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Sunday
May192013

What is to be done? 

A thoughtful commentator sent me this email:

I was reading through the sublinks [in Andy Revkin's "The Other Science Gap" column] with interest tonight, but also growing frustration-- as in I can understand and agree with you and others focusing on the role partisanship and social cognitive barriers play, but I am a guy who lives in the trenches and wants to know--are there any solutions? I urged my climate law students this month to be advocates and not give up despite all the pessimistic news, and I keep speaking out at conferences and in articles on steps to get more clean energy more quickly--but it often seems like way too little and increasingly too late. What do you say to students and other young people about how to work to change climate change's momentum and trends?

By way of background (just a tiny bit) , the occasion for the query is the "here we go again" exasperated response to the new study that corroborates years and years of previous studies finding that there is a scientific consensus -- consistently calculated by a variety of methods as 97% of scientists, peer-reviewed articles, etc.--that human activity is the cause of climate change.

The exasperation, of course,  is not over the content of the study; it is over the fallacious inference that communicating the "97% of scientists believe ..." message is an effective way to dispel public controversy over climate change.  

If it were, then the controversy would have been solved by now.  "Scientific consensus" has been the dominant theme of climate communication for the better part of a decade.  And cultural polarization over that time has not abated--it has only intensified.

Empirical studies aimed at trying to make sense of this phenomenon have concluded that the reason the public remains divided on “scientific consensus” isn’t that they haven’t been exposed to evidence on the matter but rather that when they are exposed to evidence of what experts believe they selectively credit or discredit it in patterns that reflect and reinforce their perception that scientific consensus is consistent with the position that predominates in their cultural or ideological group

The exuberance with which the latest "97%" study has been greeted by many of those who want to promote constructive engagement with climate science reflects a distressing resistance to take in the more general "scientific consensus" that exists among science of science communication researchers that neither a deficit in knowledge of facts -- ones relating to the science of climate as well as ones relating to the extent of scientific consensus -- nor a deficit in the ability to make sense of scientific information is the source of continuing conflict over climate change.  Indeed, members of the public who are the most science literate and numerate are the most polarized.

But for those who are willing to open their eyes and unblock their ears to the real-world and social-scientific evidence that a public knowledge/rationality deficit is not the problem, the question is then put, as it is by the commentator: so what is to be done?

The answer is all kinds of things. Or in any case, the same research that supports the conclusion that "fact bombardment" doesn't work is filled with findings of alternatives that work better in promoting constructive open-minded engagement with scientific information. By adroitly combining valid information with culturally affirming meanings, these communications succeed in getting people to reflectively assess evidence that they might otherwise dismiss out of hand (btw, if your goal is not simply to get people to open-mindedly consider evidence using their own powers of reason -- if you just want to make them believe something, who cares how-- you are not a science communicator; you are a propagandist).

That some think that continuing to hammer skeptics over the head with "scientific consensus" -- a style of advocacy that is more likely to intensify opposition, research shows, then ameliorate it -- because there is no alternative is part and parcel of the same puzzling evidence-resistance that explains the continuing allure of the "knowledge/rationality deficit" theory of science communication.

Actually, there are plenty of science communicators who are aware of this research and who make skillful use of it.  Katharine Hayhoe and Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, and George Marshall are among them. So one piece of advice: check out what they are doing and  try to figure out how to adapt and extend it.

But here's another piece of advice: use scientific methods to test and refine communication strategies.

It's ironic that it's necessary to say this.  But it is.  It really really really is.

Not only do too many science communicators ignore evidence about what does and doesn't work.  Way way too many also shoot from the hip in a completely fact-free, imagination-run-wild way in formulating communication strategies.

If they don't rely entirely on their own personal experience mixed with introspection, they simply reach into the grab bag of decision science mechanisms (it's vast), picking and choosing, mixing and matching, and in the end presenting what is really just an elaborate just-so story on what the "problem" is and how to "solve" it.  

That's not science. It's pseudo-science.

As with most complicated matters in human affairs, there are more plausible conjectures about what the problem is then can possibly be true.  Use of disciplined methods of observation and inference to test rival hypotheses (such as the "knowledge deficit" theory vs. "motivated reasoning," of which "cultural cognition"is a form).

But once one has used evidence-based methods to identify mechanisms that plausibly can be understood to be generating the problem, there will still be more plausible conjectures than can be true about what sort of communication strategies can be used to neutralize or turn those mechanisms around in a way that promotes constructive engagement.

The only way to extricate the latter from the vast sea of the former is through more evidenced-based methods, ones aimed at reproducing in the field effects observed in the lab.  Unless we use science to identify how to communicate science, we will drown in an ocean of just-so story-telling.

Those who are willing to consider real evidence on what works and what doesn't will find many answers to the "what is to be done?" question in the science of science communication.

But it is important for them to recognize that the most important thing that that science has to tell them is not what to do (indeed, be wary of cartoonish "how to" communication "manuals").

It's how to do it: by the formulation, testing, analysis, and revision of evidence-informed hypotheses.

Or simply put, by being scientific about communicating science.

 

 

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Reader Comments (62)

Cool! So you've listed Hayhoe, Haines-Stiles, and Marshall as people who are doing it right. Can I see the empirical evidence demonstrating their effectiveness?

(I find the list a bit surprising, since Hayhoe says she gets hate mail now from conservatives, I can't see any difference between the messaging Haines-Stiles uses and the standard line, and George Marshall did a video called "How to talk to a Denier" - when the first rule of talking to them is surely 'don't call them 'deniers''. But I can't argue with empirical evidence...)

Incidentally, if I was going to identify climate scientists who could talk to sceptics without antagonising them, I'd look for examples of climate scientists that a lot of sceptics talk about (fairly) respectfully. Judith Curry, Tamsin Archer, Richard Betts, Roger Pielke Jr., ScienceOfDoom, Richard Tol, ... In fact, asking sceptics who they think the least antagonistic figures are sounds like a fine idea to me. What do you think?

By the way, are there any sceptics that you think use the science of science communication well to talk to believers? What should we do more of?

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

These are examples of people who are trying things based on what they understand the implications of empirical reseach on mechanisms to be. their strategies should be regarded as hypotheses; what they do as tests of those hypotheses, ones from which observations should be made and measured and analyzed. If people don't use evidence-based methods "all the way down," then we won't know what works & what doesn't.

