Pharyngula

“a day that will live in inframey”

I unashamedly stole that title from Warren—it was just too good to pass up.

If I was an opponent of framing before, I’m afraid my views have now hardened far more: one Framer thinks Al Gore, winner of the Nobel, is a flop. What does a person have to do to convince the framing crowd that they’re communicating science? That they’re opening up the public discussion? That they’re making people think? We already know that writing a best-selling book doesn’t do it, and now we learn that winning the acknowledgment of the world community with a Nobel prize isn’t significant, either. “Framing” seems to alienate atheists and evolutionary biologists, and now it’s dissing the environmentalist movement.

I mean, come on. The guy just won a Nobel Peace Prize, and your response — from the perspective of someone who claims to be an expert in communication — is that Gore just might be hindering the discussion that the global community just lauded him for advancing.

“Framing” has gone beyond annoying to insane. I wash my hands of it.

Comments

  1. #1 MartinC
    October 12, 2007

    As the late great Kenneth Williams would have put it,
    “Inframey, inframey, they all have it inframey!”

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    October 12, 2007

    Ooh. I think Nisbet grabbed the third rail on this one.

    And about smegging time, too.

    I seem to recall, way back when, that Nisbet and Mooney were cautioning the rest of us to avoid using “data dumps”. Let me check the record. . . a-ha:

    Especially on divisive issues, scientists should package their research to resonate with specific segments of the public. Data dumping — about, say, the technical details of embryology — is dull and off-putting to most people.

    Gore and the IPCC resonated. You should be happy about it.

  3. #3 inkadu
    October 12, 2007

    Nisbett has made a career of telling people what to say.

    If Nisbett is such a framing genius, I suggest he got off his ass, and write his own book on a topic other than framing.

    I’m sorry you’re a specialist in an impotent meta-field, Nisbett. That’s not anyone’s fault but your own. Write a popular, and effective book about science, or politics or anything that people actually care about. Then maybe you’ll deserve some respect. In the words of the pointy-haired one: Sounds good. Do it.

    Nisbett writes:

    …the Pandora’s Box frame, really focusing in on specific climate impacts that might be scary or frightening, such as the possibility of more intense hurricanes.
    When you move in that direction, where the science is still uncertain, you open yourself up to the counter argument that this is just simply alarmism.

    It would also help if Nisbett’s arguments weren’t so easily deflated. Hurricane Katrina was a beautiful frame for global warming. Hotter weather = hotter water = stronger hurricanes. We even got the benefit of a gag order by Bush Administration against NOAA (?) scientists from making any connection between global warming and hurricanes. So, not only does global warming mean increased hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico, global warming people are censoring scientific opinion.

    Hey, maybe I could make a few thousand bucks consulting about framing. Oh, wait, no, framing can only be used to tell people what they are doing WRONG and in service of finding the most mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy, watered-down and least effective arguments. Never mind. I have too much self respect. I’ll stick to office temping.

    Sorry for bringing down the level of discourse here, but seriously.

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    October 12, 2007

    I went over to Nisbet’s site, and as usual, find that the comments to his posts are actually more cogent than his posts themselves.

    I saw no reason to even add to them, nor to point out that his analysis should be instead used as an object lesson for himself.

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    October 12, 2007

    I’m sorry you’re a specialist in an impotent meta-field, Nisbett. That’s not anyone’s fault but your own.

    I’m sure his response would be (since he has given the exact same response to similar before):

    “I’m doing just fine, thanks. Yourself?”

    ah, the ego of the young.

  6. #6 Warren
    October 12, 2007

    I realized as I put it in the comments I was perpetrating a ghastly pun.

    That, of course, served only to encourage me.

  7. #7 Chris Clarke
    October 12, 2007

    Gore’s “catastrophe” frame for AGW has gone about as far as it can go in moving public opinion and now is in jeopardy of degenerating into partisanship.

    Which is precisely the utterly insulated, myopic and self-satisfied sentiment that pissed me off so much. I’m not sure how I could have been any clearer than that.

  8. #8 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    inframey

    Like it takes a framer par excellence such as Nisbet to make himself inframous, it takes a certain genius to come up with something so ingenious. I really like it.

    I haven’t read the Nobel prize announcement motivation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they take support from environmental problems producing sources of conflict. GW is truly global in that area as it hits either or both ends of many resources (both sources and sinks), making it a global^2 threat to peace.

    And GW is confirmed. Nisbet may have jumped the frame on this one. [Yeah, the joke wears old fast. But for some reason that fits Nisbet.]

  9. #9 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    inframey

    Like it takes a framer par excellence such as Nisbet to make himself inframous, it takes a certain genius to come up with something so ingenious. I really like it.

    I haven’t read the Nobel prize announcement motivation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they take support from environmental problems producing sources of conflict. GW is truly global in that area as it hits either or both ends of many resources (both sources and sinks), making it a global^2 threat to peace.

    And GW is confirmed. Nisbet may have jumped the frame on this one. [Yeah, the joke wears old fast. But for some reason that fits Nisbet.]

  10. #10 inkadu
    October 12, 2007

    [blockquote]I’m sorry you’re a specialist in an impotent meta-field, Nisbett. That’s not anyone’s fault but your own.
    I’m sure his response would be (since he has given the exact same response to similar before):
    “I’m doing just fine, thanks. Yourself?”

    I’d likely hear the same from professional theologists, religious ethicists, and sellers of chi-enhancing crystals.

