The Intersection

Okay, so: After reading over some ninety comments, I think I am ready to advance the framing science discussion further. Recall that I am starting from the ground up, because I believe that while I have made some errors and Nisbet has made some errors, and there has been some unfortunate polarization and nastiness on top of that, I still think that the concept of framing holds considerable import for the future of science communication.

So I am now going to defend those premises that received considerable criticism in my previous post. I want to go in order, because I want to play this out logically–and recall, Matt Nisbet agrees that I have represented the basic premises of the “framing science” argument correctly.

First, though, some housekeeping items. Janet parses all the premises here, but I am not clear whether she’s fundamentally disagreeing or mainly problematizing. It seems more like the latter for the most part. As far as that goes, let me say that I wrote these premises up quickly, and so there are probably places where language could be tightened or improved, but I’m confident the basic ideas are there intact.

Another housekeeping item: When some readers demand “substance” it seems they are asking for case studies of how framing works or has succeeded in the past. This is a bit frustrating to me because if you go through everything I have said and written and that Nisbet has said and written there are numerous case studies. In fact, one of them is now in a National Academy of Sciences report! Read here for the example of how framing helped the 2004 California stem cell ballot initiative succeed.

But now, back to the premises….

First of all, it doesn’t seem anyone really rejected, at a fundamental level, premises 1 and 4. To recall, they are (out of order):

Premise 1: “We have long-running politicized science controversies on subjects like evolution and climate change, with separate polarized camps and the repeated use and misuse of complex scientific information in the arguments.”

Premise 4: “Furthermore, in the fragmented media system, many members of the public can opt out of receiving high quality scientific information entirely–and often do. They can just turn the channel. They can watch the Food Network.”

I’m glad we can all basically agree on this.

Premises 2 and 3 were more contested. So let me defend them. First, Premise 2:

“Wonks and science enthusiasts–and ScienceBloggers!–can parse these arguments. But most members of the general public are unlikely to grasp the fine scientific details, and–having neither the time nor the interest to deeply inform themselves about them–are more likely to make up their minds about these complex issues in the absence of real detailed knowledge about them.”

To this there were some objections. Sharon said: “…expecting people to be too stupid or too bored to parse the arguments does them a disservice. I think that getting information out to the public doesn’t need the perfect frame, it just needs someone who’s a good public speaker.” And bsci said: “(2) I think this assumes the details are overly complex or “the public” is overly lazy. It really isn’t hard to grasp the basic concepts on these issues without much work. We don’t expect people to read textbooks, but it should be possible to give the gist of global climate change vs “global warming” or why evolution matters in a 2-5 minute interview. You can’t go into all details, but the main points are possible and can hopefully encourage more searching.”

Perhaps I should clarify. With premise 2, I certainly did not mean to demean anyone’s intelligence. I perhaps most of all do not have the time or the interest to fully inform myself about every complex issue out there. It’s just too much work. So I skip tax policy, medicare policy, peak oil, and, well…many, many other issues. There are vastly more areas where I am more or less ignorant than areas where I am well informed. And how could it be otherwise?

This isn’t about stupidity, this is about how much time there is in a day. Nobody can know everything or even close. Even scientists don’t deeply understand fields outside of their own. So it’s inevitable that most members of the public won’t be deeply informed about complex science policy issues.

Let’s move on to Premise 3:

“Rather, these members of the public will rely on cues, cognitive shortcuts, and sources of information that may not be scientific–e.g., church leaders, neighbors, Fox News. They will use these information sources, in combination with their partisan, ideological, or religious backgrounds, to make up their minds.”

This one also drew some objection. For instance, Jackie wrote, “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.”

Similarly, tulse said: “The motivation for framing seems to be the assumption that the public can’t think critically, and that we can’t teach them to. As a result, we have to rely on what are essentially the same propaganda techniques as our opponents. This may very well work for specific issues in the short term, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem, which is irrational thinking and beliefs.”

Hey, I’m all for long term educational policy improvements–and long term cultural changes. But framing–the height of political pragmatism–is about communicating through the mass media on contested issues of immediate import, where you don’t have time for either educational reform or long term cultural change. So framing should be seen as complementary to these needed efforts.

And…that’s a long enough post for now. I will have more to say on the other premises (and other aspects of this debate) next time I get the chance to post….

Comments

  1. #1 Dr. Free-Ride
    April 3, 2008

    I was trying to get clear on precisely what was being claimed before agreeing or disagreeing. Philosophers like their distinctions clear when it’s possible to make them so.

  2. #2 Sigmund
    April 3, 2008

    I certainly don’t agree with premise one.
    It looks like its been written by the Discovery Institute. Theres absolutely zero scientific controversy about evolution.
    There’s local political problems in various parts of the world primarily due to religious fundamentalists but the vast majority of the worlds educated population (Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea and Japan) have no difficulty in accepting evolution.

  3. #3 Chris C. Mooney
    April 3, 2008

    I said “politicized science controversies” not scientific controversies. I just meant political fights over issues that have science as a chief component….

  4. #4 Sigmund
    April 3, 2008

    What you mean is “religious controversies”.

  5. #5 Pete M.
    April 3, 2008

    Sigmund, it looks to me like you’re being contrary just to be contrary here. There’s a difference between a debate over whether evolution is the right theory (which is a scientific issue) and a debate over whether the unleavened communion wafer is actually transubstantiated into the body of Christ (a religious issue). Chris is talking about public political debates about scientific issues, where, it is true, one side rejects much of the content of scientific reasoning. However, it is still a debate about a scientific issue, even though it is not being conducted in good faith or consistently using the standards of reasoning and evidence of science.

  6. #6 Russell Blackford
    April 3, 2008

    But framing–the height of political pragmatism–is about communicating through the mass media on contested issues of immediate import, where you don’t have time for either educational reform or long term cultural change. So framing should be seen as complementary to these needed efforts.

    But that is not how it’s been presented to date. People actively involved in those “needed efforts” have been criticised savagely for inadvertently abetting the side of unreason, accused of being “clueless”, and even told point blank to shut up in public.

    If “framing” had been presented as a pragamatic bit of advice about specific, short-term activities that are complementary to many others that might be of greater long-term value and importance … well, no one would had have much of a problem with it. At least, I wouldn’t have.

    Look, I’ve managed PR people in the past, and I’ve also seen them in action doing good work for other organisations, including universities. I don’t at all deny that they have skills or that they can be useful (and enjoyable) people to have on your team (or even that they may rely on something like your six points, which I largely agree with). But they also have their limits.

    PR or “communications” people, valuable as they can be, need to understand pretty clearly what those limits are. If your communications officer starts to tell you to abandon your larger goals because pursuing them cuts across aspects of his or her ever-so-carefully-thought-out communications strategy, then you have a communications officer who is starting to show delusions of grandeur.

    In the case at hand, telling Richard Dawkins (and PZ as well, but particularly Dawkins) to keep quiet, lie low, and withdraw from public debate was absolutely bizarre. It was a horrible error. But it was only the culmination of a lot of other bizarre, over-reaching behaviour.

  7. #7 Sigmund
    April 3, 2008

    Well Pete, if you could forgive me for having my own opinion on this matter I happen to think you are wrong. The debate about evolution is entirely a sectarian religious question. It is about one particular branch of one religion trying to impose its religious doctrine on the rest of the population. Well, lets be specific here, on the population of the USA. They occasionally try it over here in Europe but just get laughter directed at them from the non-lunacy inclined majority.

  8. #8 Chris C. Mooney
    April 3, 2008

    To me, framing has always been presented in this way. We have always said this in our talks, our audiences have always understood it. The talks are on YouTube….look, I will deal with the PZ/Dawkins stuff in due course, but I’ll say it again–I don’t want them to shut up! PZ has reviewed both of my books and in each case reviewed them wonderfully and memorably. Why would I want him to shut up? It’s nuts.

    Nisbet was wrong to suggest what he did. I am repeating myself by saying this too. But maybe if I repeat myself enough, we can finally talk about the basics of framing and realize that we all actually agree on far more than we disagree.

  9. #9 Josh
    April 3, 2008

    Chris, I appreciate that you’re trying to approach this argument in a logical way, but as others have pointed out on several threads, you’re taking an awfully long time to get to the meat of the subject. Enough verbiage, please. With all due respect, you’re using 686 words when 20 would do. You’re using three posts when one is called for. You are conspicuously avoiding the very thing that got most people riled up – the “mistakes” that you admit you and Nisbet made, but that you haven’t named, for more than a week. .

    I realize all this can seem like a mob trying to get you to crucify yourself, but it really isn’t. People just want you to cut the excessive philosophizing and talk in simple, succinct terms about this issue. You and Nisbet screwed up here. OK, we all make mistakes. But *stop* framing this in verbose introductions and discursive dancing around the topic. Just address it; stop complicating and obfuscating the real issues. Stop lecturing us like an undergraduate class who need to be shown basic theory. Enough disquisitions. Please:

    1. Name the mistakes you think you made.

    2. Name the mistakes you think Nisbet made.

    3. Own up to the criticisms you think are justified.

    4. Argue against the criticisms you don’t think are justifed.

    That’s it. It’s not too much to ask (and a writer ought to know this). You’re insulting us all over again with this tediousness.

  10. #10 Ph(i)Nk 0
    April 3, 2008

    I agree with Sigmund in that the issue is much larger than the science behind evolution. This cannot be labeled as a “scientific controversy”. It may not be a “religious controversy” either, but what is at stake in the US is less the role of science in society than the role of religion. Is the US a secular or christian country?

  11. #11 outeast
    April 3, 2008

    As this debate rages on, the inevitable question arises: How much storm can a teacup hold?

    Honestly, I fail to see this debate going anywhere. Everyone seems to agree that capital-S Science is all about the data – about the pursuit of empirically verifiable fact. And everyone seems to agree on the basic premise that the communication of science needs ‘framing’ in the sense that it needs to be conveyed with regard to policy goals, the needs of the target audience, and audience ability to understand.

    That’s well and good: in cases where a cohesive message is needed – say, when a scientific body is making a public statement or attempting to achieve a specific policy impact – giving thought to framing and maintaining a consistent frame may well be useful.