Tell me how you'd characterize the approach being used by Judith Curry et al. Theorize it. What would you say they are doing, what effect does it have, and why (what's the mechanism). Then tell me how one might test that.

I suspect that they really aren't engaged in communication w/ the general public. They are part of a specialized conversation -- one that probably overlaps to a large degree w/ one I am in in, although they have much more to say about the substance of the science. They are using, adroitly, a form of professional communication to talk to people who have knowledge, experience, habits of mind, etc that alloow them to participate in a conversation w/ them about what to make of the matters they are trying to understand.

That's actually not the sort of science communication that is needed to improve the quality of public deliberations over climate in the US. That conversation is one that will include many ordinary folks, who need to be able reliably to know who knows what they are talking about & who they can trust etc. Then they will issue their marching orders -- to Bob Iinglis's, to Nancy Pelosi's, et al. -- and some policy will get hashed out that is in touch w/ the best evidence & that embodies some sort of democratic reonciliatio nof all the various interests and values that come into play, since even if all agreed (subject to uncertainty) what the "facts" were, that wouldn't uniquely determine what to do.

On sketpics "doing it right..." Why am I drawing a blank? Maybe the insularity you suggested affects the focus on my attention generally -- a matter I take seriously & try my best to remedy. Maybe just the deluge of images I've conjured and been flooded w/ as I try to explain what's wrong w/ thinking that bashing people over the head w/ consensus will do the trick.

But you kjow, I asked in the last thread of comments, for skeptics to tell me how they understand their communication problem. It is parallel. I will go back and mine the repsonses for insight.

Do you have any answers to your own question?

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Incidentally, if I was going to identify climate scientists who could talk to sceptics without antagonising them, I'd look for examples of climate scientists that a lot of sceptics talk about (fairly) respectfully. Judith Curry, Tamsin Archer, Richard Betts, Roger Pielke Jr., ScienceOfDoom, Richard Tol, ...

I would suggest that none of them have had the impact of reducing the polluted communicative environment, and in fact, at least some of them (Curry, RPJr), have had the effect of increasing the pollution (because their work effectively encourages "realists" and "skeptics" alike to feel more justified in their tribalism).

IMV, the bar should be higher than "talking to 'skeptics'" in ways that "skeptics" like. Those scientists are distinguishable by their view on the science as being different than, arguably, the views held by most climate scientists (Tol is a bit trickier as perhaps the prevalence of opinion among economists is a bit less obvious).

Offering them up as more successful communicators ducks the question, and essentially just says that you agree with their analysis as compared to that of many other scientists.

What is the goal? What is the metric that will be used to measure progress towards that goal?

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

" their strategies should be regarded as hypotheses; what they do as tests of those hypotheses, ones from which observations should be made and measured and analyzed"

So are the responses measured and analysed?

"Tell me how you'd characterize the approach being used by Judith Curry et al. Theorize it."

It's hard to be sure, but my impression is:
1. They're polite - not contemptuous, dismissive, or insulting.
2. They listen, and take sceptics and their arguments seriously. They don't ban them, exclude them, or refuse to debate them.
3. They don't demand that people agree with them. They don't preach.
4. They acknowledge points that sceptics are right about, while standing firm on issues where they're not.
5. They acknowledge their own limitations and ignorance, and the uncertainties in the science.
6. They argue by presenting evidence and explanation, not citing experts and papers (especially not ones that non-experts cannot understand or access).
7. They see their objective as being to educate, rather than persuade.
8. They start by educating people on the peripheral points - the basic physics of various weather and climate phenomena, and only gradually work their way in to the more controversial issues.
9. They stick to what's known, and speak out against the exaggeration, speculation, and scare-mongering (on all sides).

You would have to be careful when testing it not to give the impression that you are working on ways to change their minds. The aims should be things like promote communication, reduce antagonism, improve understanding and knowledge of climate science (not measured by agreement with the consensus, but by knowledge of evidence, mechanisms, and arguments), and so on. You would need to find ways to measure antagonism and hostility, receptiveness, and communication.

"I suspect that they really aren't engaged in communication w/ the general public. They are part of a specialized conversation"

Indeed - the blog-dwellers are only a particular subset of the general public. But remember that we do talk to one another, and to the public too. The sceptic community is not really isolated and distinct from the general public - it is one edge of an interconnected network. We all have friends outside the community we talk to. And if you can talk to and get your information across to the most influential voices in that network - people with the knowledge to assess its accuracy, who are themselves trusted by a sceptical public - the word will spread.

"On sketpics "doing it right..." Why am I drawing a blank?"

Maybe none of us are doing it right? :-)

Have you read much of what sceptics out there say? For example, Christy? Are there any antagonistic cultural meanings for you in what he says?

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Niv
Nice list.
My only addition is that the communicator has to listen clearly and admit when his or her beliefs turn out to be wrong or at least not substantiated by the current set of facts.

I just finished and reviewed a book this morning, "The Brain" by DeSalle and Tattersall, that violated all of the items on your list. If I did not really need to learn some of the information on pages from 80 to 200, I would have quit the book after 10 pages. The authors started out badly by talking about chemistry and physics in the early universe and getting nearly all of the discussion wrong.
If you are going to be an author/communicator, you need to value your audience, whether they agree with you or not, more than these authors appeared to.

Just so stories don't cut it. The audience leaves.

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

a matter I take seriously & try my best to remedy

This is it Dan. I'll check out the progress of this thread and verify by myself if you're sincere in getting out of your insularity. Your Twitter contributions don't appear to be going in that direction, and there is but a glimpse of hope in the other thread.

You still appear convinced the world is divided in "People Who Believe the Science" vs. "Skeptics". That's naive, and only adds your name to the problem.

Are you aware that the consensus is not exactly regarding answering yes or no to a simple question? (No, I do not expect an answer, but I'll find it anyway expressed by way of your comments).

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Part 2 - Reputation
A number of 'communicators' damage their credibility by being communicators one week and propagandists the next week. If a person is a propagandist part of the time, then most of us will discount them as communicators when they try to stop being propagandists.

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

I agree it is a good list as a generic to-do list. As for the application of your list - w/r/t Curry and RPJr., specifically...