    Framing is the art of reviewing opinion polls, then coming up with an unsupported reason why they are the way they are, then proposing an equally unsupported solution. Wash rinse repeat. Instant career.

    Framing is worth discussing. It’s just that Nisbett seems so patently wrong on content, but because he has reams of data, he thinks his unsupported prescriptive opinions have weight. They don’t. They’re just his opinion of what MIGHT work based on, what, exactly? Someone let me know.

    Take this hit piece on Gore. He notes the impact Gore has, notes some of the trends and some studies. Then he puts forward his solution. What makes his proffered solution any more valid than Gore’s? His opinion? And what evidence does he have that his frame would have the amazing impact that Gore’s had? Sometimes reality doesn’t like your frame — it’s not going to catch on, no matter how good it is. In short, what makes Nisbett thinks he is an expert on telling people what will work? The man is supremely arrogant.

    Maybe he’s been seduced by the idea that the right frame will convince anyone, and maybe doesn’t realize that a) that might not be the case and b) social structures will never support the “right frame” unless kicked, really, really, hard with a solid brass frame. I don’t know. I’m not a scholar, but I smell bullshit.

  11. #11 JY
    October 12, 2007

    When I read this this morning it had me scratching my head:

    When you move in that direction, where the science is still uncertain, you open yourself up to the counter argument that this is just simply alarmism.

    This is global warming we’re talking about. We have been very sure that some really alarming things were afoot for quite some time, and that hasn’t stopped the counter argument that this is “just simply alarmism”. The well-funded denialists will argue against science that isn’t the least bit speculative as readily as they will argue against the speculative, and the average citizen is unlikely to know the difference. So to avoid being dismissed as ‘alarmist’ Gore would have to avoid alarming anyone. Which kind of defeats the purpose of raising awareness in the first place.

  12. #12 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    I have a hard time figuring out why PZ and people like you react to him with such vitriol,

    Could it be that he continued for months to frame his framing, without responding to clarifications if he had some constructive proposals? Not exactly a good communication ‘device’.

    Hmm. Yep, I think for me that was it.

  13. #13 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    I have a hard time figuring out why PZ and people like you react to him with such vitriol,

    Could it be that he continued for months to frame his framing, without responding to clarifications if he had some constructive proposals? Not exactly a good communication ‘device’.

    Hmm. Yep, I think for me that was it.

  14. #14 inkadu
    October 12, 2007

    You rock, JY!

    “Global warming, you know, is called global warming for a reason. It’s just warm. It’s not called global hottening. No reason to get alarmed, people. Now that I have assuaged your fears and gotten your attention, I have a plan that will help. You should give up your SUV’s, because Jesus would want you to. You should also agree to pay $.50 more per gallon at the pump, because God wants us to take care of the earth. No, no, the earth is fine, really, it’s only getting warmer, not hotter. Don’t be alarmed. But you should pay an extra $5/week for gas, because it’s being nice to the environment. Don’t you want God to think you’re being nice? It will help you get into heaven. Hello? I’m riding my bicycle for Jesus. Anybody?”

    I’m sure that’s not what Nisbett means. But since he’s such an expert on the subject, I’m sure he’s written up a brilliant 10-page sample copy using hisgroundbreakingly effective new frame, and that he’ll be posting it on his blog any day now.

  15. #15 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    Hurricane Katrina was a beautiful frame for global warming.

    I would be careful here, because AFAIK we can’t tie a specific hurricane’s behavior to GW. It is still statistical results.

    But maybe it would be a good Nisbet frame as opposed to science communication. Unfortunately he will never tell us what his proposals are supposed to mean.

  16. #16 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 12, 2007

    Hurricane Katrina was a beautiful frame for global warming.

    I would be careful here, because AFAIK we can’t tie a specific hurricane’s behavior to GW. It is still statistical results.

    But maybe it would be a good Nisbet frame as opposed to science communication. Unfortunately he will never tell us what his proposals are supposed to mean.

  17. #17 Blake Stacey
    October 12, 2007

    I can’t stop thinking about this part:

    When you move in that direction, where the science is still uncertain, you open yourself up to the counter argument that this is just simply alarmism. It’s very easy for the public, then, to simply rely on their partisanship to make up their minds, and that’s why you have this two Americas of public perception.

    My thoughts parallel those of JY (#15). Look at what has happened even when the science has been resoundingly certain: we’ve got Holocaust denial, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, the Moon Hoax people, creationism and the whole “complementary and alternative medicine” racket — which is basically medicine denial. You don’t have to “open yourself up” to the accusation that your science is unfounded, because they’ll say that anyway.

    If people making decisions based on their partisan affiliations is bad, then having them decide on the basis of empty rhetoric is no better. Remember Origen?

    As this matter of faith is so much talked of, I have to reply that we accept it as useful for the multitude, and that we admittedly teach those who cannot abandon everything and pursue a study of rational argument to believe without thinking out their reasons.

    Anyone want to sign on with that program?

  18. #18 inkadu
    October 12, 2007

    Hurricane Katrina was a beautiful frame for global warming.

    I would be careful here, because AFAIK we can’t tie a specific hurricane’s behavior to GW. It is still statistical results.

    I know. You get their attention, and then say, “Increased heat in the Gulf Region will make hurricanes like Katrina more likely and more powerful.” That’s a communicating science frame. I think the public understands the concepts of weighted dice, here, and the simple concept is that global warming weights the dice towards weather-borne catastrophe.