    Talking about framing is fine as a way to look at communication, but does that get us anywhere when it comes to a conversation about science? There will always be a thousand voices, a thousand audiences, a thousand times a thousand messages.

    Setting out the reasons why framing is necessary is a waste of time because everyone actually believes in it. The current storm seems to have been about how science should be framed, not really about whether it should be framed; but since the various people involved are interested in conveying different messages and in targeting different audiences they are hardly likely to agree on a single frame.

  12. #12 Christophe Thill
    April 3, 2008

    I still tend to think that context matters more than is considered here. What’s the goal ? Preventing bad laws to be passed is a legitimate goal. So is raising awareness, ensuring the quality of science education, etc. But I have a hard time believing that one set of methods (if it is what is meant by “framing”) will fit all those needs just as well.

  13. #13 caynazzo
    April 3, 2008

    I read the link you sent as a responder to the outcry for more substance on framing-in-action on these posts. Basically, the California stem cell debate was a declared victory for framing because the pro-stem cell side raised and spent way more advertising dollars and had Brad Pitt on their side? Also, apparently scientific research was given the boot in favor of expedient medical advances, improved local economy and something about morality. When you don’t promote science for science’s sake you put bad ideas in peoples head that science equals technology. Then cynics like McCain are left unchecked when they mock funding to sequence the Grizzly genome and the science you’re trying to defend is left where?

  14. #14 Pete M.
    April 3, 2008

    Sigmund and Ph(i)Nk,
    I am aware that the push for ID in the US is motivated by the desire of a vocal subgroup to impose their religious belief set on the populous at large. The debate about climate change does not, I think, share this motivation. Rather, what we have are strong, monied interests trying to undermine the case for global warming primarily out of short term self-interest, rather than religious belief (though of course this over-simplifies a complex set of motivations).

    But in both cases the question at hand is a scientific question: is evolution the right theory? Is global warming a genuine threat, and how severe? In fact, that the debate over the teaching of evolution is about a scientific question is the reason that the ID proponents keep losing! They fail to offer any competing scientific theory, regardless of how often and how loudly they claim that ID is science.

    I agree that it would be misleading to call either case a “scientific controversy,” because this implies that it is a controversy internal to science, which is of course in both cases mentioned above not true. But in both cases it is still a debate about a scientific question, which I believe is what Chris meant (see the third comment above, by Chris).

    For the record, I’m still a skeptic with regard to framing and look forward the debate here about it over the next several days, but I think that the argument about premise 1 is a red herring. With that in mind, I won’t comment on it anymore, and leave you all the last word.

  15. #15 Randy
    April 3, 2008

    Chris, it seems like for the sake of many commentators you need to give an introduction to what “politics” is. I think several comments (sigmund, here, Moran on other threads) clearly shows why scientists just look stupid in public testimonies and other places (like when they think they can go head to head with Bill O’Reilly)

  16. #16 Matti K.
    April 3, 2008

    Chris: “PZ has reviewed both of my books and in each case reviewed them wonderfully and memorably. Why would I want him to shut up? It’s nuts. ”

    If you didn’t wish PZ to shut up about “expelledexpelled”, why did you write what you wrote behind the links below?

    http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/03/this_controversy_helps_ben_ste.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/03/expelled_screenwriter_wants_to.php

  17. #17 Tulse
    April 3, 2008

    I’ll agree with others here — the problem isn’t the theory per se. I think most everyone would agree that there are occasions when the immediate needs of public policy mean that one can’t go into the nuance of a scientific issue, and that in those cases the most effective way to produce short-term change may be to appeal to some practical benefit or other interest.

    The real issue, the one that caused this whole thing to blow up recently, is the perceived attitude that framing is the way to communicate science, “The New Paradigm”. Regardless of your protestations, it is clear that the issue has not been successfully framed as “here is some advice that some folks might find useful in some circumstances”, but rather “here is The Method that must be used, and anyone who doesn’t is working against science”. I can’t for the life of me figure out how alleged communications experts could go so wrong in framing this debate (although you have fortunately noted that irony), and I must admit that such failing really causes me to question the expertise that the framing proponents alleged have. What kind of reaction did you expect when two non-scientists, a journalist and a communications prof, storm onto Science Blogs and start demanding that scientists change the way they work?

    I really don’t think the disagreement is with the theory itself, but instead with the degree of its applicability, it suggested primacy, and the perceived arrogance of its presentation. Imagine if, when the framing approach was first laid out, the presentation was something like this:

    “There are some strategies that been generated by communications experts that some folks in the sciences might find helpful in some circumstances. These persuasion techniques may be especially useful in situations where the issues are politically contentious and/or involve the public, or where it is desirable to produce political change in the short term. These techniques can complement the more traditional approach to science communication, where the goal is primarily about producing understanding in the long term rather than persuasion in the short term. For those who are interested, Nisbet and I will be posting ways in this approach can be helpful to scientists, providing examples of situations where, when short-term socio-political change is needed, these techniques can produce real results.”

    I really doubt that anyone would have reacted viscerally to this approach, or indeed had any major objection. It is indeed ironic that the problem is largely in how framing has been framed.

  18. #18 bsci
    April 3, 2008

    I’ll add on to caynazzo that I don’t consider the CA stem cell institute a clear victory for science policy. In fact many scientists, even some due to benefit from it, were adamantly against it because it proposed funding science with an added $3billion of state debt and opened the door for other, less valuable proejcts to be funded by debt at the whim of whoever could gather the votes. In fact the utter disfunctionality of the project meant it took over 3 years before a single dollar when towards research. If this is THE peak of framings success, it’s a bad sign.
    I’ll admit that nationally, the basic concepts of Framing have worked well on the stem cell/morality issue, but they’ve also greatly exaggerated the short-term benefits of stem cell research and past exaggerations of this type rarely end well for science funding.

  19. #19 chezjake
    April 3, 2008

    I said “politicized science controversies” not scientific controversies. I just meant political fights over issues that have science as a chief component….

    I think this is the first area where “language could be tightened or improved.” It seems to me that “politicized science controversies” are of at least three types, and that each type should probably require a different style of communication.

    First would be the controversies which really amount to science vs. denial of scientific reality. That would include all the evolution vs. creationism, the HIV denial, the anti-vaccination and other “woo” proponents.

    Second would be areas where there is still legitimate scientific debate. Probably most of the controversies that fit here are those that are in the “What is the best way to deal with X problem?” where the answers will affect current and future policies.

    Third would be areas where “interested parties” are deliberately trying to bend or selectively choose scientific data to fit their particular political or economic agenda. This is where most of the global warming, climate change, and many other environmental issues seem to fit.

    A probable fourth area would be where the primary debate is over the ethical implications of a given area of scientific research.

    At least some of these controversies seem to require direct confrontation over the fact that science is being ignored completely, denied, or bent and distorted. Others probably require a more diplomatic approach, and I’m guessing that those are the ones most likely to benefit from what you refer to as “framing.”

    I certainly cannot see “framing” as a “”one size fits all” answer to dealing with “politicized science controversies.”

  20. #20 MH
    April 3, 2008

    Tulse suggested: “There are some strategies that been generated by communications experts that some folks in the sciences might find helpful in some circumstances. These persuasion techniques may be especially useful in situations where the issues are politically contentious and/or involve the public, or where it is desirable to produce political change in the short term. These techniques can complement the more traditional approach to science communication, where the goal is primarily about producing understanding in the long term rather than persuasion in the short term. For those who are interested, Nisbet and I will be posting ways in this approach can be helpful to scientists, providing examples of situations where, when short-term socio-political change is needed, these techniques can produce real results.”

    Now that’s how to frame the subject of framing for Scienceblogs. Chris, I really hope you take note.

  21. #21 bsci
    April 3, 2008

    On the framing issue, it’s interesting that the more I read of your posts and others, the less I buy into it. I do see some truth in the idea, but the execution, framed as framing is just flawed.
    Here’s what seems probably to me. The old model of science communication was the we all do what we can and some Great Communicators magically appear and make previously confusing topics accessible to many more people. When science is being directly attacked, we can’t just assume that these Communicators will magically appear when and where they are needed. We need to get a better feel for what these Communicators either consciously or unconsciously do and teach others how to do this.

    This means more than just writing up science in lay press. Its taking the message to the proposed audience (focus groups and surveys) and seeing how well the communication works. It means including these skills as a central part of the education of scientists. It doesn’t mean we to fit all science communication into a list of principles. It doesn’t mean that a repeated frame of concepts is always the best solution. It also means that we accept that different audiences want different things highlighted, but not that white lies are EVER acceptable for promoting science (see my stem cell post above).

    I think this concept of communication is fundamentally different from your outlined underlying principles of framing.

  22. #22 Matti K.
    April 3, 2008

    Chris: “But maybe if I repeat myself enough, we can finally talk about the basics of framing and realize that we all actually agree on far more than we disagree.”

    That’s a truism. In my opinion the purpose of discussion is to clarify possible misunderstandings, not so much to build a team spirit. I’m a bit disturbed about the missionary attitude you and Nisbet have regarding framing.

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    April 3, 2008

    Sigmund” “What you mean is ‘religious controversies'”

    Not necessarily. The political debate on climate change isn’t particularly religious, and has more to do with the profits of various businesses, like fossil fuel companies, being threatened. The pattern is still about the same as in the evolution vs. creation controversy: science vs. denialism.

  24. #24 Sigmund
    April 3, 2008

    Randy, believe it or not, most of us non US based scientists aren’t likely to want to go head to head with O’Reilly. A lot of us actually have real news channels in our own countries.
    Am I completely wrong to take the framing question on face value as something applicable to all scientists?
    If this debate is purely about political strategies applicable to the USA then I’ll bow out here and let you Americans argue amongst yourselves, however if its meant to apply to us all I’d ask you to remember that not all of us live in Fox TV Jesus-land.

  25. #25 Jon Winsor
    April 3, 2008

    The political debate on climate change isn’t particularly religious…

    What these controversies often do have in common is the tactics used. You have the parallel institutions that establish, elaborate, and promote ideologically correct positions, rather than the positions that have merit.