1. They're polite - not contemptuous, dismissive, or insulting. [subjective determination. I disagree that the characterization can be applied categorically (I could provide examples if you'd like)]

2. They listen, and take sceptics and their arguments seriously. [subjective determination. I disagree that the characterization can be applied categorically (I could provide examples if you'd like). ] They don't ban them, exclude them, or refuse to debate them. [ Perhaps more true then the earlier statement. Curry doesn't ban folks, I don't think I've ever seen RPJr ban anyone, Pielke definitely does exclude and refuse to debate reasonably interlocutors sometimes, Curry debates on a very spotty basis.]

3. They don't demand that people agree with them. They don't preach. [Subjective metrics - what does "demand" mean? What does "preach" mean. Not sure what it means to "demand" someone agree with you in a blogospheric debate. How would one "demand" such a thing? Although I would not characterize either RPJr or Curry as demanding agreement or preaching. ]

4. They acknowledge points that sceptics are right about, while standing firm on issues where they're not. [hmmm. Where do you see RPJr and Curry standing firm in disagreement with "skeptics?(with the exception of Sky Dragons - who many "skeptics" exclude from those they consider true Scottsmen/"skeptics" ]

5. They acknowledge their own limitations and ignorance, and the uncertainties in the science. [ hmmm. RPJr acknowledging "limitations and ignorance?" Really?]

6. They argue by presenting evidence and explanation, not citing experts and papers (especially not ones that non-experts cannot understand or access). [I'd say RPJr., yes. Curry? She likes to be very selective about "appeal to authority." While she objects to it in others, she does it herself quite a bit.]

7. They see their objective as being to educate, rather than persuade. [Subjective application of criteria. How is something like that measured subjectively, so as to distinguish those you list from others?]

8. They start by educating people on the peripheral points - the basic physics of various weather and climate phenomena, and only gradually work their way in to the more controversial issues [Probably true of Curry - RPJr.? Not so much, IMO.]

9. They stick to what's known, and speak out against the exaggeration, speculation, and scare-mongering (on all sides). [I don't see it. Curry on a rare occasion "speaks out against the exaggeration, speculation and scare-mongering" among "skeptics," but not as a general rule. RPJr.? Not that I've seen.]

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

The use of the word "denier" is a sure fired way to shut off the conversation.

Dr. Curry has an excellent blog, and as pointed out, respects various views expressed. She is also not scared to call an ace and ace and a spade a spade. There really is some junk science out there, and some very sleigh of hand "public" disclosure.

When folks tell us of catastrophe, that a tornado is climate, that hurricanes are more intense etc, and it is proven flat out wrong, then folks get to the point of distrust and wonder who is so dumb to be part of the 97%.

The hype has to stop, as folks understand propaganda. Sticking with the actual facts, not the wishful thinking is paramount, as well as providing solutions that are cost effective.

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCamburn

Have you read much of what sceptics out there say? For example, Christy? Are there any antagonistic cultural meanings for you in what he says?

How about we pick out a couple of other examples of what notable "skeptics" "out there say." :

Roy Spencer:

I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.

How about Lindzen when he analogizes environmentalists (as a group) to eugenicists?

How about when Santer is described as "scientific cleansing?"

How about when McKitrick accuses an editor (Wagner) of being "“groveling, terrified coward,”"

There is a long list, NiV.

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua - I don't think this is the appropriate thread for "my experts are better behaved than your experts".

Rather, following on with Camburn's suggestions, I wonder why Dan doesn't forget climate a moment and check out what has and hasn't worked with dozens of health scares, eg in the UK? All of them, one suspects, almost completely devoid of evidence, yet some (MMR) more successful than others (Swine flu).

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

@Maurizio:

I'm sincere. I also have positions of all sorts; I won't hide them but will (a) try to make sure they don't get in the way of opportunities to exchange ideas (particularly on matters that don't even turn on the positions) & (b) try my best to recognize contrary evidence on those positions & update my beliefs about them.

I'm quite intersted in vaccines, public health, health scares, etc., too. There is indeed a a lot for science communicators to learn form them-- Including how to communicate science relevant to public health; climate change is certainly not the only issue of consequence i the world.

References--including things that you find it astonishing I haven't read-- are always immensely appreciated. Entropy is our common enemy.

May 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Maurizio -

Joshua - I don't think this is the appropriate thread for "my experts are better behaved than your experts".

I think you misread the point of my post.. I was discussing the selectivity of NiV's application of his criteria, and whether the scientists he suggested fulfill those criteria. I made no assertions about any "experts" being "better" or worse than anyone else.

Certainly you have misinterpreted my perspective. In point of fact, I think that the problems associated with NiV's list are pretty much equally shared across the board - certainly in the blogosphere (due to the universality of motivated reasoning). There are a couple of exceptions from what I've seen: Tamsin Edwards comes to mind, and John Neilson Gammon.

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I like and admire Katharine Hayhoe, but her book A Climate for Change, written for a Christian audience, crosses the line, in my opinion, from appropriate cultural messaging to outright pandering. The issue is the evasive way she talks about the age of the Earth, not daring to risk offending those who consider the planet to be only 6000 years old. For example, she talks of ice cores being "thousands and thousands" of years old, not tens or hundreds of thousands of years old. Yet she has published paleoclimate papers that demonstrate that she is not a young Earth believer herself. It strikes me that this is patronizing, rather than polite.

If anybody doesn't talk straight to me, I deeply resent them for it, as I do with politicians and real estate agents.

This is an obstacle for me in communicating climate science. I come from a problem community myself, having spent my career in petroleum exploration. But I simply can't dissemble with my ex-colleagues; the fossil fuels that we had so much fun (and profit) finding are the source of a major global problem and the industry we work (or worked) in has to close down over the next two or three decades. I could probably communicate more effectively if I was coached by experts, but I just can't bring myself to not be brutally frank with people whom I respect.

It's often easier for me to avoid the subject altogether in cases where I consider people to be unpersuadable. That's probably patronizing and evasive also, I admit.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Skuce

Joshua,

I'm not claiming anybody is perfect. I'm not perfect in this regard either. But I'm trying to give Dan an indication of why some climate scientists are more respected by and less antagonistic to sceptics. (And it's about how they seem to sceptics, rather than how they seem to people on your side of the fence.)

By contrast, I've seen Hayhoe claim to appeal to conservatives, but I've never seen any actual conservatives or anyone on this side of the debate express any. Maybe I'm missing some, and she's certainly not as bad as many I've seen, but what little I've seen of it looks like the standard 'preaching' line everyone else uses with a nod to Evangelical Christianity.