    But I guess that “opens you up to the charge” that you are “claiming that Katrina was directly caused by global warming, which is completely unsupportable.”

    Nisbett’s whole game is thinking up attacks on arguments. He thinks politics is about coming up with an attack-proof argument. You’d think after Kerry’s Swift Boating, he’d realize that real-life politics has much more to do with the loudness of your megaphone than with the strength of your argument.

    On top of that, Nisbett hamstrings any effort to cut through the media jungle by advocating a moderate and reasonable and non-offensive position. In a calm one-on-one debate, perhaps the reasonable non-offensive argument sways people. But it seems to me, uneducated and without a sociology degree but having lived in the US all my life, that most convincing arguments are extreme, and most people tend to split the difference in a debate.
    Overton window, etc. This thing has been done to death. Let’s just start ignoring this nisbett guy.

  19. #19 Hap
    October 12, 2007

    “I have a hard time figuring out why PZ and people like you react to him [Nisbet] with such vitriol,…”

    I’m guess that “framing” reeks too much of “spin”, which would encapsulate our political and social issues in a nutshell – our unwillingness to focus on substantive issues and responses and our corresponding willingness instead to divert ourselves to poltical theater that is so stupid that it hurts. Also, framing seems related to the tendency of people to enslave facts to appearance, a style of argument that has allowed Intelligent design/Creationism/etc. to a make a fine (if morally reprehensible) living. In this case, both of these have tendencies been used to obscure the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change and to distract people from doing anything to either minimize it or to deal with its impacts, and so there is a visceral reaction to it based on previous dishonesties in a similar vein, even if this wasn’t intended as such.

    As a liberal, this smacks too much of the problem with the Democratic Party – fragging people for not doing exactly what you want. Well, in that case, one could actually have done something instead of complaining about what someone else did, or provide a constructive alternative, but that would be too much trouble and would expose the suggester to criticism that would hurt. There’s plenty of room for convincing explanations of global warming that might cut through our self-absorption, but since none have been provided here, let alone evidence of their results, there isn’t any reason to conclude that the alternative framing suggested will work better than what Gore has helped to do.

  20. #20 Scott Belyea
    October 12, 2007

    “Framing” has gone beyond annoying to insane. I wash my hands of it.

    Interesting attitude, since you’ve made such effective use of the technique.

    Tacking the “Chamberlain atheist” or “accomodationist” label on some you disagree with is as good a use of framing as I’ve seen recently …

  21. #21 Christian Burnham
    October 12, 2007

    Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Republican voters’ acceptance of global warming is at a relatively flat low.

    My conclusion- stop trying to reach out to Republicans and start trying to deprogram them instead.

    As long as a person stays Republican they will be constitutionally incapable of forming reasoned opinions about the world.

    It’s like arguing that we should be trying to educate racists about pollution, when in reality we should be aiming to bring them out of racist views first.

  22. #22 John Morales
    October 12, 2007

    #24,

    Tacking the “Chamberlain atheist” or “accomodationist” label on some you disagree with is as good a use of framing as I’ve seen recently …

    Labelling is not framing.

  23. #23 Blake Stacey
    October 12, 2007

    Following up on John Morales (#27), I quote a passage of PZ.

    [Michael] Ruse is not a friend of science, not someone who wants to improve people’s understanding of the real world; instead he poses as our pal while accusing us of “evolutionism”. He pretends to be a fair and neutral broker mediating a conflict while obligingly demanding a complete surrender of anyone who advocates godlessness. He continues to promote this schism between “Chamberlain appeasers” and “Churchillian atheists” (ugh, but I detest those terms) because it suits his ends, which is to use the division to demand that the atheists sit down and STFU.

    Emphasis added.

  24. #24 Jason
    October 12, 2007

    My conclusion- stop trying to reach out to Republicans and start trying to deprogram them instead. As long as a person stays Republican they will be constitutionally incapable of forming reasoned opinions about the world.

    Sounds rather Orwellian. Assuming you’re being serious, how exactly do you propose to implement this “deprogramming” of Republicans?

  25. #25 Christian Burnham
    October 12, 2007

    Sailor: Exactly!

  26. #26 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Ichythic:

    I’m sure his response would be (since he has given the exact same response to similar before):

    “I’m doing just fine, thanks. Yourself?”

    ah, the ego of the young.

    Be fair, Ichythic. His youth isn’t responsible – this is the ego of the arrogant and stupid.

  27. #27 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Christian Burnham:

    My point is that there’s little to be gained from modifying your arguments so as not to offend Americans. The root cause of the problem is that Americans have already adopted an antirationalist worldview which makes them incapable of digesting rational arguments.

    Fixed that for you.

  28. #28 Leni
    October 12, 2007

    Uh, yeah. That would be “garner a larger chunk than 1%…”

    But chucks are good to.

  29. #29 Rey Fox
    October 12, 2007

    Nisbett is starting to remind me of Adam Sandler’s “Carrie’s mom” character. “They’re all gonna laugh at you! They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

  30. #30 Christian Burnham
    October 12, 2007

    Why bless you Caledonian, but I thought you were an equal opportunity offender.

    Your preferred method seems to be you against the rest of the world.

  31. #31 Rey Fox
    October 12, 2007

    Christian Burnham:

    My point is that there’s little to be gained from modifying your arguments so as not to offend people who aren’t Caledonian. The root cause of the problem is that people who aren’t Caledonian have already adopted an antirationalist worldview which makes them incapable of digesting rational arguments.

