in England is enlightening on this score)? While it is far too easy to blame greed and corporatism as their primary motivating forces, I am also…let’s be generous….very very unimpressed by the uniform lack of logic, basic reasoning, and critical thinking skills in those that populate the ranks of the “media elite”.

    So, once again, while the short-term battle cannot be fairly fought on a very less than level playing field, we cannot give up thinking about the long-term issue. Hence my absolute delight that Dawkins (and Sam Harris, and PZ) have done such a great job popularizing the rationalist’s side of the debate and energizing them (me included) to go out and begin to battle in the trenches.

    That the problem is simply one of “framing” to me sounds suspiciously like blaming, for example, John Kerry for the Swift Boat Liars attacks, by claiming that his inability to deal with them successfully reflected a character or leadership flaw on his part because he failed to properly convey “his” message….the notion of what is “true” and what isn’t doesn’t seem to be as relevant to those making such accusations.

  30. says

    Nisbet and Mooney suggest that the anti-scientists, such as the IDiots, are good at framing. So how do they frame ID? As science.

    How are we to counter their BS?

    You start recasting the issue in ways that are still true to the science but, in fact, actually you’re not talking about the science.

    Now to be fair, he’s not just talking ID/evolution there, yet he includes the evolution “controversy” in with the rest. So as the IDiots claim to be doing science, we’re to show them up by recasting evolution in a way so that we’re not talking about the science.

    Now Nisbet, science is the heart and soul of the fight to stop creationism. We can’t bring up practical matters for the most part, because evolution doesn’t directly affect most people (yes, medical research, etc., but the science seems remote to most people, and not “directly” affecting them (we could discuss what “directly” means, but I think it’s fair enough to say that evolution doesn’t “directly” affect most people)). The fact is that we’ll win or lose based upon people’s regard for science and truth and how closely we “frame” any arguments to fit those concepts.

    We win in courts and in public opinion when we stay true to science. Judge Jones was not pleased at the “framing” done by the IDiots, like where they claimed to be doing science and were doing nothing of the kind. The last thing we want the courts, in particular, to see us doing is some kind of non-scientific appeals to sentiment, morality, and fear-mongering, which we get from the IDiots.

    We may be winning long-term, as well:


    Now I know that some of the younger ones who accept evolution now may succumb later, however I doubt that the cohorts that accept evolution at 60%+ are going to decline to the levels of today’s over-60s belief in creationism. I think that in the long-term struggle it is especially important to stick to science and the sense of honesty in science, and not to clutter up the core matter with a bunch of secondary issues.

    One trouble with Nisbet and Mooney is that they’re throwing together a whole lot of issues, ones where winning in the short term are important and self-interests (vs. more collective interests, like religion) color the “opinions” of people, with longer-term issues where the appeal is properly more to general principles and honesty.

    Greenhouse warming perhaps is an issue where a good deal of framing of the sort Nisbet and Mooney propose would be of value, for the science itself (nor religion, for the most part) is not what prevents people from accepting it. Evolution is an issue where science itself, along with regard for the rules of evidence, is all that really matters, while the complaint of the opponents of evolution is exactly against the standards and integrity of science. The two issues are hardly to be treated in the same way when persuading the public, yet Mooney and Nisbet are oblivious to the very aspects of these matters to which any useful framing would have to be highly sensitive.

    For instance, at least now it looks like the warming of the globe may well be discussed in economic and aesthetic terms. We might show dying polar bears, while pointing out that any initial economic costs will be low, and in many cases will be offset by reduced coping costs (new water projects delayed, less disruptive movement inland, that sort of thing).

    By contrast, the economic “framing” they want around evolutionary issues is decidedly lukewarm, like, oh, what about the costs of lawsuits, negative publicity, disruptions in the curricula. The creationists are the least likely to be affected by those sorts of arguments, which in any case are regularly made where appropriate (like in Kansas, recently). Creationists/IDists are fighting “for God,” and wouldn’t really care about the costs pre-Dover. Post-Dover we have a better case, since racking up costs while losing isn’t very attractive even to those “fighting for God”, but that’s been factored into pretty much all of the local fights already (why do you think these things are proposed and generally die, post-Dover?).