It takes more than just "being a conservative" to fix the communication problem. A conservative reciting the liberal line gets seen as a closet liberal. Ask Bob Inglis.

--
So if you don't like my list, who would you say were the mainstream climate scientists that antagonised sceptics the least, and why?

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Larry:
You must have bitten through your tongue at this point in connection w/ a particular (& particularly conspicuous) aspect of this post. The answer is " ;) " & I appreciate your restraint, for of course I'm waiting w/ great anticipation to see who raises the point & what they have to say about it, & for it to be you would be, well, too predictable. Except that I predicted you wouldn't, or at least wouldn't for as long as you could bear b/c you too would be interested to see the same thing. Perhaps there are others exercising similar discipline.

May 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@NiV:
I watched 2 mins of Christy. I will see if I can watch more.
the exposure is too short for me to expect the question to have answered itself, but to whom is he speaking? Who is audience? is he supposed to be counteracting defensive resistance among egalitarian communitarians to evidence that the impact of rising CO2 concentrations won't necessarily precipitate enviornmentally dangerous global warming? Is he the mirror image of Richard Alley or Katharine Hayhoe? My intuitions are imperfect but he doesn't "look" the part!

May 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@AndySkuce:
I understand your point about Hayhoe, certainly. But do you think she really means to be communicating with you? She wants to engage a community many of whose members understand positions on "the theory of evolution" to be a kind of badge of group membership & loyalty. She is disentangling the point she is trying to make - the evidence that she'd like those persons to consider -- from that issue so that no one perceives that accepting any particular position on it (global warmking) necessarily conveys group membership & loyalty in the same way. If one doesn't have to travel through territory of evolution to have an informed exchange about climate, why go there? You see this as "not speaking straight"; I see it as a gesture of respect on her part toward her audience, whose members might appreciate it as such & reciprocate by attending respectfully to what she has to say. Then they can decide for themselves, using reason. What's more, there's nothing "secret" about any of this. She'll tell you herself that's what she is doing; tell her audience, too, b/c she is trying to engage them as reasoning citizens -- not "hoodwink" them.

This is a conjecture about what she is doing (although I've talked to her, so I'm confident I'm right) and what the effect might be (that's a matter that deserves study; I'm sure she'd agree).

But if this works -- if it creates a decisionmaking climate in which people w/ diverse values will simply evaluate all the evidence in an open-minded way w/o being harassed and taxed by the burden of unconscious anxiety that they will be betraying themselves and their communities if they do so -- what's the problem? to me this is a form of Liberal political discourse -- Liberal in the sense of embodying and evincing a desire to find grounds for public decisionmaking that don't require people to see the outcome of democratic deliberations, whatever they might be, as hostile to their core, defining commitments.

May 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan,
I thought of writing a response to Andy this morning. You already wrote the response that I have found to be true and to communicate effectively. You also wrote it better than the response that was in my head and trying to get out.
Thanks,
Eric

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

NiV --

But I'm trying to give Dan an indication of why some climate scientists are more respected by and less antagonistic to sceptics.

My point is that they are more respected by "skeptics" because of their take on the science, and not based on the criteria you listed (although I think they are criteria that everyone should aspire to). I think the criteria you described are inherently subjective and even if they weren't, are usually evaluated subjectively. After all, NIV, right?

For the most part, IMO, people look at a given scientist's perspective on the science and then work backwards to assign attributes, IMV, that is a part of motivated reasoning.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

What if the 'good' communicators are part of the communication problem? (with a little examination) with not much perceived credibility with those that they need to communicate with, the 'sceptics', not that they even allow the word without scare quotes, or even the disinterested general public?

I have a lot of time for D Katie Hayhoe, for a number of reasons, she genuinely will engage, social media and Direct Mail (including I owe her a favour, ref Peter Gleick) but showing a video of George Marshall - How to Talk to Climate Deniers - really gets you onto the topic of the messengers themselves..

This is the man - that created lists of Deniers, to be put into Halls of Shame.. With Mark Lynas, here in the New Statesmen a decade ago (making fossil fuel links, naming Lomborg amongst others - Lomborg does not even deny AGW, just sceptical on policy!))
http://www.newstatesman.com/node/146820

and more recent an an activist group (where he is on the advisory group) saying he prefers to use the word 'denier' because it works? (Jo Abbess is a climate activist, her transcripts)
http://www.joabbess.com/2010/04/17/sceptic-backlash-questions-answered/

at the same meeting Greenpeace were talking about making brand 'sceptic' toxic! (Marshall is of course also ex greenpeace)
http://www.joabbess.com/2010/04/15/ben-stewart-greenpeace-stalking/

George Marshall is not someone who wants to talk about purely a psychological definition of 'denial' for him to pretend the word 'denier' is problematic now, only shows that he is perhaps finally realizing politicized rhetoric is not working so well as it used to.. sceptics do NOT trust him, at all, all comments get deleted.

Now Marshall was just back from fighting Chevron in the rainforests for 15 years, so the enemy just transfers to Exxon, for climate change, a lifelong activist seeing a fossil fuel conspiracy theory, despite any evidence (ie the size of my overdraft, that this really is just a myth, relative funding wise)

Mark has moved on and grown up fro his earlier activist days (in 2006 writing that climate sceptics were on the same moral level with holocaust deniers,
http://web.archive.org/web/20080512154243/http://www.marklynas.org/2006/5/19/climate-denial-ads-to-air-on-us-national-television

a theme George Monbiot continued,and perhaps no coincidence that Monbiot,, Lynas and Marshall were very much part of the same Oxford (UK) activist scene, Marshall, even now is speaking at Monbiot's latest book launch in Oxford next week. I just see a very small activist, insular green network on climate change, with self reinforcing ideas about 'enemies' and groupthink.