    Fixed it further.

  32. #32 Ichthyic
    October 12, 2007

    Al Gore for the Peace Prize? for something he did just a few years ago?

    don’t forget that Al shares the award with the entire group of climate scientists.

    it wasn’t just given to Al.

  33. #34 Ichthyic
    October 12, 2007

    Hurricane Katrina was a beautiful frame for global warming.

    I thought hurricanes were used as frames by the likes of Falwell and Robertson to claim that god was punishing the wicked?

    who knew they had such versatile usage as framing devices!

    :p

  34. #35 Christian Burnham
    October 12, 2007

    Have I just started a new internet meme? Should I dress up in a Star Wars costume and mime to German dance music?

  35. #36 melior
    October 12, 2007

    This negative framing of Vice President Gore’s well-deserved recognition threatens to open a Pandora’s Box of cranks, loons, wingnuts, and chuckleheads using it to justify their screaming, “See? Even some environmentalists think Al is wrong!!1!”

  36. #37 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Through education and peer pressure and the usual tactics people use to influence each-other.

    The fundamentalists – and politically-minded people in general – are already masters of those techniques.

    Advocates of science should really stick to the things that makes science great, while avoiding fighting irrationality on its home field. Interpersonal influence is the home field of irrationality.

  37. #38 Jason
    October 12, 2007

    Christian Burnham,

    Through education and peer pressure and the usual tactics people use to influence each-other. My point is that there’s little to be gained from modifying your arguments so as not to offend Republicans. The root cause of the problem is that Republicans have already adopted an antirationalist worldview which makes them incapable of digesting rational arguments.

    Then how is education going to help? And how are you going to organize this education, anyway? Politicization of the public schools? And how do you propose to create the peer pressure you seek to apply to Republicans?

  38. #39 RBH
    October 12, 2007

    What I can’t figure out — and this is an honest perplexity — is why Nisbet, an alleged expert on framing, is so lousy at framing his own arguments. He is, I presume, speaking to scientists and science popularizers, urging them — us! — to revise our arguments so they’ll be more effective. But to judge from the reactions I see (and feel myself) he is doing mostly alienating the former. Framer, frame thyself!

  39. #40 Christian Burnham
    October 12, 2007

    Jason: Speaking the truth as opposed to squeeze arguments to fit into the tiny cranial cavity of the average Republican.

    I’m not against framing, within limits. I believe in making some effort to make things attractive to a wide audience- but not to the extent where we end up modifying unpalatable truths.

    The best way to deprogram Republicans is to assert the truth in a bold and confidant manner. And don’t back down.

  40. #41 ngong
    October 12, 2007

    #23: According to Nisbet (on his “point of inquiry” interview): “Framing can be spin, but not necessarily spinning in a false way”. Undoubtedly, he has denied elsewhere that framing and spinning intersect.

    What bothers is Nisbet’s incessant egotism. His philosophy depends on everybody getting in line and doing what he says. There are a thousand other models of social engineering that would work wonderfully if people could just cooperate. Dawkins needs “silencing”.

    Then there’s his inability to understand that folks like Dawkins may have interests that, while far from selfish, may not be singlemindedly focused on pushing through a narrow agenda (e.g. stem cells). These arrogantly named “techniques”, in fact, come quite naturally to those who do have a single agenda.

    Toss him out in the Bible belt and let him lecture about evolution. Does anyone really believe his mealy-mouthed approach would be more effective than that of a speaker who evinces conviction and frankness?

  41. #42 ngong
    October 12, 2007

    Nisbet is like a caviling art critic who only gives positive reviews to a particular style of art. E.O. Wilson gets rave reviews, but he is narrowly focused on a single issue (biodiversity). Those who take on topics like “rational thought” and “atheism” inevitably get panned.

  42. #43 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Jason: Speaking the truth as opposed to squeeze arguments to fit into the tiny cranial cavity of the average Republican.

    It wasn’t that long ago that the Republicans were the party of Lincoln while the Democrats were full of black- and Jew-hating Southerners who wanted the South to rise again.

    The wheel turns, does it not, Mollari?

  43. #44 truth machine
    October 12, 2007

    The graph Nisbet shows makes sense if you think about it. It shows that while democrats are increasingly concerned, republicans don’t give a shit.

    Has anyone noticed what’s wrong with Nisbet’s graph? Someone over there pointed it out — the number of self-identifying Republicans (and leaners, especially) has shrunk since 1999, reducing it to the hard core, of which of course a higher percentage will be unconcerned with global warming. To not be misleading, the graph should have shown absolute numbers, not percentages.

  44. #45 Ichthyic
    October 12, 2007

    E.O. Wilson gets rave reviews,

    not always, that’s for sure. somehow, i think you missed the whole shitstorm that happened when he released Sociobiology

    I, and many others studying evolutionary biology these days, can go back and see what Wilson was pushing for and find the value in it. but boy, the controversy that sociobiology created around the time of its release left ripples you can still find in a lot of bio depts. (and political circles) to this day.

    and if you think all the reviews of Wilson’s latest were glowy, I think you might have missed PZ’s take on it.

  45. #46 cm
    October 13, 2007

    1) Nisbet ought to base his point on more than one problematic graph.

    2) But it’s only a blog post, it’s not like he wrote a book on it, so perhaps don’t whale on the guy so much.

    3) That Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t in of itself confer much on him and the success of his efforts for me; Yasser Arafat won the same prize. But maybe I am underinformed about the Peace Prize.

