OTA reminder » « Taking exception to Jake Both barrels Larry Moran gives his take on the Nisbet AAAS panel. I suspect Matt is getting a little more controversy than he anticipated. That’s good, right? It’ll stir up more interest in the discussion! Share this:PrintEmailShare on TumblrTweet OTA reminder » « Taking exception to Jake
We already have one idiot over there leaving a comment equating atheism to religion. Yawn.
Larry said – “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?”
Larry, You seem to forget, atheism is a religion. It’s god is nature. Darwin and Dawkins are two of its prophets. You are one of its priests. Two of its revered scriptures are the ‘Origin of Species’ and the ‘Humanists Manifesto.’
Since you are a person of ‘reason,’ what is the reason that your religion, no matter who its preacher, should hold a superior and exclusive position in the filed of science? ‘Is that fair?’
As a regular blog reader and forum poster let me say…
Anybody who believes in God, or even some minor eccentricities which I might construed as roughly as stupid belief in God… are idiots, morons, fools, nappy-head hoes, mentally incompetent, morally bankrupt, and anti-science. We should take them out and shoot them, or at the very least deny them medicine when they are sick.
PZ Myers says
As the guy who writes the blog, let me say…
You are completely and utterly wrong. I’d oppose your proposal before I’d oppose religion.
Tatarize, your comment “take them out and shoot them” is very unhelpful. I don’t for a second imagine you are being serious, but this is the sort of comment that could be quoted by faith-heads to demonstrate the “evil atheist threat”.
Nisbet’s latest comments on the subject are worth a read. It’s interesting to see how narrow he considers science communication; he lists possible outcomes of attempts to communicate science, but in his own words:
Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were quite good at getting people interested in science. Yet I think their styles and Nisbet’s had some crucial differences.
Quite frankly, Nisbet is a wanker. He can’t tell the difference between an informed, polite “That’s silly” and a jihad.
From Larry Moran’s open letter:
So, on that basis, the panel should have a majority of atheists then, but perhaps still a majority of theist-appeasing atheists. But, trickily, if the usual objection to faux balance were to apply, then only the correct side of the issue should be (re)presented – with possibly a brief explanation of why anything else is wrong.
Now of course that correct side could be claimed to be the “new” atheists (by which I’m taking the meaning to be non-theist-appeasing ones). However, the other atheists are currently trying to pretend that they are the correct ones and thus this appeal to “balance” is hopelessly flawed whichever way you look at it.
An appeal to evidence would be better and more in keeping with the science background. Eg just how much or little the appeasers have succeeded at X (whatever X might be) compared with the non-appeasers (and so on for all X postulated to be relevant).
Phoenix Woman says
Tom: Yeah. In fact, it reminds me all too much of the sort of thing a righty would post while pretending to be a lefty (Donald Segretti, anyone?). Those of us who hang out in the Eschaton comments threads are very familiar with that type of person.
As someone who isn’t totally against religion, I’d like to point out that from what I understand, Jesus would agree with Larry and PZ here.
Jesus had to keep reiterating that he was a religious figure ONLY. He wasn’t there to usurp the role of Caesar (remember “Render unto Caesar…”?), or science, or even most of Judaism as it was then practiced. He was constantly turning down offers from political factions to be their figurehead. (Yes, he would be horrified by Pat Robertson — and by money-grubbing preachers in general. You prayed in private, not in public and for profit.)
His followers and disciples, of course — who he spent most of the last four years of his life having to smack down — felt differently. And, once he was no longer around to smack ’em down, acted differently.
Phoenix Woman says
SEF: Yes. Truth should be the goal, not appeasement.
The chimera of “balance” has been used to destroy the US media by those for whom objective truth is like garlic to a vampire. “Balance” is all about not reporting facts that upset the corporate moneybags that sign your paychecks. Let’s not let it destroy science in this country as well.
This is a dust up for several reasons:
1) Telling people what not to say or do is almost always a dust up. People get very angry about it, and rightly so.
2) Science and politics are two different, if related, things. Science demands unvarnished truth. Politics demands consensus building. Science and politics do intersect, but the world would be a better a place if politics were more scientific and science less political. Nisbett seems to be going in the opposite direction — asking to make science more political.