Mark Lynas has personally told me those Halls of Shame are Shameful since, and stepped down form the advosory Group that still has one, George Marshall remains on it. I can debate with Mark and unlike Greenpeace I do 'Know where Mark live's' - I gave him a lift once (he had a bad back)

George Marshall, and others like Cook do not accept that there is any debate at all, and seek to communicate to others their is no debate, take policy action, ignore any 'sceptics' because of the 97% consensus, etc,etc,etc

We need to be able talk about the messengers, as much, or more so than the message or ways to communicate the 'message'. For example Prof Lewandowsky, Jo Nova gave out copies of her 'The Sceptics Handbook' at an event where he spoke, a year later, Lewandowsky (inviting Cook along) organised a counter event at UWA, to Jo Nova and Anthony Watts speaking at UWA, and a debunking guide (authored by Cook was given out at Watts's meeting at Lewandowky's behest (authored by Cook)

How can they communicate to the middle, the disinterested public, when they appear to be activists, and the sceptics can very easily point out, these guys are nor neutral, why do they pretend to you that they are.

The public will just tune out, seeing to passionate groups fighting with each over and trying to use them.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

NiV --

But I'm trying to give Dan an indication of why some climate scientists are more respected by and less antagonistic to sceptics.

My point is that they are more respected by "skeptics" because of their take on the science, and not based on the criteria you listed (although I think they are criteria that everyone should aspire to). I think the criteria you described are inherently subjective and even if they weren't, they are usually evaluated subjectively. After all, NIV, right?

For the most part, IMO, people look at a given scientist's perspective on the science and then work backwards to assign attributes, IMV, that is a part of motivated reasoning.

By contrast, I've seen Hayhoe claim to appeal to conservatives, but I've never seen any actual conservatives or anyone on this side of the debate express any.

I'm a bit unclear about what you were saying there, but if I get you right I agree. From what I've seen, she has been universally panned by "skeptics," even though she might not do such a bad job when measured by your criteria. Why? Because of her take on the science. I don't think this is about the presentation of the science. I think that this isn't really a question of how the science communicated, but it is about the communicative context.

So if you don't like my list, who would you say were the mainstream climate scientists that antagonised sceptics the least, and why?

From what I see, we can see a directly proportional relationship between the conclusions a climate scientist has reached and the degree to which they antagonize "skeptics." i think there are mild to moderate mediator or moderator effects on that relationship - to some degree related to some attributes of how a scientist communicates; but IMV, if you're looking for the primary causal relationship to explain "skeptics" reaction to climate scientists, the primary mechanism is related to the scientific conclusions. For example, look at how "skeptics'" orientation towards James Annan has changed as he has recently expressed views on reduced sensitivity.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I have no problems communicating with climate scientists (Betts, McNeall, Allen, Edwards, Curry,etc,etc, and dozens of others (mainly UK) scientists that follow me on twitter)- see me communicating with a climate scientist at the Met Office here..
http://www.myclimateandme.com/videos/

(we filmed for about three hours). And as my expenses were paid, train, taxis & lunch, I'm officially in the pay of 'big climate' now... it was too way communication, with trust on both sides, we even agreed the final edit, together.

The problem I have found is that a number of climate communicators, just wish to communicate to others, not to listen to people like me? his includes, Marshall, Cook, and Lewandowsky.. You can go to Skeptical Science and

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Joshua - you don't seem to be writing from the same universe. Plus there is plenty of assertions you make in areas you cannot possibly understand, such as why this or that scientists might be more or less popular with "skeptics".

Fact is that as I told Dan here unless one moves away from the naivety of good vs bad and the putting together of all skeptics in a single category, the conversation will never move on. Never.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Here's an example of a Public Health issue where the scientist went mad. And the public listened, and followed down the path of providing their children a hellish childhood.

Later on one of the victims became a presenter at the BBC and included his science-led suffering in one of the broadcasts: where he also specified how his own son was, in a way, a victim of the mad scientist.

This is what makes me think of Robespierre.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

What is fascinating to me about 'communicators' whether it is on climate science or nutrition is that they become so invested in the polemic that they do not notice when the audience (the general public) has left the room for good, negating the possibility of communication.
The audience seems to agree with Tom Lehrer 'if you can't communicate, the very least you can do is shut up.'
I, as a member of that audience, would like to be valued more. If I am, I will stay engaged.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

Coincidentally, while I am making short comments here, I am simultaneously trying to be an effective communicator for economic development of my local community. I have a lot of skin in the game in this community so I am listening hard to what others are saying here and implementing anything that seems likely to increase my chances of success. Please keep this thread productive.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

Dan, I'm afraid your recommendation of Marshall and Hayhoe puts me back into ridicule mode.
In her latest tweet she writes "97% of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous", a misrepresentation of the Cook claim, which said nothing about "dangerous". OK she is quoting the activists who seem to be allowed to use Barack Obama's name, but that's no excuse for not checking. In your words, Hayhoe is a propagandist. Yes, she is an effective communicator - for the skeptic side. When people like her make so many false or misleading claims, while claiming to be scientists, that's great for sceptic recruitment.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

@Larry:
You must have bitten through your tongue at this point in connection w/ a particular (& particularly conspicuous) aspect of this post.

My tongue's still intact, Dan, and so I don't mind taking the bait once again. This may or may not be what you're referring to (coyly!), but describing the problem as simply varying perceptions "that scientific consensus is consistent with the position that predominates in their cultural or ideological group" I think overlooks or ignores a deeper problem: the sense, varyingly expressed, that "scientific consensus" itself is infected with positions that predominate in a cultural or ideological group.

As you say, this is a predictable response by now, and that's why I haven't been in a rush to make it again. But let me add one small piece of evidence that such cultural forces operate on scientists too, even within their field of expertise -- your own posts. On Friday, you blogged about the latest "97% consensus" paper in a style that was gently mocking and suggested to many that you were approaching a critical position re: the motives or intentions of its authors and publicists. Then, on Saturday, you put up a post in quite a different style that, in effect, tried to walk back any implications of mockery. It seems clear (to me at least) that you felt a need to do so because of some pressure (whether overt or implied, conscious or unconscious) relating to the first post -- some sense, internal or external or both, that it was dangerously close to going outside the boundaries of the EC cultural box, so to speak. Of course, I don't know your actual motives -- any more than I know the actual motives of Cook et al -- I can only speak to what I and others can see. And what I see is that you, like Cook, and like all scientists (as opposed to the Scientist of myth), are, after all, only human, and cultural creatures too.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Lets see...

"..We find that individuals who display high comprehension of science (i.e., those who score higher in science literacy and numeracy) are in fact more culturally polarized than those who display low science comprehension..."

So...is the problem the delivery or is the problem the message? Sounds like the problem is the message as the people best able to understand the issue rejects the message.