    Then you have the right’s media echo chamber as well as a group of party politicos who are willing to propagate those positions (they read over the Heritage/CEI/Discovery Institute fact sheet during the limo ride over to the media appearance). Finally, you have a mainstream media that often lacks the resources or interest to make sure the truth gets out as anything more than a “he said/she said” controversy.

    Against this backdrop, a thought-out, well-framed presentation of the science becomes very important.

  26. #26 Mecha
    April 3, 2008

    I’m sorry, Tulse’s words that were praised seemed very familiar. Then I went over to Nisbet’s blog and clicked on the ‘What is framing?’ and ‘Popular Science vs Framing’ links, and found exactly what he was talking about needing from them for things to be good. Suggested frames, motivations, the case for framing.

    If Tulse is going to say ‘Scienceblogs went crazy because you used the word must, you should have came to us with head bowed’ while being on the side of all the people praising PZ for being so frank and honest about telling people they’re delusional morons, that’s more than disingenuous, especially given that Mooney and Nisbet have given more than enough information. Dare I say that sounds a lot like concern trolling when it benefits you, and ‘I’ll tell the truth when I damn well want’ when it doesn’t? Demanding that someone be ‘just a little nicer and I’ll hear what they have to say?’ I thought science was supposed to be about truth, not ego, for everyone who said that Nisbet was evil for proposing spin. Maybe Nisbet thought better of scientists. More the folly his, apparently.

    Let me give you an example from Nisbet’s explanation on his blog. “in the contentious policy debates that take place over an election cycle or a few years, scientists must learn to focus on “framing” their messages in ways that engage specific publics, while discovering new media platforms for reaching targeted audiences.” Not ‘Scientists can never say anything if they don’t do what we say.’ It is clearly a proscription to deal with contentious policy debates. It sounds exactly like paper or proposal language, actually. I’m sure many people are familiar with writing those, and the language typically used in them. And yet, the people most used to it were apparently least capable of handling it.

    And Mooney pretty much nailed the fact that people aren’t reading the research or the backstory. They’re just assuming that various peoples’ misreadings (such as PZ’s ‘I don’t know what it means, but it sounds like spin, and I don’t want no truck with that!’ initial approach) are correct. If you’re not willing to look into a discussion that you are emotionally invested in, how can you turn around and say, ‘But we should just tell people what they know, and it’ll work!’ That is some surprising support of point #2, by the very people screaming at Chris, Sheril, and Matt.

    Let’s face it. Behavior like this is flat out special pleading on the part of the people demanding that Chris explain himself right now. That he use the tone they want. That they he says the words they want to hear, or else they’ll continue flinging crap at him and telling him and Sheril that they don’t deserve to be on Scienceblogs, but if PZ tells people to fuck off when they make requests that are just as free-speech protected as his own speech, ha ha, that’s just PZ, can’t you take it? Can’t you? And stop doing all that silencing of PZ, with his complete silence after you hurt his feelings!

    We were all here when PZ’s initial responses were ‘But that’s spin!’ and the hordes responded in kind. If you want to get past the crap, be honest with yourselves, and what you’re demanding, and how you’re acting just like the people you say are unconvincable on the other side.

    -Mecha

  27. #27 Scholar
    April 3, 2008

    Chris Mooney Finally Admits:

    “Nisbet was wrong to suggest what he did.”

    I guess that leaves Nisbit and Jon “i’m glad the adults are here” Winsor as the only ones who still thinks PZ should shut up.

    Or has Jon Winsor finally reached adolescence?

  28. #28 Tulse
    April 3, 2008

    If Tulse is going to say ‘Scienceblogs went crazy because you used the word must, you should have came to us with head bowed’ while being on the side of all the people praising PZ for being so frank and honest about telling people they’re delusional morons, that’s more than disingenuous, especially given that Mooney and Nisbet have given more than enough information.

    PZ has never claimed that his “frame” for communicating was the only one, or even the only effective one, or that this was intended primarily for the public, or that other people couldn’t address science communication in whatever way they wanted (regardless of how skeptical he might personally be about their approach). By contrast, Nisbet publicly told PZ to shut up, to let the “professionals” handle the matter of Expelled. That is the proximal cause of the current kerfluffle.

    As for the parts of Nisbet’s blog you cite, I have no problem with the content of them, as far as that goes. My problem is primarily the claim, usually implicit but sometimes very explicit, that “framing” is the only way one should communicate about science, and if one isn’t using a specific frame, one is hurting science. That approach completely ignores the notion that individuals in science have very different interests, that some are more concerned about long-term understanding and education than short-term persuasion on specific policy issues, and that even if interests do coincide, it may very well be beneficial to have more extreme views expressed to move the range of acceptable public discourse (the Overton Window). I don’t see any of these concerns addressed in Nisbet’s work, certainly not on any regular basis.

    I cannot see how anyone can say that the alleged experts in communication have not handled this extraordinarily poorly, and how that doesn’t reflect on their alleged expertise.

  29. #29 Jon Winsor
    April 3, 2008

    “Scholar,” Reading helps. Here’s what I’ve said:

    1. I don’t think anyone ever said “shut up.” I know I never did. But “shut up” sure whips everyone into a frenzy, doesn’t it?

    2. I don’t know enough about this story to know if PZ should have spoken out or not. Without a doubt, “Expelled” is a piece of propaganda. PZ could have been productive in highlighting that fact. I don’t know. And that’s what I’ve said.

    3. I disagree with PZ and the New Atheists about a lot of things. But to some people commenting here, it seems like “you’re either with us or you’re a creationist.” Now that’s adolescent.

  30. #30 Chris C. Mooney
    April 3, 2008

    At least when I’m frustrated, Mecha captures exactly how I feel. Though I wouldn’t put it quite as strongly, because honestly I feel like I have made mistakes too.

    But consider: I totally *agree* with bsci’s “concept of communication” that is claimed to be “fundamentally different” from mine. How is that possible? How could bsci think I’m saying something so much different from what I’m saying?

    Or consider the tulse quote which I also totally agree with and applaud: “There are some strategies that been generated by communications experts that some folks in the sciences might find helpful in some circumstances. These persuasion techniques may be especially useful in situations where the issues are politically contentious and/or involve the public, or where it is desirable to produce political change in the short term. These techniques can complement the more traditional approach to science communication, where the goal is primarily about producing understanding in the long term rather than persuasion in the short term.”

    So how could tulse and I conceivably be opposed?

    I submit to you that what is happening here is a matter of polarization. Nothing radical has actually been proposed, but people have intense views about it because framing has been powerfully disparaged and because Nisbet and PZ have been having brutal battles.

    That is why I am trying to calm things down and get back to basics. If I’m allowed to do so, I’m quite confident I can successfully establish that we all actually agree far more than we disagree.

  31. #31 AtheistAcolyte
    April 3, 2008

    Josh – (towards the top)

    Chris, I appreciate that you’re trying to approach this argument in a logical way, but as others have pointed out on several threads, you’re taking an awfully long time to get to the meat of the subject. Enough verbiage, please. With all due respect, you’re using 686 words when 20 would do. You’re using three posts when one is called for. You are conspicuously avoiding the very thing that got most people riled up – the “mistakes” that you admit you and Nisbet made, but that you haven’t named, for more than a week. .

    You can’t blame him for being thorough. If it’s all so tedious to you, just go read another blog for a week and come back when he’s possibly written more along the lines you’re looking for. He’s trying to be reasonable and is explaining his logic step-by-step. Whether or not you agree with the logic, you should at least give him some points for effort.

  32. #32 Maria
    April 3, 2008

    I guess at this point the main point of contention is in the application of these principles. That is, in your (as in you and Nisbet) critiques of PZ and Dawkins. Since their goal is not to persuade in short-term political debates (such as a vote on a specific proposal), but to make the case for a worldview radically different from that of most people (atheism and science vs religion and superstition), then their strategies will differ from those you tend to advocate. In fact, “framing” will sometimes be contrary to their whole project, which clearly is not the same as yours.

  33. #33 Jim Harrison
    April 3, 2008

    What complicates this dispute is that two very different questions are being discussed under the same rubric. There are obvious formal analogies between the problem of figuring out the best way to communicate about evolution and problem of figuring out the best way to communicate about climate change, but the politics and passions involved are very different. And that’s how we all got trapped in a labyrinth of scholastic distinctions about framing and other academic abstractions.

  34. #34 Siamang
    April 3, 2008

    In the middle of this discussion, I want to say that Sigmund has expressed something that may be of use as a frame.

    “The debate about evolution is entirely a sectarian religious question. It is about one particular branch of one religion trying to impose its religious doctrine on the rest of the population.”

    That’s a great frame. I really, really think so. I think it’s worth point out, at every turn, the fact that there are OECs, YECs, IDs, Evolutionary Creationists, Theistic Evolutionists, Hovinders, Hams, etc within Christianity. Show this to be a war going on within religion, not within science.

  35. #35 Scholar
    April 3, 2008

    John Winsor, thank you for attempting to act like an adult. :)

    “I disagree with PZ and the New Atheists about a lot of things.”

    But certainly you agree that Creationism and the story of Genesis is bogus. That Creationist dogma needs to be countered whenever it rears its head in the classroom or political sphere or even something as trivial as Hollywood propaganda (Expelled).

    If not, you are swimming against reality and rational thought.

    (like so many of the adolescents who post here, sorry couldn’t resist)

  36. #36 Jon Winsor
    April 3, 2008

    It is about one particular branch of one religion trying to impose its religious doctrine on the rest of the population.

    Just out of curiosity, is there a Shinto war on science? Something tells me there isn’t. Probably because they don’t think they’re competing with science. Two different realms that don’t really intersect…

    But maybe some of them might think they were competing, though, if there was a New A-Shintoist school who started telling them off. “Shintoism is a form of child abuse,” etc., etc. Hmmmm…

  37. #37 bill
    April 3, 2008

    I went to your link about the National Academy of Sciences report, and this is what I don’t like:

    “Effective framing also requires that there be “a lot of coordination and discipline in how you apply these messages,” said Nisbet. National communication campaigns need to be coordinated, whether the topic is stem cell research or climate change. The message at the national level needs to be coordinated with the message at state and local levels.”