    4) PZ seems to be looking for any excuse to wash his hands o the idea of framing. He shouldn’t throw the framing baby out with this post’s bathwater.

    5) It’s probably going to take a much longer time scale than a few years to get a good read on that slippery beast “public opinion” as regards climate change.

    6) For now, perhaps better to look at measurable behaviors? Like sales of hybrid cars, new laws worldwide, conference attendance numbers, whether things are mentioned at summits, etc.

  46. #47 truth machine
    October 13, 2007

    I think that ngong was saying that Nisbet gives E. O. Wilson rave reviews.

  47. #48 Ichthyic
    October 13, 2007

    I think that ngong was saying that Nisbet gives E. O. Wilson rave reviews.

    ah, sorry, my bad.

    I just tend to block out what Nisbet thinks for the most part, since 90% of what he says is demonstrably wrong anyway (including the reviews of Wilson’s latest, for that matter).

    I figured it was just a general comment about how well received Wilson has been over the years, which had me shaking my head a bit in confusion.

  48. #49 truth machine
    October 13, 2007

    That Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t in of itself confer much on him and the success of his efforts for me

    It says quite a bit about the impact of those efforts.

    Yasser Arafat won the same prize

    Irrelevant, especially since he shared it with Peres and Rabin; the prize symbolically rewarded engaging in a ME peace process, whether or not Arafat was sincere, and had nothing to do with Arafat personally. Not dissimilarly, awarding the prize half to Gore and half to climate scientists rewards the process of making people aware, not Gore personally.

  49. #50 mikmik
    October 13, 2007

    Framing is the oldest straw man and/or red herring crap in the book. Now:
    1) Nisbet ought to base his point on more than one problematic graph.

    2) But it’s only a blog post, it’s not like he wrote a book on it, so perhaps don’t whale on the guy so much.
    speeled wail

    3) That Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t in of itself confer much on him and the success of his efforts for me; Yasser Arafat won the same prize. But maybe I am underinformed about the Peace Prize.
    Not just Gore, the IPCC. Maybe you are uninformed about world humanitarianism? Just for arguments sake, the nobal prizes are not fluff so look overall at laureates in all categories to see how many weren’t deserving. People or organizations win for their actions to protect humanity, not for their personal views or character. Their actions to promote world peace and their integrity while doing so.
    4) PZ seems to be looking for any excuse to wash his hands o the idea of framing. He shouldn’t throw the framing baby out with this post’s bathwater.
    Yeah, every point of view is framing, now? Don’t over generalize to include valid ideas with insipid ones, just because they are all ideas.

    5) It’s probably going to take a much longer time scale than a few years to get a good read on that slippery beast “public opinion” as regards climate change.
    What slippery beast, and who the ‘f’ cares about uninformed opinions? If you want to think in that vein, however, take a good solid look at what predictions are coming true already, and that 80% of the people in the world regard enviornmental degradation as the number 1 facing humanity. That ‘slippery beast’? I call it rock solid myself, but whatever your adjective, don’t think it fools anyone. More ‘framing’, eh?

    6) For now, perhaps better to look at measurable behaviors? Like sales of hybrid cars, new laws worldwide, conference attendance numbers, whether things are mentioned at summits, etc.
    No, measurable behaviors are guided by economics. When countries implement constricting and non-negotiable laws, and industies and cities take independent actions on their own, it is not ‘mentioning’ or considering crap and ideas at summits that mean squat, it is actual actions. Hybrid sales? Because of enviornment, or high gas prices?
    Steven Harper lecturing in Australia (sorry Bush, I know it’s Austria) about the profound importance of the enviornment, when his own government tried to implement the most facile and insulting legislation which showed his utter contempt for the idea of protecting enviornment over contemporary economic concerns?

    Yeah, all talk and no action, that’s where we are now. At least Gore made a movie that brought accessable and important knowledge into public awareness. There aren’t many example I can think of where people or organizations have ever brought to such light and discussion vitally important issues.
    One of the biggest and consistant topics of discussion the last year – ‘An Inconveniant Truth’. The IPCC report.
    Puts in a bit of perspective, or ‘frame of referance’, don’t it?

  50. #51 bullfighter
    October 13, 2007

    Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. If Nisbet is giving framing a bad name, it doesn’t follow that framing itself is bad.

    For maybe the worst methodological transgression in Nisbet’s post, see Framing, Damn Framing, and Statistics.

  51. #52 ngong
    October 13, 2007

    Ichthyic/Truth Machine…yes, I was referring only to Nisbet.

    Nisbet also gave a sweet review to Carl Sagan, whereupon posters deluged Nisbet with interesting anti-religion quotes from Sagan. It’s convenient that Sagan is dead, as there’s no telling what posture he would have taken in a post-9/11 world.

    In any case, I’m not sure what a few portraits of smiling, accomodating, nice scientists is supposed to prove.

  52. #53 cm
    October 13, 2007

    Responding to “mikmik”:

    2) But it’s only a blog post, it’s not like he wrote a book on it, so perhaps don’t whale on the guy so much.

    speeled wail

    No, it was spelled correctly originally as “whale”, as in to beat or thrash. Check a dictionary, like Webster’s New World College. One whales on a guy for wearing wide wale corduroys, and then the guy wails out in pain because of it.