The current message is "REPENT !!!...WE ARE ALL DOOMED DUE TO YOUR WICKED ACTS !!!".

That is the wonder of the modern age, being inoculated against snake oil salesman because of constant advertising by the real pros in the advertising game.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

I'm reminded of the time I was talking with my father, and we happened to disagree. When he heard that I did not accept what he said, he said 'OK, don't listen to me.' My response was 'I listened to you, I just don't agree with you.'

There is no need for you to change your method of communication. I have heard you, and I understand you. I just disagree with you. What is there about this you don't understand? Rephrasing the same arguments will not change your basic point. Do you really think that anyone who disagrees with you is, by definition, either stupid or mentally challenged? Do you really think that saying the words slower will help me 'understand?'

For several years I've been saying that I thought that the climate sensitivity value was too high. Leading climate scientists who have been working in this field for years are now coming down towards my expectation. And you're looking for a way to 'communicate' to me? Seriously?

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarkB

@Larry:
You are putting me in a situation far more awkward than any I would ever deliberately place myself!

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Maurizio -

I apologize for the delay in my response. The transport from that other universe got held up in traffic.

Fact is that as I told Dan here unless one moves away from the naivety of good vs bad and the putting together of all skeptics in a single category, the conversation will never move on. Never.

In case you are under some misaprehension that I in any way disagree with that statement, allow me to assure you that I don't.

In fact, I will add to your point: If you look around, you will rather frequently see that while many "skeptics" talk about how "skeptics" are not monolithic in belief (something that is certainly true), many times "skeptics" frequently speak of "skeptics" as if they are monolithic (e.g., by saying that "skeptics" don't believe X or Y), or selectively exclude some "skeptics" from their definition of "skeptic" because of inconvenient beliefs (e.g., "Sky Dragons") in an attempt to describe "skeptics" in some uniform fashion.

Anyway, since you seem to be a serial mischaracterizer of what I say and believe, and in the name of not further cluttering up this thread with typical climate wars banter, maybe we should consider ending our exchange there?

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Maurizio -

BTW - I forgot to mention, the interuniverse Internet lines were also down for a while.

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

NiV -

From the Christy clip:

"People like to demonize CO2..."

Seems pretty partisan to me - and certainly dog whistles antagonistic cultural meanings (unnecessarily. He could simply say that "people disagree about the degree of negative impact from increased ACO2).

"...but we must remember that without CO2 there would be no life on the planet..."

Well, yes that is true - we must remember that, I suppose, but the argumentation employs a logical fallacy for partisan purposes. (Has anyone ever forgotten that? Has anyone ever offered a contradictory argument?) As such, it is guaranteed to fan the flames of antagonistic [partisan] meanings in the climate debate.

"i think the best definition of CO2 is plant food..."

Hmmm. Well, I suppose that might be a useful descriptor, but "best definition?" It is a simplistic argument - that seems to imply (am I wrong about this?) that it is categorically known that increased ACO2, in the natural habitat, would not have negative impact on plant life, or that any negative impact that it might have can be ruled out as having a negative impact to humans in balance. What happened to uncertainties? I will remind you:

5. They acknowledge their own limitations and ignorance, and the uncertainties in the science.


"...

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Just for the sake of demonstrating how hard it is to avoid, aren't you doing for "people" what you say I do for "sceptics"?

"He could simply say that "people disagree about the degree of negative impact from increased ACO2""

Some people simply disagree about the impact, others demonise it. We're not complaining about the people who simply disagree about the impact. Heck, even we often disagree about the impact. It's only the most extreme end of that that Christy wants to address.

I recall a certain advert for children that caused some controversy where CO2 was portrayed as a scary monster - a black cloud with teeth - causing puppies to drown. Is that simply "disagreeing about the impact"?

"Has anyone ever forgotten that? Has anyone ever offered a contradictory argument?"

Yes. People forget about it all the time. The general public have a somewhat spotty recall of the science they learnt in school. And whenever somebody says it, hundreds of people pop up, like you are doing now, to argue against it.

I'm not complaining, you're doing what I asked - trying to identify antagonistic cultural meanings in what Christy said. And if those are the bits you found culturally antagonistic, I can't argue. But if we're truly dealing with a culture that seriously can't accept words like "demonisation" and "plant food", I would have to despair of us ever communicating.

And therefore I'm wondering if in identifying culturally antagonistic meanings, you're identifying things that you personally found antagonistic, based on your disagreement with them, and have pasted them onto the entire culture?

The thing about "dog whistles" is that if you can hear it, you're the dog.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Dan, one of the real problems is: "Are there actually climate realists? Or is this just another case of a useful construct for saving words and thought, but has little reality?"

In the M&N thread http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/4/12/a-scholarly-rejoinder-to-the-economist-article.html when it has been pointed out just what the evidence says, it is not just "skeptics" but "believers" as well that misconstrue the science. And apparently, difficulty reading or responding to adverse evidence.

If one looks at the science, it is just as likely that a doubling of CO2 will result in less than 2C and be a great benefit to humans, as that it will cause huge damages, drought, and ice-melt that raises the ocean levels catastrophically. This is one of the reasons, IMO, that the polarization increases with scientific knowledge.

It has nothing to do with the knowledge itself. It is about policy. One the one hand, we should be encouraging fossil fuel development; on the other, we should drastically curtail its use. With such a range, motivated reasoning and/or politics fills the void.

As I and others have pointed out, perhaps the science communication would be better if the science was better. In this case, better means we should narrow the probabilities to range that would tend to support one policy over another. We need models that do region size well for long time spans, and are known to be useful. We do not have either at present.

The main problem I see is that both sides start with policy and work backwards. Whether this actually happens or is an artifact, I don't know. It matters only in the sense if someone is currently trying to avoid such a situation. The order it happened has little to do, unfortunately, with the current CC/AGW dilemma. With the broad range of results, one can get a low probability, but likely scenario, that matches one's predisposition. And assuming the Goldilocks position is somehow inherently better is just an assumption. Claimed to be a fact, it is a fallacy. People will disagree about assumptions. They can do so honestly.

