So either (1) I am a genius in communication after all (P = 0.03), having provoked John Cook and Scott Johnson to offer thoughtful reflections by strategically feigning a haughty outburst (I acknowledge that I expressed my frustration in a manner that I am not proud of). Or (2) Cook & Johnson are sufficiently motivated by virtuous commitment to intellectual exchange to create one notwithstanding my bad manners (P = 0.97).
I don’t propose we conduct any sort of experiment to test these competing hypotheses but instead just avail ourselves of our good fortune.
To enable them to have an expression of my position that admits of and is worthy of reasoned response, I’ve reduced the source of my exasperation/frustration with the Cook et al. study to 4 points. John and Scott’s replies (reflecting their points of view as a scholar of science communication and a science journalist, respectively), follow.
What should follow that, I hope, are additional reflections and insights from others in the “comments” thread.
1. Scholarly knowledge. The Cook et al. study, which in my view is an elegantly designed and executed empirical assessment, doesn’t meaningfully enlarge knowledge of the state of scientific opinion on climate change. The authors find that 97% of the papers published in peer-reviewed journals between 1991 and 2011 “endorsed” the “scientific consensus” view that human activity is a source of global warming. They report further that a comparable percentage of scientists who authored such papers took that position....
Many thanks to Dan Kahan for the opportunity to discuss this important (and fascinating) issue of communicating the scientific consensus. I fully concur with Dan’s assertion that we need to be evidence-based in how we approach science communication. Indeed, my PhD research is focused on the very issue of attitude polarization and the psychology of consensus. The Cultural Cognition project, particularly the paperCultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus, has influenced my experiment design. I’m in the process of analysing data that I hope will guide us towards effective climate communication....
Let me preface this by laying out my biases. I’m thinking about more than just this study/story, though I did cover it. (So there’s that.) I like to cover new studies, and I’d rather not hear that the hard work I put in to that end is pointless, so I’m reacting to Dan’s opinion as it relates to media coverage of studies like this. As an educator with a science background, I also have deficit model motivations—even as I understand that buckets aren’t lining up to be filled and that many are equipped with strainers and sometimes check valves. I am still, in essence, a pourer of what I judge to be useful knowledge. If I didn’t think that was the case, I’m not sure why I’d be trying to communicate (unless it somehow made for lucrative reality television, I guess)....