    Nisbet seems to think that he is the Coordinator of the National Campaign, and that PZ is the guy at the local level who should follow directions and not stray off message. If there’s a specific campaign being fought, like the stem cell thing, then, yes, discipline of those in the campaign is a must. But suggesting that the free expression of scientists like Myers should be self-censored seems, to me anyway, repugnant.

  38. #38 windy
    April 3, 2008

    We were all here when PZ’s initial responses were ‘But that’s spin!’ and the hordes responded in kind.

    Has PZ finally acquired time travel capabilities to rival Darwin’s, because this falls a bit short of your description?

  39. #39 Simon D
    April 3, 2008

    Chris,

    I get the sense that most people actually do think premises 2 and 3 are correct, but deeply wish those premises were not true, and hence become hostile when you suggest that we all just have to accept it. It is that old argument: work with the broken system, or try to fix it?

    I think the key thing we need to avoid in “framing” or working with the broken system is dumbing things down too much. On climate change, there is often cognitive dissonance. Fear of having to change one’s behaviour (reduce emissions) leads to doubting the science. The lack of understanding of the science makes this possible. Most people only know the conclusion — greenhouse gases = global warming — not the why. It is like a movie set, all exterior, no foundation. If we could provide just a bit of foundation, seriously, it takes 15-20 minutes in my public seminars, I find the dissonance is much less likely to occur.

  40. #40 Chris Hallquist
    April 3, 2008

    Everyone read that link given by Windy. Hopefully, it will remove any doubt that we do agree on some things–but also that the failure to recognize what we agree on is not a big problem.

    Still a little puzzled by your views on the “shut up” issue, Chris. When you talk about stuff from PZ you like, all you come up with is him writing good reviews of your books. Do you also want him to actually do the main things he does on his blog? And it’s beginning it’s beginning to look like you thought Nisbet was just plain out wrong about the ideas, not the communication, expressed in the post that sparked this–confirmation here?

    Finally, I have to say reading this post, I have a problem with #2: it falsely equates “science” with “fine scientific details” that take a lot of work to grasp. For a counter example, see this.

  41. #41 SteveF
    April 3, 2008

    I’ve just been watching this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RULIL2zUHpE&feature=user

    and have noticed that if you stop the video, quite often Matt looks like Hank Azaria.

    Carry on.

  42. #42 Jon Winsor
    April 3, 2008

    But certainly you agree that Creationism and the story of Genesis is bogus… If not, you are swimming against reality and rational thought.

    Here’s a couple things to keep in mind: People have been working at the project of eliminating superstition for centuries. It’s a good goal, but crucially, it’s a long term one. The other thing is that it’s fundamentalists who read Genesis as a literal record, and who are overrepresented in the ranks of political activists. But the view Sam Harris has that “the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist” is spoken like someone who hasn’t done much field work

    (But anyway, I’m probably getting OT…)

  43. #43 Matt Penfold
    April 3, 2008

    Chris,

    A good number of issues within science are contentious amongst the general public, not just in the US but around the world. When you look as issues such as climate change, evolution or stem cell research it is not just in the US that these issues cause problems. For example the Catholic church in the UK is currently making a lot of noise opposing human/cow hybrid cells that are used to create stem cells and provide more material for research.

    You have said that part of framing can mean presenting your message in a different way to different audiences, and I think it is fair to say a frame that may work in the US may well not work in the UK.

    The issue I feel has not been addressed, and I am hoping you will, is how to go about this presenting different frames to different audiences, maybe even in different countries, when there is probably not that great a number of scientists who are vocal about the field in the public arena. Dawkins has been criticised for putting off people in the US from hearing what he has to say about evolution because of his message about religion, yet in the UK there does not seem to be that same problem.

    Essentially what I am trying to ask is how can this framing be done to different audiences when there may well be a shortage of scientists who can explain their subject to the public well. There are a large number of biologists in the world, but there are not a large number of books that explain the theory of evolution well. There are even fewer books that explain climate change or the potential of stem cells well. I know you wrote a book on climate change, but as I am sure you will admit your frame was very much US centred and lacks some relevance to other audiences. The ability to master your subject and be able to explain it to people with no specialist training is not a skill everyone possesses.

  44. #44 Michael Glenn
    April 3, 2008

    So how could tulse and I conceivably be opposed?

    Because the approach of tulse (and of bsci, for that matter) presents framing in a provisional, nuanced way that makes clear it’s a tactic for specific situations, not a universal strategy that must be used? Even the quote offered by Mecha reads “in the contentious policy debates that take place over an election cycle or a few years, scientists must learn to focus on ‘framing’ their messages in ways that engage specific publics, while discovering new media platforms for reaching targeted audiences” (emphasis mine). Granted the “contentious policy debates” context in this specific quote, do we need the universalizing “scientists must”?

    I read the NAS piece linked by Mooney, and while many of the suggestions make sense as tactics in specific situations, the piece never clearly presents them as a selection of approaches from a larger suite.

    Mix this universalizing with “shut up,” and you get polarization.

    As the not unsympathetic piece by Myers (linked above by windy) makes clear, there are contexts in which frame breaking, not frame making, may be desirable.

    Meanwhile, I do see a difference between tulse and bsci on the one hand and Nisbet and Mooney on the other.

  45. #45 Russell Blackford
    April 3, 2008

    Chris, we’re really not out to crucify you. Speaking for myself, I feel for you in your current situation and have good wishes for you to sort this out … and I dont’ want us to lose whatever may be of value in your approach. I’m also trying to be patient. But I think it’s important for you to understand that the following is not correct insofar as it’s meant to be true of how framing has been framed on ScienceBlogs (and often elsewhere):

    framing has always been presented in this way. We have always said this in our talks, our audiences have always understood it.

    That may well be how it was presented in the talks you did on the road, which might explain why you were well-received.

    But at the same time, we’ve seen all this talk for a long time about the New Atheist Noise Machine, Dawkins being a gift to fundamentalists, and so on. The strong message being framed has been that what Dawkins, etc., are doing is cutting across something more important, and that their message is counterproductive to … well, to the cause of science or something.

    That is not presenting framing in the way that Tulse described.

    Really, all you have to do is say that framing can be useful in certain situations, that you guys overreached quite a bit even before the “Dawkins and PZ shut up” incident, and that you and Sheril were misguided to defend your friend Matt Nisbet in that incident (though I respect your loyalty, etc.).

    I’m sure the rest of us will then be happy to talk to you about whatever limited value framing does have – and I’m sure it does have some, provided that its claims are appropriately qualified, etc., and its ambitions are kept within appropriate limits.

    By all means do it your way, and I’ll continue to try to be patient, but it does look to me as if you’re doing this in reverse order. Many of us would like to be reassured that you understand the limitations of framing, and specifically that it is not meant to override other agendas and efforts such as those of Dawkins, before we buy any of the specifics.

  46. #46 Larry Moran
    April 3, 2008

    Chris, here’s a specific example.

    I think Americans are making a big mistake by attacking creationists in the courtroom. The validity of creationism is not a legal question–it’s a science question.

    I think students would benefit by hearing about creationism and other pseudo-sciences in the classroom. That way they can meet the problem head-on.

    Here’s another example. I think Michale Behe makes some good points from time to time. He’s not nearly as bad as Bill Dembski. Am I allowed to say that in public?

    How does this fit into your concept of framing? Am I supposed to keep quite about my personal opinion because it’s not sticking to the program? Who decides what frame scientists are supposed to employ?

    Your concept of framing is to advance a political agenda. You want scientists to be policy advocates when, in fact, many of them aren’t interested. Politicians can be good at framing–look at what Al Gore has done for global warming.

    But here’s the problem. There are many scientists who could not give the Al Gore lecture because there are too many scientific things wrong with it. Scientists can’t just ignore the correct science in order to dumb things down and convince people to take action. You are asking too much when you ask scientists to abandon their core principles in order to be more convincing in front of the assistant to some Senator.

  47. #47 Mr_G
    April 3, 2008

    State of the art: Software for Frame Analysis

  48. #48 Shirakawasuna
    April 3, 2008

    Premise 1: “We have long-running politicized science controversies on subjects like evolution and climate change, with separate polarized camps and the repeated use and misuse of complex scientific information in the arguments.”

    Janet pointed out that there is no significant scientific controversy over the generalities of evolution, and I think it’s those generalities that you are trying to say are controversial, but they are entirely in the political sphere. You should probably rephrase.

    As for premises 2 and 3, I thought Janet also did a good job here in pointing out that scientists *already* deal with this by simplifying their messages and taking case studies, which she described in general as putting the details in a black-box. As framing is meant to be something new and different, one must assume that you propose something else that follows from these premises.

    There are very strong correlations in the questions being asked here and you’ve finally gotten to one: where is framing effective?

    Much of the link you gave to Nisbet’s blog (the response to this question) was simply redescribing framing in the ‘Hey, that sounds good!’ way, in other words very generally. PZ is behind that message, so far as I can tell. But let’s see what the report Nisbet lists says. I thought this detail was particularly important:
    “Framing can be directed toward different goals and outcomes, Nisbet pointed out. It may seek to increase the size of the audience interested in science. It may be designed to create polarization in a particular debate, thus shaping preferences for policies informed by science. Framing also may be used to enhance trust in science or shape personal or political behavior.”

    Now this is where I have trouble reconciling what Nisbet says in one place (this article) and what he says here.

    Notice that Nisbet’s entire premise in that link is based on a very general application of the goal: PZ is bad for ‘science’. At no point does he say simply ‘PZ and Dawkins may be hurting *my* and *others* goals of promoting science by using reconciliatory language and methods with theists’, no. Instead he uses insulting declarations, properly responded to with a ‘fuck you’ by Myers. Here’s one example:
    “If Dawkins and PZ really care about countering the message of The Expelled camp, they need to play the role of Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support: Lay low and let others do the talking.”

    In what way is that the proper application of framing? Nisbet has already set up his *own* goal: convince people of various scientific points (fairly superficially). PZ and Dawkins have another: think critically, learn that antievolutionists tend to be liars or completely incompetent or both. If they think that results in atheism, so be it. Naturally, Nisbet ignores the fact that there are other goals besides *his*, which is what you do as well in your other posts (‘This Controversy Helps Ben Stein, People’) with condescending language, “Why is that hard to understand?”. Can you see why we might, you know, think that you agree with him? Can you also see why we would be frustrated that this very important distinction, which is that of the *goal* framing is applied to, is constantly ignored despite it being the primary criticism of the framing concept as presented by you and Nisbet?