    Anyhow, the truth of the matter is that everything brought up by Mooney and Nisbet with respect to the “evolution controversy” is and has been discussed a good deal on the blogs and in the specific arenas of conflict. PT and other blogs are places where various ways of framing the debate, while generally remaining true to the promotion of science itself, are tried out, and sometimes taken up outside of the blogosphere.

    If Nisbet and Mooney hadn’t thrown evolution into the same mix as the issues which really are more of a short-term struggle and which are more heavily affected by present-day self-interests, they’d have had a much better case for their “framing”. But we can hardly frame a struggle for the principles of science (which is the evolution vs. ID conflict in a nutshell) as something other than a struggle over the principles of science itself.

    It’s time that Nisbet and Mooney realize the truth of that last sentence, and to quit supposing that theists promoting religion through ID oughtn’t to be answered in kind by atheists who find religion distasteful for that very reason.

    Glen D

  31. says

    I think we’re seeing eye-to-eye on this, Michael, particularly with the “framing=blaming” comparison.

    Now, we all know that framing doesn’t mean blaming the communicator. But that’s certainly how it was presented to us, the blagonetronic public. Mooney and Nisbet’s WaPo article, at least, definitely took the entrenched “Scientists are bad communicators!” narrative and ran with it, and I have to ask myself why they would do such a ridiculous thing. It runs counter to their “don’t insult the audience” complaint about Dawkins, and it’s not necessarily true.

    (I also think they picked a bad example. Dawkins communicates his atheism well, regardless of whether anybody is “convinced” by it. They should have picked on The Selfish Gene for constantly using conscious-thought metaphors that warranted repeated disclaimers from Dawkins himself that “No, genes aren’t really like this, it just helps to visualise the events this way so we can connect natural selection to game theory”. Now that’s genuinely poor framing (as much as I’m enjoying the book), and they would still be able to pick on Dawkins to boot!)

    That seems like a nonsequitur to me now, but I’m sure I had a reason for bringing it all up.

    Anyway, your point about the education and media problems being connecting is great. Greg Laden mentioned that a fruitful endeavour may be to run training programs for science journalists at mainstream outlets. I think that’s a fantastic idea! If we can get some knowledgeable people in the media, we’ll have allies, or at least sympathetic ears, within the system who can ensure that our message — “frames” and all — will get through intact.

    Given that we’re already winning on the legal front, as far as protecting science standards from the encroachment of anti-science, we could also do good by shoring up education and working to donate good evolution textbooks to schools and training biology teachers to teach evolution properly.

    No matter your position on framing, I think we can all agree that increasing our efforts to educate both teachers and journalists can do good. And, as I said about the journalists, it can help ensure that our message comes through undistorted, with “frames” intact.

  32. says

    While framing can certainly serve it’s purposes, it’s become a a codeword for “deception.” We should call it what it is.

  33. Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says

    You haven’t explained how that was quote mining.

    You haven’t shown that the context was needed.

  34. Goerge says

    In German, “frame” is a four letter word: “Bild”.

    Most of this stuff might as well be in German (or better yet, Greek) as far as I am concerned.

    Now I remember why I never went near the building that housed the Communications Department when I was in college.

  35. says

    As far as I can tell, Nisbet’s point is that in order to educate, you must make your point in a way that makes your audience listen. “Winning” (#18 & #20) is winning a receptive audience, and then you can educate. It doesn’t have to lose the science, only change the focus of the debate for a while, maybe.

  36. Lee says

    “There is no God.”

    That is a badly framed message. The logical content is just fine, but the context it evokes does not support the logical content.

    When one says “There is no God,” one is at the same time invoking the concept of God. If the listener already has a belief in a God, then using the word invokes that belief, already fully formed and held by the listener, and invokes all its emotional and **personal** explanatory power. The message that is heard becomes an attack on core values – all of the personal,moral, ethical framework which the listener has invested in their belief in god. One isn’t just disputing that God exists, one is symbolically disputing that the listeners moral worth exists.

    Because the listener has the concept of God and the concept of morality mingled, invoking God in the act of disputing God means that one is disputing all that moral framework as well, and that is NOT what one is attempting to say. Using a Frame that includes the concept of God in an attack on the concept of God nearly guarantees that the listener isn’t going to (for an overwhelming majority of people, cant) hear that the message is one of ‘here is what I think is true, and why,” but rather is heard as “your core values suck, and you suck.”

