I have been chastised for hating framing and shown an example of “framing” done right. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like framing at all, at least not the kind Nisbet has been pushing, and what I actually hate is the way framing is being used as a stalking horse for irrelevant atheist-bashing.
The example is exemplary. Carl Safina took a group of evangelicals to Alaska to show them first-hand the ecology of the area and the effects of climate change. This is great stuff, and a beautiful instance of public outreach and education, and I am all in favor of it. Do more! However, it’s not framing. It doesn’t resuscitate Nisbet/Mooney’s argument — it says more about the importance of engagement between scientists and the community. The power of the lesson isn’t that Safina spins it to suit a political agenda, or that he panders to the biases of his guests (although he does do that), it’s that he shows them directly what they will lose if people don’t act to preserve the environment. The learning comes from the experience and the reality, not the “frame” he throws around it.
“Framing” seems to be becoming a buzzword for mollycoddling religion, however. Powell and Safina both indulge in some of that.
So you stone-throwers determined to “defeat” religion and expunge “superstition” from our culture. Go ahead and shout about why nobody cares about science in the US if you want, but if you really want to change things (instead of just hearing yourselves rant), then go learn from Carl Safina about changing the world.
There’s nothing in what Safina did that couldn’t be done by a godless atheist, a buddhist, or a moslem. Except, that is, the indulgement of religion. Infidels can also appreciate nature and science, you know, and can show people what reality looks like. We can even talk to Christians! Although we’d probably decline to suck up to their superstitions. But then, what is this about? Doing something for the environment or fostering delusions?
Safina says something that is entirely true, but that some of us regard as a serious problem.
As scientists, we have scientific authority. But for moral authority, people look to religious leaders.
Yes, people look to religious leaders for moral authority — but they don’t have it. Moral authority is not something that comes from a mastery of old dogma. It’s a human attribute that has to be earned by one’s actions, and it shouldn’t matter what your religious beliefs are — yet here we go, pretending that graduating from Podunk Bible College makes one a better human being than having a degree from Urban Secular Tech. It doesn’t, but we have scientists using the hook of recruiting religious leaders to perpetuate it.
The fact that people look to religious leaders for moral guidance is an additional problem that some of us are fighting. Now maybe the members of Safina’s evangelical group were all fine examples of humanity who deserve their moral authority, but they shouldn’t get it because they believe in a magic man in the sky — it should be because, for instance, they are open to evidence and ideas and are willing to investigate to learn where the truth lies.
Those are values that we don’t need the baggage of religious nonsense to appreciate. Some of us are trying to spread the word that you can still be a good and commendable person without the superfluous mythology — and some would rather indulge the false notion that faith is a necessary virtue. We do want to change the world: by educating people about its beauty, which Powell and Safina do, but also by expunging the unwarranted respect for ugly lies, which Powell and Safina are not doing (and that is fine — we will all have different strategies.)