    Now, I know that you aren’t Nisbet, and so do others. In general, we’ve been very clear about this, which is again why it’s seen as insulting and as an attempt to deflect by the majority who actually have very simple questions which have been asked of you and Nisbet for quite some time.

    The article moves on to get to the point: a California stem cell research bill passed. Nisbet claims this is an example of framing. He may be right but this is definitely not terribly good evidence. Nisbet didn’t even *try* to show that the framing concept was ever communicated to the proponents of the stem cell research bill. This does allow us to get an idea for what he thinks framing should be used for, though: simplify the message, points out the many benefits, conveniently ignore the other implications. Scientists use the first two all the time already and this is hardly something that defines framing. The last one, however, is the primary contention: willfully omitting important parts of the implication of research is lying, plain and simple. Scientists don’t like lying. To quote you, “Why is that so hard to understand?”.

  49. #49 trrll
    April 3, 2008

    think Americans are making a big mistake by attacking creationists in the courtroom. The validity of creationism is not a legal question–it’s a science question.

    The validity of creationism is certainly a legal question. If creationism is not valid science, then there are no legal grounds for requiring its inclusion in a science course. I don’t see any difference between bringing science into a discussion of educational malpractice and bringing science into a question of medical malpractice.

    There are many scientists who could not give the Al Gore lecture because there are too many scientific things wrong with it

    I don’t think that this is true, either. The scientific errors that have been identified in Gore’s lecture are pretty minor, and correcting them would not appreciably alter the impact of the lecture. The reason many scientists could not give the lecture is simply that they do not have Gore’s experience in communicating with a scientifically unsophisticated audience.

  50. #50 Shirakawasuna
    April 3, 2008

    My message was huge and long, so I’ll try to give a shorter and more to the point recommendation.

    We know the parts we agree on, Chris. We think they’re not very special or unique to framing. Having stated this over and over again, we care about the places we disagree. Your attempt to find common ground is redundant and you will most likely retain only those who give you the greatest benefit of the doubt through this whole deal. Believe it or not, that includes people like Larry Moran or PZ Myers, even Orac (yay science bloggers), who despite being critics (or in the case of Orac, generally supportive), patiently wait for you to *again* state the generalities we all agree with and get to the specifics and criticism (substance).

    Bah, it’s turning into a rant again. Recommendation: stop trying to explain framing in general and defend your specific points with reasoned argument. Respond to others’ specific criticisms with something more than, ‘you just don’t understand framing’. It should be obvious to you how condescending that is: we get the general idea of framing. We don’t like the specific ways you apply it and think it lacks rigor in proving its relevance in those cases. For once, believe us on this.

  51. #51 Shirakawasuna
    April 3, 2008

    Bah, another post: Larry Moran said everything I was trying to but did it in 1/6 the space. I suck at writing.

  52. #52 Tulse
    April 3, 2008

    Recommendation: stop trying to explain framing in general and defend your specific points with reasoned argument. Respond to others’ specific criticisms with something more than, ‘you just don’t understand framing’. It should be obvious to you how condescending that is

    …and the fact that it apparently isn’t obvious to someone promoting their communications expertise is more than a little disconcerting.

    I honestly don’t mean to be offensive, but seriously, why should scientists think framing offers a way to deal with entrenched ideologies in hardened public opinion when its alleged experts can’t even win over individuals whose professional training is all about assessing arguments and evidence objectively and dispassionately? Surely that group should be a much easier sell than an uncritical, irrational, religiously motivated public, no? This isn’t just a matter of irony — it really does call into question either the utility of framing, the expertise of its proponents, or both.

    That said, I really do appreciate your willingness to address the questions and issues that others have raised in the wake of L’Affair Myers. I note that this is far more than your colleague Nisbet has done, and frankly, I think it’s pretty nasty of him to leave you to do the heavy lifting and catch all the flack while he posts about his speaking engagements, being quoted in Science, and driving a Prius.

  53. #53 bsci
    April 3, 2008

    But consider: I totally *agree* with bsci’s “concept of communication” that is claimed to be “fundamentally different” from mine. How is that possible? How could bsci think I’m saying something so much different from what I’m saying?

    Rethinking my earlier post, “fundamentally different” is not the right phrase. We do mostly agree and in many ways framing is a subset of this “concept of communication.” I think the key is that my goal of communication is the popular understanding of science and the effects of scientific issues on our daily lives. This better understanding is an essential first step before pushing policies.

    The goal of framing, as it seems you are still promoting with the CA stem cell measure example, is communication why policy X is the scientifically the correct policy. Thus, communication of quality science is completely linked to communication of specific policies. I think there needs to be a clear separation. To fight climate change, we need people to understand the science and why we should care. Once people understand, we are on better footing to make good policy be it carbon taxes, alternative energy investments, nuclear power, or all options at once. Perhaps this is the root of the success of “An Inconvenient Truth” in reviving much of this dialogue. At the core, it isn’t about any specific policy and is more about quality communication of facts in a way people care. Perhaps you can call this framing, but I don’t think this example would fit in the pieces Nisbet wrote on how to frame.

    I’m starting to ramble and I’m not sure how clear any of this is, but hope it helps.

  54. #54 charlie
    April 3, 2008

    Framing is a political tactic. It has been used for years on everyone. No one is exempt from the political discourse unless they have buried their heads in the sand for the last few decades. That said, it might be effective in some defined situations where persuasion is needed (briefings,issue-oriented forums etc)

    The larger reality is that Frames exist in all communication and are inevitable. You can’t communicate without some sort of Frame. This debate is about (or should be about) when and how to distort the naturally arising Frame to ones advantage. This brings up the differing goals and motivations of the players. That is political among the communicators and the true root of this polarization, not the benefit of the audience.

    The bottom line is, would you buy the message if you were the audience and how would you react to the tactics used. This speaks to the long term effectiveness of the tactic. I understand the elite bias of communicating to people who don’t/should know the information you are trying to get across but we should never ever ignore the potential bias created by distorting the Frame. It is more important any short term victory. The perception of the audience is your integrity and it is contagious.

    Thats my summery of this interesting dialog along with a quick editorial which should have been obvious but is not. Have fun.

  55. #55 Wes
    April 3, 2008

    Another housekeeping item: When some readers demand “substance” it seems they are asking for case studies of how framing works or has succeeded in the past. This is a bit frustrating to me because if you go through everything I have said and written and that Nisbet has said and written there are numerous case studies. In fact, one of them is now in a National Academy of Sciences report! Read here for the example of how framing helped the 2004 California stem cell ballot initiative succeed.

    When readers ask for substance, they aren’t asking for a case study that shows “Framing things in the right way worked in this particular instance.” That’s not surprising. Also, it would take a lot more rigor and some important controls to isolate the effect of the framing involved from other variables which might have swayed public opinion. If we wanted to isolate how much of the effect is due specifically to the frame, we’d need proper controls. But, anyways, that’s beside the point.

    What I gather from people’s comments is that people are asking for solid empirical evidence for some of the specific claims that Nisbet, and to a lesser extent you, make as if they follow from the framing hypotheses you’re working from. It has been claimed that Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous and successful science popularizers of our time who has a wide following and 30+ years of experience, is somehow hurting science. Where is the solid evidence of this damage to science? It has been claimed that drawing attention to the foibles of the makers of Expelled somehow helps creationism. Where is the solid, empirical evidence to support this claim?

    I’m not saying you can’t make these claims–but if you want people to believe that these claims follow from the framing theory and are supported by social science, you need good, solid empirical evidence to maintain that. I don’t disagree with the general ideas of framing which you and Nisbet discuss. I think you guys are mostly right, in general. But it’s your specific applications of those ideas that seem to be lacking in substance. I find the assertion that framing somehow shows that the Expelled incident somehow helps creationism to be very dubious. Also, the complaint against Dawkins/PZ seems to be presuming that there’s One True Frame, the Francis Collins/Ken Miller frame, and that the Dawkins/PZ frame is bad. I don’t believe that for a second–different frames for different audiences.

    The Collins/Miller frame won’t be affective for mobilizing atheists and people alienated from religion to support science, while the Dawkins/PZ frame will. The Dawkins/PZ frame won’t persuade moderate Christians to support science, but the Collins/Miller frame will. Both are important and useful. Why tell one to defer to the other? Not to mention the fact that promoting the Collins/Miller frame (which appeals to the Christian majority) while telling the Dawkins/PZ frame (which appeals to the atheist minority) to withdraw and be silent is going to be perceived by many as a bigoted anti-atheist double standard. Dawkins and PZ have done a very good job in framing their approach to ensure that that’s how you’ll be perceived. You could learn a thing or two from them. The way they’ve framed this issue is a big part of why so many people react negatively to Nisbet’s “One True Frame” nonsense.

  56. #56 miko
    April 4, 2008

    ok, so now “frame” seems to mean “make a point.”

    i’m starting to get the feeling that telling a 4 year old they can have ice cream if they finish their peas is “good framing on healthy vegetable eating.” so, not really seeing what the clever idea is.

    the other feeling I’m starting to get is that there is confusion on the term “scientific controversy.” none of the things you or Nisbet are interested in are scientific controversies. “We should do something about climate change or our civilization may be negatively affected” is not a scientific assertion. It’s a policy assertion based on non-controversial science, and it’s a purely political controversy.

  57. #57 Lurker
    April 4, 2008

    From the responses here and elsewhere, there seems to be common ground that all engage in ‘framing’ – even those who don’t distinguish it with this lofty title. As such, this verbose exercise seems little more than a self-indulgent make-work campaign.

  58. #58 DiscoveredJoys
    April 4, 2008

    It seems to me that we have a thread which needs to be split, even though this might upset the author’s original intention.

    Chris is trying to expound upon “framing Science and why this is a Good Thing” and a number of people are reasonably responding positively or negatively to this exposition. He then intends to move onto the specifics of the Expelled exchange of views.

    But many other people are (also reasonably) saying “what has the generality of framing Science got to do with the specific contretemps over the religiously motivated expelled film?”

