Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mooney and Nisbet at Princeton

On Monday I attended Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet's talk entitled "Framing Science: Journalism and Science Debates" at Princeton University. I intended to write about it much sooner, but I really haven't stopped moving/working since then. And now it seems like there isn't much point in doing so. Mooney has been posting a series on framing on The Intersection, which basically discusses everything that was said at the lecture, plus more. I commented on this post, stating the main problem I had with the premises he was proposing:

I think I understand what you are advocating and I think it will work for specific issues. I also don't think it should be dismissed or derided, as many have been doing as of late. It is essential to consider our strategy when addressing the public, and you have starting an important conversation. However, I think that instead of focusing our efforts on convincing the public to see it our way on each specific issue, we should work on trying to change number three in your premises. I don't think getting people to accept scientific truths for the wrong reasons should be what we are aiming for. I understand that it is important to push some issues, like global warming, because it is an urgent problem. But for issues such as evolution, in which convincing the general public is not QUITE as urgent, we should aim to get them to accept it for the same reasons that the science community does: because all the evidence is there. I know this is not currently how most Americans decide what to believe, but that is what we should be trying to change. We shouldn't be telling people: "this scientific theory doesn't conflict with your belief system, so don't worry your pretty little heads about it and just take our word for it." Instead we should try to promote critical thought and rational inquiry, and hopefully people will be able to come to the right decisions on their own.

Maybe this is too idealistic...but personally I think that accepting a beautiful theory like evolution for the wrong reasons is just as bad as not accepting it all all. I hope I'm not misunderstanding you premises, and if I am, please correct me.

James Hrynyshyn at Island of Doubt has posted his own critique of framing, which I also agree with for the most part. I may have more to say on the subject after there has been a bit more conversation about it on The Intersection, but that's it for now.

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