    4) PZ seems to be looking for any excuse to wash his hands o the idea of framing. He shouldn’t throw the framing baby out with this post’s bathwater.
    Yeah, every point of view is framing, now? Don’t over generalize to include valid ideas with insipid ones, just because they are all ideas.

    My metaphor was apt: Nisbet’s post was explicitly about framing, and PZ’s response was explicitly about rejecting the arguments about framing climate change that Nisbet put forth. Obviously not all ideas are about framing. Some are about beverages, or luggage. But these blog posts were about framing.

    5) It’s probably going to take a much longer time scale than a few years to get a good read on that slippery beast “public opinion” as regards climate change.
    What slippery beast, and who the ‘f’ cares about uninformed opinions? If you want to think in that vein, however, take a good solid look at what predictions are coming true already, and that 80% of the people in the world regard enviornmental degradation as the number 1 facing humanity. That ‘slippery beast’? I call it rock solid myself, but whatever your adjective, don’t think it fools anyone. More ‘framing’, eh?

    Sorry, had I said “that slippery beast called public opinion” this misunderstanding could’ve been avoided. I’m saying public opinion is a slippery beast, in that it is hard to accurately assess (it is also a multi-headed beast, as there is no one pubic opinion but many).

  53. #54 ngong
    October 13, 2007

    bullfighter…As far as I’ve seen, this sort of graph-reading and a few lab-based studies on “cognitive dissonance” is as close as Nisbet comes to science. If engineering attitudes were so simple, our brilliant, cutting-edge propagandists would have won over the minds of the Iraqi public long ago.

  54. #55 Jeff D
    October 13, 2007

    I have always tried to be very well-read on science, science education, and trends in the nexus between science and public policy / public opinion. But I must confess that I don’t understand what the big effing deal is about “framing.” And I’ve read other writing by Mooney.

    The literature on information theory and psychology is rich with insights on the importance of context and levels of communication (the “frames,” such as “honesty” or “play,” within which human communications and interactions occur). I forget who said that “context is the part of the message that the listener or receiver already has, before the sender says or writes anything.”

    A person in any profession — lawyer, psychotherapist, teacher — can use the importance of context to his or her advantage by resorting to other rhretorical tools (such as analogy, metaphor, and carefully tuned vocabulary), and thereby making his or her communication more effective, so that the listener or reader or audience receives the core information with maximum clarity and with maximum understanding. None of this implies that the information itself must be “dumbed down” or that the writer or speaker must distort the information or abandon the methodologies that help to ensure reliable information gathering and analysis.

    Again, all of this should be old news. I hope that this “fad” about framing will pass, and that the hidden agendas under or behind framing will pass as well.

  55. #56 Anton Mates
    October 13, 2007

    Orac,

    Did I read the same article here?

    I went over to Nisbet’s site, and I hardly recognize it from the “framing” PZ laid on it. Nisbet’s post is a little muddled, but nowhere did I get the impression that he was saying that Gore was a flop, only that he was concerned that Gore’s “catastrophe” frame for AGW has gone about as far as it can go in moving public opinion and now is in jeopardy of degenerating into partisanship.

    I think you must not have read the same article. Nisbet said:

    “Gore’s Inconvenient Truth has been a stunning success in generating news coverage to his preferred “pandora’s box” framing of the “climate crisis” and in mobilizing a latent base of concerned citizens.”

    And later,

    “Despite Gore’s breakthrough success with Inconvenient Truth, public opinion today is little different from what it was in May 2006 when the movie was released.”

    And later,

    “Gore says he plans to donate 100% of the Nobel prize money to changing public opinion on climate change, but if he is going to be successful, he needs to promote alternative frames and interpretations of the issue and pair these messages with less partisan appearing opinion leaders.”

    In other words, according to Nisbet, Gore’s only successes were in getting media coverage, and in getting people who already believed in and feared global warming to be more active. Nisbet doesn’t believe that Gore moved public opinion on the reality or risk of global warming at all.

    I’m not sure that I agree with him, but I sure don’t see his point as deserving the level of vitriol I see from PZ and Chris.

    C’mon. The title of his post was “Does Gore Contribute to the Communication Crisis?”

    Nisbet’s doing exactly what he did with Dawkins. He’s taking someone who’s been exceptionally successful at conveying science to the general public, and declaring that no, actually he’s a “stark example of failure” (as he said of Dawkins) because he doesn’t follow Nisbet’s precise recipe for marketing/popularizing science.

    I think some vitriol is merited.

  56. #57 negentropyeater
    October 13, 2007

    I never understood this framing thing, but now I understand at least one thing, Nisbet is an idiot.

  57. #58 ngong
    October 13, 2007

    The notion that Gore’s take on AGW is slanted toward calamity is also quite questionable. It’s not what I’ve seen with him. The most disastrous historical example cited in “Inconvenient Truth” was the sudden breakage of an ice dam about 10,000 years ago, spilling fresh water into the Atlantic. Gore was then quite clear that such an event would now be impossible.

    One of Nisbet’s “techniques” is that would-be framers should emphasize the moral aspects of their issues. Gore did that repeatedly in his flick, and in yesterday’s press as well.

    But Nisbet’s judgement is somehow supposed to be more profound and objective than a mere movie critic’s.

  58. #59 Science Avenger
    October 13, 2007

    Orac said: Besides, it’s not his fault if the outrage is overblown (which it is). I tend to disagree with some of what he says and agree with other things; I have a hard time figuring out why PZ and people like you react to him with such vitriol, though.