    Now I can understand why Chris is logically trying to clarify “framing” before he moves on to specific cases – but to many people this feels like the original “Framing is Answer to All Our Problems, how dare PZ/Richard impede our stately progress” all over again but in nicer language. I have to say that I am coming around to this point of view.

    I believe that Expelled and Creationism are not about science (science is used as a proxy for “godless materialism”) so framing science will not be effective in this case. Why accept the frame of the Theocrats and then try to improve it?

    So my suggestion is to run two threads. One to debate the methods and benefits of framing, the other to debate the range of science framing and whether it is appropriate for the Expelled situation.

    How Chris manages those two threads or themes is up to him of course, but I think we all need to be more disciplined if we are to make progress.

  59. #59 Chris C. Mooney
    April 4, 2008

    Hi Everyone,
    I am still on the road–this whole dialogue thus far has been done from the road, believe it or not–so I hope you will bear with me. I have a jam-packed day today and won’t be able to check comments or post a new post, but I wanted to address everything new that has come in before that jam-packed day starts.

    First, something Larry Moran said: “You are asking too much when you ask scientists to abandon their core principles in order to be more convincing in front of the assistant to some Senator.”

    Larry, we never, never, never asked that. In fact, if you had heard our talk–I don’t know if you have–there is a section where we specifically admonish not to go beyond what the science can sustain in communication. Framing does not entail misinformation or dishonesty. It is an unavoidable part of all communication. (See Uncertain Principles on that.) We’re just saying do it well, rather than badly.

    To everyone else–there is still a lot going on here. Really, not that much disagreement with my basic premises (I plan as soon as possible to shore up the remaining ones). Rather, something else is happening:

    1) People still keep goading me to talk about Expelled/Dawkins/Nisbet. Well, look: I have made my apologies for now, and talked about our strategic mistakes for now. I hope to get more detailed later, but at this point I feel it is important to depolarize this discussion and show that there’s really very little disagreement, by working through the totally non-radical premises of the framing science thesis in a logical and stepwise manner. Once again, I wish that readers–after all, we are all devoted to rationality here–would let me complete this exercise. If you wish to participate, I welcome it, but please do so in good faith and not just to tank the discussion.

    2) Some people feel like framing has been rammed down their throat, and depicted as the only way to do things–and that seems to rankle. It’s too bad some feel that way. I submit to you that this too is an unfortunate consequence of polarization. It is really weird honestly, a lot of this nastiness happened while I was trying to stay out of it. But I saw what happened: Nisbet felt his scholarship had been called into question unfairly. He is, after all, widely published on framing, and here his expertise was being attacked by people who aren’t. So he became dismissive–which was a mistake. He went on the attack (“Don Imus atheism”, etc.) I think that’s what you are all reacting against.

    What I’m trying to say is, if we could get over the nastiness and polarization and just look at the arguments, you would all basically agree and realize there is nothing radical here, and nothing offensive–disagreement begins perhaps when we get to science and religion, but there is much to agree upon long before that.

  60. #60 MH
    April 4, 2008

    Chris, are you cool with John Lynch publicising the fact that the producers of Expelled have again been caught behaving unethically? Or would you prefer him to “lay low”?

    (I realise that they were Matt’s words, not yours, btw)

  61. #61 Dan S.
    April 4, 2008

    But maybe some of them might think they were competing, though, if there was a New A-Shintoist school who started telling them off. “Shintoism is a form of child abuse,” etc., etc. Hmmmm…:

    Jon, I think your causation is getting a little wacky here; you also left out the bit about how in this alternate reality there’s a loud and politically active branch of fundamentalist Shinto that’s been opposing evolution for close to a century, on and off.

    In our reality, of course, it’s worth noting that ‘State Shinto’ ended up being used in an even more destructive way than fundy-xtianism (so far), and that seems to have seriously impacted it.

  62. #62 Sigmund
    April 4, 2008

    Chris, I think you make a fair point regarding your response to Expelledgate and I agree we should move on from there to the specific points about framing as a communication strategy.
    The questions I’d like answered by you are;
    Is ‘Framing Science’ really just another way of saying ‘tailor your talk to your specific audience’? (If not then how is it different).
    Is ‘Framing Science’ an approach specifically designed for the the high religiosity of the US – in comparison, for example, to that of the Swedish or UK based populations ?

  63. #63 Duae Quartunciae
    April 4, 2008

    MH asks a great question just above in comment 819763. Is there any problem with John Lynch publicizing the unethical behaviour of Expelled producers, and the rescheduling of session times?

    A clear yes/no answer would be appreciated, followed by as much clarification or qualification or explanation as you think helpful. Do the premises of framing help answer this question? I honestly don’t know how you’d answer this.

  64. #64 Neil Davies
    April 4, 2008

    Framing now sounds to me to be simply a tactical way to avoid a head on conflict with people who (it is assumed) would react negatively to having their beliefs challenged by science. In some respects I can see it working to chip away at those beliefs in a less confrontational way (in the way that, for example, many Catholics use contraception – thus quietly ignoring the wishes of their church. Perhaps they have been convinced to do so by the positive aspects of contraception rather than by attacks on their religion itself).

    But I don’t see how it will have much effect on those beliefs that people hold strongly (the fundamentally religious for example) – I mean how would you ‘frame’ the scientific evidence for the age of the Earth to a Young Earth Creationist? Or the Theory of Evolution for that matter?

    When the debate is centred around these sorts of beliefs I don’t see ‘Framing’ as much use. Sometimes avoiding a conflict is not possible, nor useful I think.

    Just another of my 2p.

  65. #65 DiscoveredJoys
    April 4, 2008

    Another data point for the debate about whether or not framing science is a suitable method for dealing with Expelled.

    Hat tip to John Pieret in dododreams.blogspot.com/ for the link to this review of Expelled:

    http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/market-movers/2008/04/03/ben-stein-watch-expelled-edition

    The review suggests that the take home message of the film is that Darwinism causes Atheism therefore Darwinism is Bad. Can science framing address this view in the short term? in the long term?

  66. #66 SC
    April 4, 2008

    “Totally non-radical premises,” indeed.

    This is starting to remind me of a paper presentation I witnessed at an academic conference several years ago. After a powerful substantive critique of what appeared to be key elements of the paper, the discussant seemed perplexed by the author’s willingness to concede these points without recognizing how much he was losing thereby. The following exchange ensued:

    DISCUSSANT: But if you take away those arguments, all you’re basically saying is that art is a good thing to have in a democracy.

    AUTHOR (unperturbed): Right.

    DISCUSSANT: But no one’s arguing with that.

    AUTHOR (beaming with a sense of personal accomplishment): Good!

  67. #67 Christophe Thill
    April 4, 2008

    Neil Davies (quite cleverly) said :
    “But I don’t see how it will have much effect on those beliefs that people hold strongly (the fundamentally religious for example) – I mean how would you ‘frame’ the scientific evidence for the age of the Earth to a Young Earth Creationist? Or the Theory of Evolution for that matter?”

    To which I add : how do you frame any kind of scientific evidence to people who oppose science as a general principle ? Who attach no importance to the result of any “human” investigation, but only in what’s written in an ancient book ?

  68. #68 Anna K
    April 4, 2008

    Christophe,

    From reading what Matt Nisbet writes about it, it looks like the goal is to reach religious moderates — mainline Protestants and Catholics.

  69. #69 Sigmund
    April 4, 2008

    Anna K, if that was the goal then why do they advocate the line that ‘religion is compatible with evolution’ rather than more accurately stating that mainstream Christian religions are compatible with evolution? It just doesn’t make any sense when we all know that some religions require a literal interpretation of doctrine and thus cannot be compatible with post enlightenment science. Its the policy of simply ignoring inconvenient facts that discredits the entire policy.

  70. #70 Anna K.
    April 4, 2008

    Sigmund, fwiw, I don’t see it that way.

    I think it’s a policy of reaching different audiences, and I would think that committed creationists are a separate audience from religious moderates.

    Unlike Nisbet and Mooney, I have no background in studying the efficacy of various communications strategies, so again, this is just my opinion — but I think getting into which religions are and are not compatible opens up several potentially polarizing distractions by moving the topic from evolution and religion in general, to which religion is ‘correct.’

  71. #71 Matti K.
    April 4, 2008

    Chris: “I hope to get more detailed later, but at this point I feel it is important to depolarize this discussion and show that there’s really very little disagreement, by working through the totally non-radical premises of the framing science thesis in a logical and stepwise manner.”

    Judging from the tone of the _two_ posts you made on “expelledexpelled”, you are not very good in depolarizing.

    Chris: “…–disagreement begins perhaps when we get to science and religion, but there is much to agree upon long before that.”

    What’s the use discussing about things where there is agreement? To build up the team spirit?

  72. #72 Christophe Thill
    April 4, 2008

    As far as mainstream (non-integrists) Catholics are concerned, things are quite simple : the correct position is the one that is expressed by the Vatican (of course, that’s the theory). So evolution is ok. Anthropogenic global warming, I’m not sure, but I’d say ok too. Stem cell research is a no-no as long as human embryos are concerned. Etc. You can frame the matters anyway you like, in the end it will always boil down to this.

  73. #73 Anna K.
    April 4, 2008

    Christophe,

    This gets into the pragmatic aspects again: If you separate official Catholic teaching from the behavior of actual Catholics, you will find a wide range of opinion and divergence. (My Catholic mother, for instance, worked for Planned Parenthood, and agrees a lot more with Catholics like Joan Chittister and groups like Catholics for a Free Choice, than Vatican teachings on birth control and abortion. But she still goes to Mass every week.) Catholics, too, can be reached by framing.

  74. #74 Russell Blackford
    April 4, 2008

    Yes, if you actually want Catholics to use contraception, support abortion rights, go along with IVF, stop saying that gay sex is sinful, agree with research that destroys human embyros, agree with therapeutic cloning and similar research initiatives – and ultimately permit reproductive cloning and genetic enhancement – the only way to do it is to get the punters in the pews to take official Catholic dogma less seriously (whether or not they actually leave the fold). You need to produce ongoing cultural change in a direction that increasingly marginalises religion.

