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Thursday
Jan262012

Hey, Chris Mooney ... (or the Liberal Republic of Science project)

Hi, Chris.

You've been telling us a lot recently about the differences in how "liberals" and "conservatives" think (and admitting, very candidly and informatively, that whether they really do and what significance that might have are complicated and unresolved issues). You have a book coming out, The Republican Brain. I look forward to reading it. I really do.

But I have a question I want to ask you. Or really, I have a thought, a feeling, that I want to share, and get your reaction to.

Imagine someone (someone very different from you; very different from me)-- a conservative Republican, as it turns out--who says: "Science is so cool -- it shows us the amazing things God has constructed in his cosmic workshop!"

Forget what percentage of the people with his or her cultural outlooks (or ideology) feel the way that this particular individual does about science (likely it is not large; but likely the percentage of those with a very different outlook -- more secular, egalitarian, liberal -- who have this passionate curiosity to know how nature works is small too. Most of my friends don't--hey, to each his own, we Liberals say!).

My question is do you (& not just you, Chris Mooney; we--people who share our cultural outlooks, worldview, "ideology") know how to talk to this person? Talk to him or her about climate change, or about whether his or her daughter should get the HPV vaccine? Or even about, say, how chlorophyll makes use of quantum mechanical dynamics to convert sunlight into energy? I think what "God did in his/her workshop" there would blow this person's mind (blows mine).

Like I said, I look forward to reading The Republican Brain.

But there's another project out there -- let's call it the Liberal Republic of Science Project -- that is concerned to figure out how to make both the wisdom and the wonder of science as available, understandable, and simply enjoyable to citizens of all cultural outlooks (or ideological "brain types") as possible.

The project isn't doing so well. It desperately needs the assistance of people who are really talented in communicating science to the public.

I think it deserves that assistance.  

Wouldn't you agree?

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Reader Comments (2)

The real question to answer first is why conservative folks have the stubbornly closed minds that only perceive a black and white world of absolute certainties, with a handful of basic "facts" that they can rely upon in life. A world where say Christianity means only believing that God inspired every word of the Bible, so nothing more to say.
Certainly no need for any pacifism or helping the poor or fallen as true Christians do, but more important to lable them as socialists - meaning anti-American. A non-white President -anti-American, an outsider or a mirage they cannot come to terms with.

A world where liberal means anti-American rather than a free person free to seek the truth and speak the truth. A world where past success is the only way and America must get back to the comfort of its fast receding recent past. Progressive is another word used as abuse. You do not need science or enlightenment when you have the basic facts to guide every thought and action. A closed minded world that has more in common with Muslim fundamentalist views than would be comfortable should anyone point it out.

The reaction may be not that this research is interesting but why would anyone want to do science or change things in the first place. That in my mind is the first hurdle to get over but life is far too short to waste a moment's time on those who really do not want to know.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrobert

dmk:

Hey, Robert.

1. I think we know a good deal about how antagonism between scientific findings & value -- not just conservative ones, but liberal and all sorts of others can provoke closed-mindedness. Indeed, see Chris Mooney's own post, linked in my blog, about how liberals can display motivated reasoning.

2. I think you disagree with a premise of my post -- and I with a premise of your response. I strongly doubt that there *is* any correlation between being conservative and being anti-science or closed-minded toward science. Also, I strongly suspect that there are many people who hold religious outlooks who *like* science -- are thrilled by its insights -- who aren't able to make use of the excellent science journalism we have because science journalists and other science communication professionals are inadvertently conveying cultural meanings that antagonize them. If we do disagree about this, then I imagine we would still agree that they are empirical issues worthy of investigation, too, and proceed from there. *But* if you agree with me that the current balance of evidence warrants treating what I have just made as our current best understanding, *then*

3. I say science journalists should *use* (& extend) what we already know about how to avoid and neutralize antagonistic cultural meanings to expand enjoyment of the truly excellent content of their work to as many citizens of as many diverse cultural outlooks as possible. A Liberal society should be committed to making it possible for citizens of all cultural & ideological persuasions to experience the wonder, as well as the wisdom, of science.

January 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

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