3) On that score, atheism and science are two different, if related, fields. Scientists have as much credibility on the subject of atheism as anyone else. When the subject is evolution or astronomy, scientists obviously have more credibility. Science informs atheism, but atheism does not inform science. Science certainly does not inform religion.
4) There is such a thing as a scientific world-view. Such a view can not consistently include the kind of God that pew-filling believers worship — period. To pretend otherwise is fundamentally dishonest.
5) The intersection of politics and science is filled with very practical people. If there was an organization like Scientists for the Renewable Energy, and the president of that organization went on television saying, “Stupid theist Americans should realize that their God isn’t going to come down and save them in a rapture, and that God giving us ‘dominion’ over the earth was just a stupid fairy tale written by wife-beating goat herds,” I’d be the first person to tell him to shut up and find a different job. So would anyone concerned about renewable energy. In other words, Nisbett is attacking a problem that fundamentally does not exist. And in attacking a problem that does not exist, he is really politically sabotaging atheism while pretending to
be defending science. And that makes me angry.
Good grief. I’ll stop at five.
And Tartarize is completely wrong-headed; and if he keeps it up, i’d expect disemvowelment.
Hey, Phoenix Woman, is “concern troll” a popular enough term now to have spread to science blogs? Nisbett is a total concern troll.
Concern Troll (n): One who professes complete faith in a cause, who deliberately attempts to destroy it by claiming falsely that displays of courage and strength are actually a weakness. (Modified from The Democratic Underground’s definition)
No framing OR faux “balance”; let Science speak for itself! Those who consider themselves “Spiritual” of “religious” and who hold the “twin magesteria” position are in a process of relating to an increasingly naturalistic cosmology. Don’t let the orthodox religionists get away with their “either/ or” proposition by taking it seriously. Just stick to the facts/ evidence and benefits of knowledge without any “theology” of Atheism (heh, heh). Well learned science usually causes the student to use the evidence at hand rather than complicated propositions of complex cosmologies that make no sense.
Phoenix Woman says
Inkadu: The worst concern trolls are the ones who really do believe they’re doing it for their target’s own good.
Mental Note: In the future leave better references to the prior thread when Nisbet accused PZ of being an Don Imus Atheist and suggested that he should be judged by his posters. Also, his posters are cowards for not using their real names.
The reference to Imus was hard to miss, Tatarize…I don’t think that was the problem.
fardels bear says
If I’m known for anything around here it is probably for stupid questions, so here’s another one: What did that “Don Imus” insult mean? What I know about Imus is (a) he was recently fired for a stupid comment and (b) in most pictures I’ve seen of him he’s wearing a really stupid hat.
So, I don’t think PZ normally wears hats, so I assume the Imus thing was just a “PZ insults people.” Is that pretty much it or is there some subtlety I’m missing from not knowing what Imus was like?
PZ Myers says
The details don’t matter: it was a generic “let’s insult PZ” phrase.
Quite frankly, Nisbet is a wanker.
I can’t disagree with that, but he’s just a babe, fresh out of grad school, riding high on a publication in Science no less.
a few years actually debating creationists will wear the edges on him, and likely find him far more receptive to discussion than he is at present.
seriously, it’s going to take someone with heavy motivation to continue to pursue and study the issue of science communication, and while I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of his current thinking, I don’t fault him for any lack of motivation, and do hope that as time goes by, he will be able to maintain interest in the subject even as he learns he doesn’t know as much about it as he thought he did.
yes, he needs a good verbal asskicking (much like one might get in a thesis defense), but it shouldn’t discourage him from pursuing the field of science communication, I hope.
It will indeed be interesting to see how the public debate turns, and whether he might be more interested in debating substance instead of form there.
However, I doubt much will be decided. I rather think we will have to wait to see what, if anything, comes out of the AAAS panel discussion before any new round of judgements can be levied, and new opinions formed.
Frankly, I’m betting on the whole thing ending up generating much more sound than fury, and that includes what might come out of the panel discussion.