    No amount of framing science to make it palatable to the pope will do this, but there may well be ways of framing religion that are effective. It would be interesting to do some research on facts or arguments have the strongest tendency to undermine religion. How do we frame an anti-religious message to make it more salient and appealing to, say, Catholics?

    The fact is that the image of the universe that science has been putting together for the past 400 years or so has had some overall tendency to undermine traditional religion, which has had to adapt quite radically (at the risk of seeming ad hoc) or else become untenable in the eyes of educated people.

    I happen to think that this is a good thing, so I’m unlikely to shut up about it, no wonder what Matt Nisbet thinks.

  75. #75 Anna K.
    April 4, 2008

    Religion evolves. And I happen to think that’s a good thing as well.

  76. #76 Jon Winsor
    April 4, 2008

    …it’s worth noting that ‘State Shinto’ ended up being used in an even more destructive way than fundy-xtianism…

    The problem there was theocracy (the state and religion colluding to consolidate power) and religious intolerance (the state marginalizing beliefs that competed with those they favored). I would point out that all moderate American religious traditions would oppose these things as being illiberal (an outlook dating back to our country’s religiously-tolerant, Enlightenment-era founding).

    The reason why I picked a non-Western tradition like Shinto, is that these systems usually don’t feel the need to compete with science, because there’s an understanding that religion and science deal with different things. Not to say that they never compete, and not to say that there isn’t some fringe group saying they do, but that right wing Christianity seems fairly unique in insisting that they do fundamentally compete.

    What this says to me is (as someone put it above) this is about “one particular branch of one religion trying to impose its religious doctrine on the rest of the population.” The point is to address this particular problem (with the Christian fundamentalists and religious right), as well as their tactics, and their ability to appeal to moderates. I would argue that this is not about making an additional enemy out of religious moderates, as the New Atheists seem to want to do.

  77. #77 Jon Winsor
    April 4, 2008

    Ooops. The link above was supposed to go here: http://tinyurl.com/25g2oa

    I keep pointing to the right’s parallel, public-discourse-manipulating universe. I think this is where the problem is.

  78. #78 Jon Winsor
    April 4, 2008

    (Well, maybe not the problem, but a big slice of it.)

  79. #79 M.
    April 4, 2008

    “The reason why I picked a non-Western tradition like Shinto, is that these systems usually don’t feel the need to compete with science, because there’s an understanding that religion and science deal with different things.”

    No, John, the reason is much simpler: Shinto religion does not require its members to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old.

    And beyond that, the entire analogy is false. The current problem did not begin with atheism, and a reasonable defense of religion against it.

    It began way before atheism was even a factor – when pretty much all scientists were at the same time believers. And still their findings were attacked. You know how long it took for the idea that the Earth is round to stick? And how much discussion there was about it? About heliocentric system? Germ theory of disease? Modern medicine? Scientific method itself?

    The reason some religions don’t have a problem with science is that those religions don’t claim to have full and complete knowledge of the world. They don’t have a credo which encompasses nature, and which has to be believed literally.

    Those who do always had a problem with science, and always will, regardless of whether you have any atheists around.

    But this entire topic is irrelevant to our discussion here. The “New Atheists” have a set of ideas and beliefs about what the society should be like. They talk about those ideas openly, and they have full right to do so.

    You say that it would be easier to popularize evolution if New Atheists just went away? Maybe. It would also be easier if YECs gave up on their biblical literalism.

    But neither is going to happen, John. So if you are serious in your support of “framing”, you need to work on finding a way to “frame” the message in a way that takes into account both YECs and New Atheists.

    Which part of that is so difficult to understand?

  80. #80 Larry Moran
    April 4, 2008

    Chris Mooney says,

    First, something Larry Moran said: “You are asking too much when you ask scientists to abandon their core principles in order to be more convincing in front of the assistant to some Senator.”

    Larry, we never, never, never asked that. In fact, if you had heard our talk–I don’t know if you have–there is a section where we specifically admonish not to go beyond what the science can sustain in communication. Framing does not entail misinformation or dishonesty. It is an unavoidable part of all communication.

    I have read the papers you published with Matt. I have read some of the papers Matt told me to read. I have read everything you and Matt have posted on your blogs. I have watched the video.

    Now you dismiss my criticism by telling me to watch your video, again. Chris, you really aren’t listening, are you? That’s exactly the sort of attitude that got you into this mess. Telling me to just listen to your talk and everything will be revealed is an insult.

    The tag team video presentation is a bunch of vacuous, supercilious, arrogant statements that remind me more of psychobabble than real intellectual discussion.

    That’s the problem, Chris. We’ve done our homework and we still don’t get it. This is not our fault.

    It looks like you don’t get it either.

    Here’s what I wrote on my blog last June 1 (2007) when you challenged me to watch the video [Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney Video on Framing Science].

    Chris Mooney has challenged me to respond to a video (see below the fold) of a talk that he and Matt Nisbet gave on framing. Over on his blog, Chris criticizes PZ Myers who couldn’t sit through the whole hour [PZ, You Can Do Better Than This....]. Neither could I, but at least I got to the 50 minute mark which was more than twice as far as PZ.

    Chris and Matt believe their talk is much more detailed than their short paper in Science or any of their other articles. They think that with this longer version they will have answered the objections raised by a number of scientists. This is quite in line with the position they have taken over the past few months. Their main defense has been to proclaim that we just don’t understand framing and that’s why we don’t appreciate their opinions. That defense has the tremendous advantage (for them) of avoiding having to deal with any of the objections that have been raised. It’s probably a good example of framing on their part.

    Why should any of us bother with your rehashing of the framing debate if you won’t even grant us the courtesy of taking our criticism seriously?

    Your initial mea culpa looked promising but now I see that it was just your way of spinning the discussion to make it look like everyone else’s fault for not understanding what (spin) framing is all about.

    When it comes to understanding framing, your actions speak much louder than your words. I don’t want any part of your version of framing.

  81. #81 Jon Winsor
    April 4, 2008

    The current problem did not begin with atheism, and a reasonable defense of religion against it.

    I didn’t say that it did. But I am arguing that it poses additional problems.

    The “New Atheists” have a set of ideas and beliefs about what the society should be like. They talk about those ideas openly, and they have full right to do so.

    So do I. That’s why I’m here.

    (Anyway, I feel like I’m taking up too much bandwidth with this. This topic is related to Chris’s subject of polarization, but for this thread, strictly speaking it’s off-topic…)

  82. #82 Sharon
    April 4, 2008

    Drat, I had a comment all typed up and then I think the browser ate it. Here it is again, sorry if this is a double-post.

    I’ll withdraw my obection to premise #2. I think that, as a commentor above said, the objection stems from wishful thinking. I’d like to think that people will take a few minutes to look up information on controversies or shocking news, but that’s a lie even for myself. Unless it appeals to my interests I’m either going to take a news story at face value or reject it out of hand (because I dislike television news).

    Having said that, I still have reservations. 1) Like others said, the overall argument seems to assume (or necessitate) that “Science” has one goal and one voice, and doesn’t account for when the goals or the “spokespeople” are at cross-purposes. 2) I suppose I fall into the camp that doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. It all seems like common sense and communication skills to me.

    In any case, I do look forward to reading more posts in this series.

  83. #83 Sigmund
    April 4, 2008

    Now that I’ve retired home for the evening here in Stockholm, imbibed half a bottle of Castillo de Almansa 2002 and hooked my 4 year old to his favourite Doraemon video, its all finally beginning to make sense. ‘Framing Science’ actually means ‘explaining the bleeding obvious to idiots’ or occasionally ‘convincing cynical politicians who would barbeque their granny if they thought it would get them another term in office that its in their advantage (and most likely in their granny’s advantage) to vote in favor of the bleeding obvious’.

  84. #84 Jon Winsor
    April 4, 2008

    Sigmund: More cowbell ! (an inside joke with the American liberal blogosphere, and your comment is right at home in that genre…)

    Just to clarify: When I said above, “I am arguing that it poses additional problems.” I meant, New Atheism could pose additional problems, not atheism in general.

  85. #85 MH
    April 4, 2008

    Jon, can you clarify what ‘New Atheism’ is, please?

  86. #87 Russell Blackford
    April 4, 2008

    Still publicising that idiotic article from The New Republic I see, Jon. The author does not understand what liberalism and reaches absurd conclusions.

    I still prefer this one from The Australian Rationalist:

    http://www.rationalist.com.au/archive/77/p46-51_AR77_web.pdf

  87. #88 Matti K
    April 5, 2008

    “Polarization” of opinions seems to disturb the writer of “The Republican War on Science”. I wish he could see what led to the polarization in the case of “expelledexpelled”.

    Not seeing the benefits of somebody’s pet project is a rule in the scientific community, business and politics. As such, it is not a sign of polarization. Unless the opposing sides are very petty, of course.

    Implying that someone should shut his/her mouth for the common good is another matter. True, it is an accepted policy in hierarchial organizations, but the scientific community isn’t such an organization. Neither is a truly democratic society, although its members can voluntarily organize themselves in groups that agree not to speak out in certain matters.

    Telling that those who speak out against creationists “have no clue” does not undo the possible harm done by these outspoken people. However, it gets you quotemined in the blogs of creationists, which even in the standards of framers (I think) is harmful for the cause. It also pisses off scientists and liberal people who have a chronic allergy for censorship and advocats of self-censorship.

    From the proponents of framing I have got the impression that the main idea of framing is to suppress controversy. Could it also be called “diplomacy”? If that’s what it is, why point fingers at “bad” examples and whine that they harm one’s self-proclaimed cause? That, IMHO, is what causes polarization, not the idea of framing as such. Unless, of course, one thinks that not embracing framing as such is a sign of polarization.

  88. #89 MH
    April 5, 2008

    Chris, I was curious when you didn’t respond to specific criticisms about the things you and Matt have recently said, choosing instead to go back to basics on the subject of framing, but now I’m beginning to suspect that this itself is an attempt at framing. Are you trying to frame the specific criticisms of the actions of a couple of framers as the criticism of framing in general? If so, please don’t bother. Such diversionary tactics might work with some audiences, but here at Sb, they are just likely to offend people.