So, I find that when someone on either side who starts talking about the science, but are really proposing policy, I know to examine their claims carefully. Usually they are selling their particular "pig in a poke", and I am not buying.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

John, thanks for a clear thought.
I too react against someone trying to sell me a pig in a poke. With CC, I react against overinterpreting the science. For instance, I was stunned when the climate simulators admitted under pressure that their models did not include the effects of clouds or of energy exchange between sea and air and that including these effects could change the outcome entirely. If you are trying to sell me a pig, first you have to convince me that you have a pig in the poke and not two snakes and a squid or, more importantly, nothing. After you convince me that you have a pig, you have to sell me on the poke (the policy about the pig). Two many of the proposed policies strike me as having 5,000,000,000 people change their entire culture just because some scientist wants them to. The policies come across as 'Dear India (or China or some developing country), we demand that you give up the aspirations of your company because some guy in the developed world wants you to." or "Dear Americans, you worked hard for your prosperity. No give it to the third world for free. You do not deserve this prosperity." If you expect a policy to be adopted, the science has to be compelling and not oversold and the policy itself has to be culturally coherent and viewed as fair by all. Just my $0.02.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

NiV -

We could haggle about the details of your response, such as this:

And whenever somebody says it, hundreds of people pop up, like you are doing now, to argue against it.

A misreading of what I said - I was not arguing "against" the notion that CO2 is "plant food."

But if we're truly dealing with a culture that seriously can't accept words like "demonisation" and "plant food", I would have to despair of us ever communicating.

Also a mis-reading. I isn't that I "can't accept" words like... plant food any more it is that you can't accept words like "potentially harmful climate change." I am pointing out flaws in how those words are used.

But in the end, what we have is that the clip of Christy has plenty to antagonize partisans in this debate. "Culture," in this context (IMO) is not tightly constrained, and includes partisans who bridge an overlap between political perspectives and loyalties in the climate debate. It was a two minute clip filled with antagonistic statements delivered in a nice, calm manner. It downplayed uncertainties, it didn't take opposing arguments seriously, (I think) it was kind of preachy, etc.

In other words, it was no different than what you object to in how "realists" portray the science. Again, my point was to question your differentiation between the combatants on the basis of your list of criteria. I don't see that differentiation, and I think that you see a distinction because you reverse engineer from your disagreement about the science (and more indirectly, because of motivated reasoning rooted in ideological identifications).


And therefore I'm wondering if in identifying culturally antagonistic meanings, you're identifying things that you personally found antagonistic and have pasted them onto the entire culture?

Again, I am referring to a not-tightly constrained "culture" here. And actually, while I do not personally find them "antagonistic," my point is that they are "culturally" antagonistic within the context of the climate debate.

At any rate, essentially, what you described is my point. This is what combatants in the climate debate do (get antagonized by statements such as those Christy made): because we are all affected by motivated reasoning. My point isn't that "realists" don't culturally antagonize "skeptics" in ways that might be, to some extent, avoidable. Of course they do. I don't think that is debatable. It should be a baseline assumption based on what we know about how people reason in these types of controversies. My point is that it is merely a projection of "cultural" affiliation to believe that such antagonism exists on one side or the other.

Now I disagree with Dan, I think, in the extent to which the antagonism of "skeptics" is rooted in what scientists do or don't say: While I agree that what scientists say does make a difference, I think that the antagonism is inevitable, no matter what people say or how they say it, contingent on the communicative context - and that the corrective measure is to focus on the communicative context more than to correct how the science is communicated.


The thing about "dog whistles" is that if you can hear it, you're the dog.

A gratuitous shot? The next time you read me say that I am not a partisan (I suggest you don't hold your breath), it will be the first time you read it.

The dog packs are on the prowl on both sides of the fence. The dogs on both sides hear the comments like those Christy made, and start howling. Comments such as those he made only exacerbate the problems. They serve to justify tribalism on the one side and to foment tribalism on the other. This is easily predictable - just as would be the reaction to Cook et. al.

Same ol' same ol'.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

JFP - nice comment.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

There are two levels at which cultural cognition works: the level of the perceived problem and the level of the perceived solution.It is assumed that the two levels must effect a cultural match. That is to say, problems identified as Egalitarian are implicitly held to require Egalitarian solutions. The same goes for Individualist problems/solutions, Hierarchical problems/solutions and Fatalist problems/solutions. But I would argue that this isn't necessarily the case, and that in fact some of the most imaginative thinkers have come up with problem/solution pairs that actually don't match, culturally . So, with Climate Change, widely seen as an Egalitarian problem, more work could be done on proposing non-egalitarian, or even anti-egalitarian policy solutions. A good example of this is in the work of John Gummer, former Environment Minister in the UK Government and great admirer of Margaret Thatcher.
http://fourcultures.com/2012/07/12/eating-less-meat/
http://fourcultures.com/2011/08/22/it-matters-who-presents-the-message/

On the whole, climate change represents a massive failure of Individualist policy-making. Instead of recognising climate change as a problem which has clear and wide-ranging Individualist solutions, the very idea that thee could be a problem at all is being denied. I think this comes not especially from Individualism per se, but from smart campaigning by oil and coal companies, which realised that by depicting climate change action as a left-wing, environmentalist, Egalitarian conspiracy, they could enlist anti-Egalitarians as unwitting foot soldiers in the cause of enduring profitability for the incumbent energy suppliers.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfourcultures

A naive question.

Why is it so hard for 'communicators' on climate change or similar topics to admit it, even to themselves, when they are clearly propagandizing and indulging in soliloquies and not communicating? This seems to be a problem in cultural cognition.

Thanks.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

I read your post yesterday. Today a thought struck me. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to state this clearly but it touches on cultural cognition and a particular thing I sometimes see at a number of blogs sometimes labeled skeptic, but many of which call themselves 'lukewarmer'.

From time to time, there are people who appear pop into comments or who have their own blogs and link to ours that more or less advocate this position:

The only proper way to know something is true is to ask an expert. You should not try to work it out yourself: ask an expert, they will tell you. That's the right way. Only right way.

Variations on this include "if you were sick you'd consult an md" and so on. I'm not going to explain my general response for that, but it occurred to me that form your "cultural cognition" point of view, this method can <I>never</I> work with the types of people who consist of the regulars in comments at my blogs. A typical person has at least some of these characteristics.

a) a person with a degree in physical sciences or engineering. (I'm a mechanical engineer).
b) generally has an advanced degree. (I have a ph.d. )
c) business owner-- often entrepreneur in a technology area.