Nisbet accused PZ of being an Don Imus Atheist and suggested that he should be judged by his posters. Also, his posters are cowards for not using their real names.
actually, IIRC he accused the blog itself of being:
“A haven for Don-Imus atheists”
he accused PZ of being like Ann Coulter, though in an earlier thread I believe.
I mean, if we are trying to keep the silly insults straight and all.
What did that “Don Imus” insult mean?
Imus is a shock-jock, like Howard Stern.
he was essentially labeling this blog nothing more than a home to “shock jock” style media, with the attendant shock-jock fans.
it was pretty clearly an insult not directed at just PZ, but at everybody who posts on this blog as well.
of course, he then would have to direct the same comment to his own blog, since the commentary there was no different than here.
I’m currently in grad school, in the much derided field of sociology (dissertation on framing/narratives and the marriage equality movement). Indeed, I work in the even more derided field of framing (albeit from a social movements/political discourse perspective). I find the understanding of framing around here to be, to say the least, limited at best. At the same time, I don’t find Nisbett adding much of anything….so far…from what I’ve seen. I sense that since Lakoff popularized framing it has become de riguer without much of an understanding of how frames are tied to broader discourses, or how even science itself is framed (now I’ve opened myself up).
Science is a human endeavor. As such it will always be subject to human constraints, including discursive ones. One of the things that frustrates me about the “discussions” of framing here is how pathetically the concepts are understood. Nisbett may not assist in that, but there’s quite a bit of good work going on in the field (I dunno, maybe we sociologists are ahead of the communications folks…who knows right now). Science is always framed, in that it is always produced and communicated from within a particular ideational system. We can debate how closely that system reflects nature (don’t want to get into Kuhn v. Popper here) but it’s frustrating as a social scientist to see the social practices that comprise “hard” science completely erased. (And when I as a sociologist say something is socially constructed I’m not saying it’s artificial, merely that it’s a socially produced phenomenon, and it’s really difficulat to say that the human activity of scientific research and knowledge production isn’t social).
Like it or not, there’s a thing or two y’all can learn from us social scientists as well.
fardels bear says
Thanks for responding PZ. For what it is worth (which isn’t much), I think you tend to save your insults for the truly deserving (Hovind and his ilk). You’ve never insulted me despite our disagreements and I’ve never seen you insult someone who disagrees respectfully.
PZ Myers says
Quit trying to ruin my reputation, guy.
MAJeff, I agree completely. I actually was receptive to this framing idea, at first — I appreciate efforts to improve science communication. But I’m afraid “framing”, as implemented by some people, seems to be a facade over a rather less helpful tactic. I would like to learn how to better get ideas across to the public, but framing ala Nisbet is more about telling scientists what they are allowed to say to the public. It’s a strategy for helping to carry quick policy shifts, but without increasing public understanding, or worst of all, even trying to change public attitudes.
As I’ve said, I work in the field. A few days ago I listed several books, which Nisbett praised. The diff is that my advisor wrote a couple of ’em and another colleague/friend/mentor another. Those texts are a great starting point I’d be happy to suggest some more stuff (maybe off line–you’ve got the email)
It’s funny, because Lakoff has become “the guy.” But the movement/media/framing group I work with, when we have movement orgs or other folks come in to talk and work–collectively–well, we actually start to laugh when they mention Lakoff.
At it’s most basic level, I posit framing as “speaking a language your audience can hear.” Pretty basic, seemingly. But it also gets into the metaphors you use, the narratives you tell. It’s much more complicated, and I fear Lakoff has done more to cloud than to clarify (maybe it’s because he’s a cognitive scientist and really doesn’t get the social aspects of it).
Maybe this is all also a bit of defensiveness on my part. I wrote my MA thesis on the MFC and framing of sex ed. There are some things I’d change now that I’m a PhD student and have studied in more depth, but there’s more to it than just “kisssing up to the religious.”
OK, off to bed…gotta get up early tomorrow because i forgot to bring my books home to prep for class–gender and sex, wheeeeeeeeeeeee.
but it’s frustrating as a social scientist to see the social practices that comprise “hard” science completely erased.