    Because everything he says is either obvious, or nonsense. He reminds me of those marketing twits in the 90′s who sold us all those teambuilding exercises. Every time I read his articles, the phrase that keeps running through my head is “You can squeeze more words into fewer ideas than anyone I know.”

    However, give him credit, in some ways what he’s done is genius from a career perspective: push an issue that is 1) nebulous, 2) doesn’t require any falsifiable predictions, and 3) allows you to assume a position of moral and intellectual superiority. Gets him plenty of sexy speaking gigs to people who don’t know any better, and he can’t ever be held accountable for anything. It’s beautiful: he’s the Tony Robbins of science.

  59. #60 Caledonian
    October 13, 2007

    inkadu:

    A Babylon 5 reference.

    I am in shock.

    My sarcasm detector is activating, but I can’t quite identify the cause. Could you expand on that?

    In any case, it’s not the reference itself, but the context of the specific reference within the greater one that’s relevant here.

  60. #61 Dan
    October 13, 2007

    One of the most valued schools of knowledge in ancient Athens was called “rhetoric”. “Framing” is a specific school of thought about rhetoric, more or less. “Don’t Think Of an Elephant” had some good but simple ideas- if you say something different about the same thing, it will be perceived differently- and some ridiculously stupid ones. All told, it did help to remind some politicians, who are basically lawyers, how to sound like feeling, warm-blooded creatures.

    Nisbet, though, seems to get it even more wrong than Lakoff sometimes did, while also doing some ridiculously bad statistics. He also pisses a lot of people off while doing it. If your teacher in rhetoric, salesmanship, and diplomacy is pissing you off, he’s probably a failure. Good rhetoric sells itself. Bad rhetoric doesn’t.

    If you see a school of rhetoric pissing people off, it’s probably wrong.

  61. #62 David Harmon
    October 13, 2007

    What I can’t figure out — and this is an honest perplexity — is why Nisbet, an alleged expert on framing, is so lousy at framing his own arguments.

    Because book or no, he’s not actually an “expert” on framing, much less communication in general. He’s somebody who took his favorite hammer off the rack, and put it on an altar. This is a time-honored tactic for getting book contracts, but otherwise not terribly helpful.

    Also, it annoys the heck out of people who actually know how to use other sorts of hammers, not to mention screwdrivers, staplers, glue, etc. And, people who want to use his sacred hammer themselves.

    (Not to mention that he ran out of nails a while ago. ;-) )

  62. #63 Leni
    October 13, 2007

    Orac, please re-read this remark from Anton Mates:

    This criticism makes very little sense. Gore is an outspoken Baptist, and has personally worked with and trained a number of religious leaders in the Climate Project, many of whom currently work in the various Interfaith Power & Light groups. Gore’s been advocating environmentalism from a specifically religious perspective since he wrote “Earth in the Balance.”

    In a speech on global warming at NYU, Gore said:

    “Moreover, the American religious community -including a group of 85 conservative evangelicals and especially the US Conference of Catholic Bishops -has made an extraordinary contribution to this entire enterprise. To the insights of science and technology, it has added the perspectives of faith and values, of prophetic imagination, spiritual motivation, and moral passion without which all our plans, no matter how reasonable, simply will not prevail.”

    That would be game, set and match. Thank you for pointing this out, Anton.

    Nisbett should be using Gore as an example of someone who has framed successfully, instead of denigrating him. It’s ok to ask how we can do better. We should always look for ways to improve, and that’s good. I just don’t think that’s what Nisbett is going, given the title of the post.

    So not only is Nisbett flat-out wrong, but he’s denigrating the public recognition of Al Gore’s (and the participating scientists efforts) efforts. That’s pretty dickish in my book.

    And why just Al gore? Why not the other Nobel Prize winners? I don’t see public opinion of physics getting any better because we have giant, enormous hard drives now. Most people don’t even know there is physics involved. They certain;t don’t understand it any better. Perhaps we should accuse Albert Fert and Perter Gruenberg of “contributing to the [physics] communication crisis.”

    I mean, c’mon! What kind of a dick says something like that? A big rude one, that’s what kind.

    And I’m starting to suspect that Nisbett is a Republican. Not that that’s bad, I could care less, it just explains a lot.

  63. #64 Tulse
    October 13, 2007

    RBH:

    What I can’t figure out — and this is an honest perplexity — is why Nisbet, an alleged expert on framing, is so lousy at framing his own arguments.

    That to me is the profound irony — he continually pisses off the very people whom he wants to convince of his approach to persuasion. It doesn’t get any funnier than that.

    Leni:

    Nisbett should be using Gore as an example of someone who has framed successfully, instead of denigrating him

    Yep, which makes me question just what is the actual content of Nisbet’s “theory”, when it can reasonably come to a contrary conclusion using the same data. E.g., “Unlike the radicals of the New Atheist Noise Machine, Gore’s engaging of the evangelical community and religious leaders has brought enormous success to his campaign on global warming, so much so that there is now far greater interest and actual action on efforts like alternative energy and conservation, and even the most skeptical and hostile politicians acknowledge the existence of the threat. The Nobel Peace Prize is simply the most obvious piece of evidence that Gore has had real impact with his frame, and its recognition will no doubt increase the impact that he has on this issue.” That passage references more hard data than just one opinion poll, and it comes to the opposite conclusion.

    If your theory can say anything, then it says nothing. I have yet to see any clear explanation as to how one objectively determines if a frame is successful, beyond just asking Matt for his unsupported opinion.