    Maybe, for you, framing has become an unconscious reaction to criticism? I mean, if in your experience it works often enough, I can see how it would become second nature.

  89. #90 Chris C. Mooney
    April 5, 2008

    Hi All,
    This thread is getting too long…and I’ll soon have another post…but let me answer a few questions.

    Sigmund asked: “Is ‘Framing Science’ really just another way of saying ‘tailor your talk to your specific audience’? (If not then how is it different).”

    Yes and no. Yes because that is definitely one very simplified version of it. But no, because that really doesn’t do the actual proposed strategy much justice. To really strategically frame a science issue you need immense amounts of research on public opinion, patterns of media coverage, etc. So it kind of trivializes it to just say “tailor your talk to your specific audience.”

    Sigmund also asked: “Is ‘Framing Science’ an approach specifically designed for the the high religiosity of the US – in comparison, for example, to that of the Swedish or UK based populations?”

    No, it ought to work just as well in other countries, but of course publics in other countries will have different values and predispositions, and there will be different media, political systems, etc. Framing science is not a concept designed to deal in some way with religiosity. It is designed to communicate science. It is just that religiosity comes up with the evolution issue.

    I have zero problem with what John Lynch did. I’m surprised anyone thinks I would. How many times do I have to say that I don’t want anyone to shut up, before you will actually believe it?

  90. #91 Chris C. Mooney
    April 5, 2008

    By the way, if anyone is interested in the broader context in which I view the “framing science” initiative, you might check out my article in the latest New Republic, entitled “Hard Science.” It’s about why scientists need to get tough and politically smart. I mention communication initiatives there, but that’s just part of a broader package of suggestions that also include calling for science policy debates, getting involved in elections, getting scientists to run for office, and even trying to unelect really anti-science politicians (like, say, James Inhofe).

    The piece is here:

    http://www.tnr.com/environmentenergy/story.html?id=2a9a1707-a43f-4f6b-b750-0d0c455b350d

  91. #92 Matti K.
    April 5, 2008

    Chris: “I have zero problem with what John Lynch did. I’m surprised anyone thinks I would. How many times do I have to say that I don’t want anyone to shut up, before you will actually believe it?”

    You had obvious problems with the publicity due to PZ beeing expelled from “Expelled”, otherwise you would not have called it “clueless” in two articles. Now you say that publishing the ridiculous aspects of private screnings is no problem. I’m sure you understand that this kind of change in attitude requires an explanation.

  92. #93 Duae Quartunciae
    April 5, 2008

    Chris, as one who backed up the request for an answer about John Lynch, let me assure you that I understood and believed you that you do not support the call for PZ to shut up; that was not why I asked at all!

    I am truly trying to figure out your current position on what “frames” are useful. I asked simply because I thought it would help clarify the things a bit. Don’t take offense at that. I am sincere in trying to sort out the matter and trying to engage in dialog; which means not just listening, but responding as well.

    I honestly DID NOT KNOW what you felt about John Lynch’s posts; and here’s why. He was highlighting hypocrisy on the part of Expelled folks… which is also exactly what everyone did in response to PZ Myer’s expulsion.

    Now lots of people have asked if you still stand by the two posts “Expelled Screenwriter Wants to Give PZ and Atheist Followers a ‘Group Hug'”, and “This Controversy HELPS Ben Stein, People”. In both posts, you were referring directly to the matter of everyone (including the NCSE!) highlighting the hypocrisy of PZ Myer’s expulsion. Yet you apparently, at that time, thought this was helping Ben Stein; and indeed you were a bit condescending about anyone disputing this. (“Why is that hard to understand?”, and “Why is our side so clueless?”)

    I asked about the (IMO) parallel situation with John Lynch in the hope of finding out something concrete on whether or not there you see a problem in general with exposing hypocrisy. I’m glad to see that is not the case, but I truly had to ask to find out.

    I’m happy to wait for your explanation of the difference in the cases, if any, or whether you stand by those posts from last month. Do things in whatever order you think best. I am sure you recognize this is one of the substantive questions still on the table to be taken up when you get to it.

  93. #94 negentropyeater
    April 5, 2008

    Chris,

    you say,
    “Hey, I’m all for long term educational policy improvements–and long term cultural changes. But framing–the height of political pragmatism–is about communicating through the mass media on contested issues of immediate import, where you don’t have time for either educational reform or long term cultural change. So framing should be seen as complementary to these needed efforts.”

    So why not FRAME “FRAMING” in a way we can understand, such as the way you have proposed in your other post (Scientists need to strap on the gloves) ;

    Framing Science = Investing in mass-media initiatives to communicate Science

    Thats a bit more concrete than the usual enigmatic language you have been using until now.

    Just say it, and let’s get organised. We need to find concrete initiatives, and collect the money. The religious folks have their charities and their philantropes, we need ours. You can count on me. Thats already one generous donator. It’s nonsensical that they can find money to produce a movie like Expelled based on a pack of lies and stupid ideas such as Darwin caused Nazism, and in the meantime, we are just bloging (which is the only thing we can do as have no means to go mass media).
    These are the only short term actions that WE can take.
    As you say correctly, the rest is long term public policy on education, public broadcasting,… and how to ensure that this nation has a more significant % of critical thinkers.
    And that will only come once there is a real debate, which needs to be provoked.

  94. #95 PZ Myers
    April 6, 2008

    You know, lots of people keep mentioning my name in these framing threads, and it’s getting a little annoying. Leave me out of it.

    I don’t give a damn about framing.

    The one thing I have learned from this long-running nonsense is that whatever framing is as Mooney and Nisbet know it, I want nothing to do with it. There is nothing at this point that anyone can say that could persuade me that this is a worthwhile topic, and I don’t say that lightly. I did not have any antipathy to the idea when it was first brought up, and I’ve been spending months and months, off and on, trying to get the point, and I still don’t…and every one of these rambling apologies for it just alienates me further. And it doesn’t help that the frame proponents bring to this debate is often the wicked obnoxious polarizers PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins vs. the enlightened caring skilled communicators of Nisbet and Mooney.

    So, really, people don’t need to defend me. The framers can go ahead and make me the villain of their morality play. I don’t need to hear excuses or apologetics or rationalizations or promises. I’m done. Not part of the argument. Not answering the phone. Rolling my eyes. Turning my back on it all. I’m just going to keep on doing whatever I feel like doing, and the peanut gallery can keep on squawking.

  95. #96 Shirakawasuna
    April 7, 2008

    “Well, look: I have made my apologies for now, and talked about our strategic mistakes for now.”

    — The only apology I see is where you apologize for not communicating effectively (without explaining your mistakes or putting meaningful effort into pointing out how *we* are wrong). Do I need to point out how small such an apology is? Given your generally condescending attitude to those asking you questions, it sure looks like you’re saying, ‘I’m still right, but I’m not communicating this right.’.

    “Framing does not entail misinformation or dishonesty. It is an unavoidable part of all communication. (See Uncertain Principles on that.) We’re just saying do it well, rather than badly.”

    “To really strategically frame a science issue you need immense amounts of research on public opinion, patterns of media coverage, etc. So it kind of trivializes it to just say “tailor your talk to your specific audience.””

    — Combining these two points, it seems ‘framing’ is a complete misnomer of your point. You seem to be claiming that framing is exceedingly common, essentially a description, and that you advocate *strategic* framing. I think it’s time for you to come up with a new label if you want to keep those concepts separate – I sure don’t see how that was apparent from your earlier writings/videos.

    “How many times do I have to say that I don’t want anyone to shut up, before you will actually believe it?”

    — Once, in a blog post. It’s really amazing that you expect your readers to have read all of your comments, especially considering how little you actually participate in them.

    As to the main point, why is it so hard to just answer the straightforward and basic questions that keep getting repeated? It’s very condescending for you to repeatedly point us at your talks and *general* description of framing when those never seem to translate into the points being contested.

  96. #97 Muse142
    April 7, 2008

    I wish I had the time to do more than scan the entry and skip the comments; alas, it’s after midnight, and my boyfriend has this thing he has to do in the morning called “work”. Bleh.

    I just wanted to say that, as a non-scientist (not yet!) and a non-communications-major, I really appreciate this discussion. You really seem like you’re approaching us readers with respect and interest in what we think about this whole framing dealie, instead of laying out decrees about How Communication Works and What You Must Do To Promote X. It’s… wonderful. Refreshing. Like feeling warm sunlight on my face after being locked in a basement for months.

    Thank you, for this.

  97. #98 Lee Harrison
    April 7, 2008

    Shirakawasuna – you said further up-thread that you suck at writing. I respectfully disagree :-) I’ve enjoyed every one of your posts.

    Muse142: “You really seem like you’re approaching us readers with respect and interest in what we think about this whole framing dealie, instead of laying out decrees about How Communication Works and What You Must Do To Promote X.”

    I must respectfully disagree – all I’ve seen so far is Chris ‘patiently’ taking us all back to the beginning so that he can say the same things again only slower so that we pathetic dullards might actually get it this time ’round. If he respected us he’d assume that we’d already read his earlier material and would be dealing substantively with criticisms of his ideas rather than simply restating his ideas. Chris – we get it, okay? Many of us just think you’re wrong.

    PZ – well said.

  98. #99 Alan B.
    April 7, 2008

    I ignored most of the beginnings of the framing wars. I read just enough to decide that I disagreed with both sides. But I’ve been paying more attention this time around, not because I care about the arguments, but because it is such a good example of really, really smart people talking past each other. Kinda like my ex-marriage. The problem appears to me to be that a lot of people seem to be saying, “I’ll listen to you after you listen to me.” There is an important lesson here: the best framing in the world does no good if your audience isn’t listening to you. I wonder if part of the problem is the venue. Would these people do better face-to-face in a small room?

  99. #100 windy
    April 7, 2008

    No, it ought to work just as well in other countries, but of course publics in other countries will have different values and predispositions, and there will be different media, political systems, etc.

    But science is international – this seems potentially problematic if science is ‘sold’ in different ways in different countries, possibly by the same people.

  100. #101 Shirakawasuna
    April 7, 2008

    Alan B. : I definitely agree. I’m using this as an example of how one *shouldn’t* react to this type of criticism, something I think everyone has a bit of trouble with at some point.

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