I’m sure it’s even more frustrating when you doubtless keep hearing the mantra that sociology “isn’t even science” from the folks who believe in “hard science”.
heck, even in biology I used to hear that a lot from chemists and physicists.
wait… I still do. If you are at all familiar with a rabid conservative chemist by the name of Gerard Harbison, you might have even seen it yourself.
hmm, have you read this paper:
it’s not just sociology and communications that play a role in figuring all this out; there’s a lot of psychology involved too, and likely even some genetics.
At the same time, I don’t find Nisbett adding much of anything….so far…from what I’ve seen
did you read his paper, or are you relying solely on his recent public performance (which has left much to be desired, to say the least)? I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions in the paper (in fact, I don’t), but I do think he is contributing some interesting thoughts there, and he is right that it is a tremendously understudied area, with little hard data to rely on (at least in the literature; there’s certainly enough anecdotal data).
I just think he needs to spend a bit more time actually testing some of his ideas on members of the groups he putatively wants to “reach”. He strikes me as someone who really hasn’t actually spent much time trying to argue with a creationist; or any religious extremist for that matter.
Part of the concern here, is not that information presented by scientists can’t be better “marketed” to garner a wider interest; heck, that’s essentially why so many have decided to blog, including PZ. It’s that the primary function of science communication should not and really cannot be decided by non-target audiences. Scientists necessarily have a tough enough time communicating in a precise manner between each other, hence the trend towards brevity and precision in writing style found in most peer-reviewed journal articles.
If religious groups have a tough time dealing with scientific information, it’s really not the fault of the scientists, and the “panel discussions” regarding better communication should really take place within the groups that are having problems understanding, which would be far more productive than amongst scientists themselves.
In short, I think there is a justifiable fear of letting the media spin from any external group have an influence on how scientists communicate scientific information, as this is kindof like letting style dictate substance. It took many decades of honing to get scientists to even be able to communicate between themselves; I’d hate to see external influences change the progress that has been made in that arena. I began to see evidences of how that might work (and badly) when I worked with NGO’s that had to relate scientific information to house reps. and senators. Framing scientific information for congressional digestion is a sick endeavor at best, and I would NEVER take what I learned from that experience to be indicative of how science information should be communicated in general.
I don’t envy those who have decided to try to act as mediator between scientific information and the public; heck even a teacher that has a great deal of time to do so is often strained in that effort.
Sociology may indeed be the field of science that ends up really testing the idea of framing, and coming up with some sort of productive method. Which in a way would be kind of ironic IMO. However I just don’t think that science in general should be preoccupied with the idea of framing towards external parties that by and large are mostly intractable; it has to be preoccupied first and foremost with framing internally, and it already has been pretty successful at that IMO.
good luck with your endeavors, and who knows? maybe I’m totally wrong and somebody like yourself will come up with something none of us can even envision at this point in time.
he accused PZ of being like Ann Coulter, though in an earlier thread I believe.
He also equated Dawkins with Coulter, but not here, on another sciblog.
That isn’t “framing”, that’s sabotage. No one who makes any such equation should be taken seriously, and should be publicly mocked at any opportunity (given that stocks and rotten fruit are no longer fashionable).
MAJeff: At it’s most basic level, I posit framing as “speaking a language your audience can hear.” Pretty basic, seemingly. But it also gets into the metaphors you use, the narratives you tell.
The problem is that many of them can’t hear you, no matter what language you use. First you have to remove the ear-plugs that the Hovinds and Falwells and Hams etc have implanted in their ears. It can be done, but it’s a tricky operation, and takes time. Time and effort that has nothing to do with science and is impractical on a day-to-day basis.
One of the folks I work with has a paper (can’t remember where–one of the journals dealing with domestic violence) where the organization she worked with has changed the way Providence media cover–frame–domestic violence. It took a number of years, so yeah, time’s an issue.
And, some people, to put it bluntly, are simply unreachable. I’m queer. I’m very well aware of this. The Pope, like the folks you listed, is never gonna be on my side. Some people gotta be written off. We may not like that, but it’s true. Many of the religiously fundamentalist are beyond hope or help.