Our "cultural identification is precisely to work things out for ourselves rather than merely reading a glossy power point slide and saying "Well! Thanks for telling me."

As such, it seem likely that from the cultural cognition POV, the approached described will tend to push us toward testing claims <I>more rather than less. That means for a certain demographic, any suggestion that we not bother our 'pretty little heads' and let the experts work it out is likely to trigger greater skepticism rather than less.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

@Lucia: Your comment is related to today's post, no?

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

The only proper way to know something is true is to ask an expert. You should not try to work it out yourself: ask an expert, they will tell you. That's the right way. Only right way.

Variations on this include "if you were sick you'd consult an md" and so on.

I've seen people make similar comments on blogs, and I interpret that they say differently. Usually, such comments are in response to comments denigrating the value of learned "expertise," as indicated by academic credentials, years of study, articles published in respected journals, professional recognition, etc.

When I've read such comments, I haven't usually read them to mean that one should not research something for themselves, but that expert opinion has value and as such should not be rejected out of hand. The point I often see being made is that there is often a contradiction in how "skeptics" treat authority in different aress of uncertainty.

I suspect that your reaction, Lucia, is based on a straw man reading of the comments you were responding to.

Now that isn't to say that for some people, an over-reliance on authority on matters they don't have the knowledge, skills, or brains to understand never happens. Most certainly it does happen. And I think it is the basis for something of a reasonable criticism from "skeptics" of the "realist' position in the climate wars. But: (1) often, I see "skeptics" building straw men out of valid arguments that expertise should not be dismissed out of hand, and (2) I often see selective reasoning from "skeptics" where they denounce "realist" arguments as appealing to authority when they then turn right around and appeal to their own authorities. I could provide examples if you'd like (Judith's posts and comment threads are often full of them).

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua, I agree with you for other sites rather than Lucia's, and the more scientific/math blogs. Since those are the ones I read except Dan's excellent blog, I think you miss the part that authority is being used to derail the discussion.

It is not the science. The science is what is being discussed. It also does not mean that everything that is put up is believed. In fact, there are several views of computer models, for example, that persons do not agree. The conversation is about the disagreement, what constitutes acceptance, what is problematic. The regulars at Lucia's discuss these things, and minds are changed. Not necessarily agreement, but knowledge. What you will see though, is when someone uses authority, and in this case at Lucia's, the comment gets challenged. The person did not even grasp that we were discussing some of the admitted problems by such authorities as Knutti and Tebaldi, who helped write WG1 section on models.

If you were talking of the patrons of WUWT, I would agree mostly. I mostly think they like others do not read, or think about what they read, well.

So, I have to support Lucia. It is not a strawman. Theirs most often are though. It does not matter if in our discussion one is wrong, the purpose is to discuss and learn. Thus, trying to short circuit the conversation by using authority without discussing the science/math of what is under consideration is inappropriate.

This is not 100%. I have seen what you describe, but it too is treated as inappropriate, and the commenter challenged.

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

Joshua

I suspect that your reaction, Lucia, is based on a straw man reading of the comments you were responding to.

I'm not going to argue whether my reading is a 'strawman" reading or 'the one true reading'. I've read many instances and often enough that I think I've seen some in one range some in the other. Communication on blogs is casual enough that many are worded in ways that could be interpreted in either way; some are clearly one, some the other. (I'm not going to hunt down examples. )

That said: I would think that part of "cultural cognition" springs from how comments will be perceived regardless of the speaker's intention. So even if my reading is the "strawman" reading and yours is 'the one true reading' , this would still tell us something about whether attempts to persuade in that matter are more likely to influence the target of the communication to take an open minded view on evidence or more likely to influence them in the other direction.

But: (1) often, I see "skeptics" building straw men out of valid arguments that expertise should not be dismissed out of hand, and (2) I often see selective reasoning from "skeptics" where they denounce "realist" arguments as appealing to authority when they then turn right around and appeal to their own authorities. I could provide examples if you'd like (Judith's posts and comment threads are often full of them).

Of course you could find examples. They exist. I would never deny it.

I often see "those who use the word skeptics in scarequotes" build strawmen out of valid arguments too. I see selective reasoning by people on both "sides" and all "groups". These behaviors are not unique to either 'side' (if you want to see these things as having 'sides') or any particular group. If we were to discuss blog comments, I'm not convinced I see more or less of it in any particular group. I could provide examples of these too, though I admit I don't want to spend the time quote mining. Heck, I can pull some out of Lewandowski/Cooks 'Recursive Fury".

I'm fairly certain that whoever wishes to dedicate more time to quote mining to prove their point would win the quotemining contest.

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Joshua

I suspect that your reaction, Lucia, is based on a straw man reading of the comments you were responding to.

I'm not going to argue whether my reading is a 'strawman" reading or 'the one true reading'. I've read many instances and often enough that I think I've seen some in one range some in the other. Communication on blogs is casual enough that many are worded in ways that could be interpreted in either way; some are clearly one, some the other. (I'm not going to hunt down examples. )

That said: I would think that part of "cultural cognition" springs from how comments will be perceived regardless of the speaker's intention. So even if my reading is the "strawman" reading and yours is 'the one true reading' , this would still tell us something about whether attempts to persuade in that matter are more likely to influence the target of the communication to take an open minded view on evidence or more likely to influence them in the other direction.

But: (1) often, I see "skeptics" building straw men out of valid arguments that expertise should not be dismissed out of hand, and (2) I often see selective reasoning from "skeptics" where they denounce "realist" arguments as appealing to authority when they then turn right around and appeal to their own authorities. I could provide examples if you'd like (Judith's posts and comment threads are often full of them).

Of course you could find examples. They exist. I would never deny it.

I often see "those who use the word skeptics in scarequotes" build strawmen out of valid arguments too. I see selective reasoning by people on both "sides" and all "groups". These behaviors are not unique to either 'side' (if you want to see these things as having 'sides') or any particular group. If we were to discuss blog comments, I'm not convinced I see more or less of it in any particular group. I could provide examples of these too, though I admit I don't want to spend the time quote mining. Heck, I can pull some out of Lewandowski/Cooks 'Recursive Fury".

I'm fairly certain that whoever wishes to dedicate more time to quote mining to prove their point would win the quotemining contest.

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Lucia -

I agree with everything you wrote in your response. Well said.

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I even agreed with all of it the second time. :-)

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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