    But the thing is, everyone uses that frame, those who do AND THOSE WHO DON’T believe in a God all use that frame. The reason is that it is an overwhelmingly dominant frame, we all know it and grew up with it, and building new frames for our communication is hard.

    One can state essentially the same thing, in a different frame, and actually have a chance of getting communication going. A frame that includes “science is marvelously successful at explaining the world. Science doesn’t work if it invokes the supernatural” says the same thing as “there is no god,’ in nearly every logical sense that matters – and it doesn’t invoke the frame of “God.”

    This is what framing is. Framing involves not using the symbology of the thing you are arguing against, in arguing against it. Framing involves using the symbology of the thing you are arguing for, when arguing for it. It means aligning the logical content of what you are trying to say, with the evoked emotional framework that the listener is going to hear, so that the listener can actually hear what yo are saying and not just a conflicting set of symbols wrapped around it.

    When people say framing is just paying attention to who your audience is, this is what they mean – it is making sure that the symbols your language invokes are congruent with the content of your message, so that your message can be heard instead of buried under the invoked symbols.

  37. says

    The Copernicus thing is interesting. Copernicus was dead by the time his De Rev. was published, conveniently avoiding the firestorm he knew it would provoke. His editor/publisher (Osiander) added a lengthy preface to “frame” the work in a way which would be more acceptable – he presented it as an alternative way of doing the celestial mathematics, which just happened to be easier than Ptolomaic epicycles. At the time, mathematical models were held in no regard as representations of reality, so there was relatively little controversy. It wasn’t until the Galileo business re-framed the debate into a religion thing that the Church really objected.

  38. george says

    Who has considered the possibility that this may be as much about Mooney and Nisbet as it is about anything else?

    I mean, seriously, they come in shouting at the top of their lungs that “have the answer to the scientists’ ‘communication problems’ ” and when pressed for details, they speak in broad generalities and say “stay tuned” (Nisbet has actually been using those very words at the end of his some of his comments)

    Are they making this up as they go along?

    There are lots of legitimate sources of information on communicating science to the general public.

    What do Nisbet and Mooney know about communicating about science, specifically that makes them uniquely qualified to lecture scientists on this issue?

    That is not meant as a jab, it is meant as a legitimate question.

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    The anti-science crowd seems to be pro-framing:

    But fiery rhetoric alone is hardly enough to “reclaim” America, it seems, for some nuts-and-bolts sessions on messaging and organizing were offered, as well. [Brad] Bright, in particular, offered some solid how-to advice on what he called “reframing” — using your opponent’s response to your provocation as a platform for your own agenda. Jesus, he told us, never got off-message; neither did Peter or Paul (though he neglected to mention that Peter and Paul had rather different messages, hence, a major falling-out).

    Adele M. Stan, “Religious Right, Still Wrong”, Church & State, April 2007

  40. Anton Mates says

    As far as I can tell, Nisbet’s point is that in order to educate, you must make your point in a way that makes your audience listen. “Winning” (#18 & #20) is winning a receptive audience, and then you can educate.

    Yeah, but Dawkins is almost unsurpassedly good at that–he’s gotten a million-odd people to spend their own money on his books about evolution. That’s about as receptive as you can ever hope the public would be. Nisbet and Mooney ought to be trying to explain his success in this area, rather than labeling him a “particularly stark example of scientists’ failure.”

  41. Willow says

    Good point george.

    “What do Nisbet and Mooney know about communicating about science, specifically that makes them uniquely qualified to lecture scientists on this issue?”

    I’ve wondered the same thing. They’ve done a poor job framing their own issue, and certainly don’t seem like the best folks to be giving a lecture on the topic.

  42. windy says

    Steve Case writes:

    I do not disagree with the right to take on religion, however, looking across history it is [not a] good way to promote or communicate science. When rationalism is put toe to toe with emotion (religion) then emotion wins.

    If true, how did we ever get rationalism?

  43. says

    Maybe what we need is more passionate atheists who are able to combine reason with ferocity. There is this really stupid perception that is endemic to the culture that scientists and non-religious people are emotional cripples who have no depth of feeling…rather than perpetuating that, maybe we need to fight it.