  64. #65 Kristjan Wager
    October 13, 2007

    What I can’t figure out — and this is an honest perplexity — is why Nisbet, an alleged expert on framing, is so lousy at framing his own arguments.

    Actually, he is not bad at framing, he is bad at communicating. Here, quite a while after he first launched the concept of framing, the rest of us still doesn’t know what he is talking about – most of us would have assumed that Gore would be a perfect example of what he and Mooney have been advocating, but now he comes and tell us that Gore is a failure. Obviously we haven’t understood Nisbet’s message, and somehow I don’t think we’re to blame.

  65. #66 Caledonian
    October 13, 2007

    I don’t make this sort of suggestion lightly, primarily because it’s a very powerful and very dangerous thing to do. But:

    I think it’s time for an old-fashioned shunning.

    Stop visiting Nisbet’s site. Stop discussing his varied claims. Give him none of the attention he craves. Don’t acknowledge, don’t respond, don’t critique, don’t correct.

    There’s a place for incompatible views in any reasonable community, but there shouldn’t be a place for stupid here. Nisbet isn’t just trying to throw a wrench into the advocacy of other ScienceBloggers, he’s actively supporting stupid – and we need to stop enabling him.

  66. #67 negentropyeater
    October 13, 2007

    Christian,

    well, I think that most people here feel that the global warming “issue” is just not going to go away, it’s just going to get hotter. Unlike superstitious beliefs, this one is based on evidence.
    So denigrating the people who are most vocably ringing the alarm bell is just damn stupid. The alarm bell is going to ring louder and louder, and Gore is being thanked by the international community (not by America, but by the world) for having really started the bandwagon. Let’s hope that this time the bandwagon is useful for something. Afterall, we are just talking about the mid term survival of the species. Nothing new really, happened before in history, except that before, the species in question didn’t know how to ring the alarm bell.
    So yes, Nisbet trying to “frame” global warming, as if it were an issue which requires “non alarmist framing”, is not only a big communications mistake, it’s blatantly demonstrating that Nisbet didn’t understand at all what AGW is about.

  67. #68 John Phillips
    October 13, 2007

    Nisbet reminds me of those critics of Dawkins who came out of the woodwork after the publishing if The God Delusion and named their books the Dawkins Delusion and the like so as to hopefully make some sales on the back of his name. For the actual content, or rather lack of, would otherwise ensured that no sales would have ensued. I.e. the only way Nesbit can get any attention is to criticise someone who has been successful for as a communicator he so patently fails. I think someone else up-thread said it best, one of the best ways to see if someone is being successful with their ‘framing; is to wait to see if Nisbet criticises and denigrates them or their message (and in my take on it) in an attempt to garner attention.

  68. #69 inkadu
    October 13, 2007

    Caledonian:

    Babylon5 is just obscure. Really, really obscure.

    But maybe not on Pharyngula or the internets. Maybe I need to nerd it up a little more.

  69. PZ – I have to confess, I don’t even get your point, here. Also, have you ever read Lakoff’s books Don’t Think of an Elephant or Moral Politics? He’s one of the top authorities on framing. If not, you shouldn’t dismiss framing.

    Framing is based on sound psychological precepts and in a different context is called “Marketing 101.” In other words, it’s a big part of the basis for how Coke, Apple, McDonalds, etc., all influence our thoughts and behavior – and we know what ineffective persuaders they are…

    I believe Lakoff is 100% right when he says that framing enabled the Republicans to dominate for so long (that and thuggery, but thuggery alone wouldn’t have been enough, and framing is also used to make the thuggery seem like something nobler, like “homeland security”). Check out Franks’ What’s the Matter With Kansas?, for a comprehensive explanation of how it has worked for them. Also, note how the right is trying to reframe creationism into ID – even appropriating the word “intelligent” for a world view that’s the exact opposite! That’s framing, and it’s a powerful weapon for them.

    Even though even framing wasn’t enough to save the hapless Kerry, it’s a big reason why the Democrats rebounded in the 2006 elections.

    Framing’s going on all around us all, even if we don’t care to acknowledge that fact In fact, if it’s done right, we mostly don’t even recognize it.

    Hillary

  70. #71 Steve_C
    October 13, 2007

    PZ’s point is that most of the “framers” have no idea what they’re doing or are even successful.

  71. #72 Ichthyic
    October 13, 2007

    was the sudden breakage of an ice dam about 10,000 years ago, spilling fresh water into the Atlantic. Gore was then quite clear that such an event would now be impossible.

    hmm.

    wasn’t there recently a lake in South America that recently “disappeared” and was later found to have been held by an ice dam that melted?

    no time right now, but am pretty sure this was fairly recent (months), so it shouldn’t be too hard to google up.

  72. #73 mndean
    October 13, 2007

    I’m beginning to think that those who are complaining about Gore, both here and on their own blogs, are doing so for purely political reasons, not anything to do with science, the effectiveness of his approach, or “framing” which is nothing more than a fancy high-concept description of plain old spin. Nisbet can take his drum and beat on it all he likes, I think he’ll be remembered more as a charlatan and fraud than any sort of communications messiah. He appears to like to attack anyone who doesn’t toe the line of his precious “framing”, though he himself contributes nothing to these serious issues (like the religion problem and GW) except fog and darkness. He is the most useless of communicators – he can tell you that you’re terribly, disastrously wrong, but cannot either say why or come up with anything better. And since he cannot say why or improve, it casts grave doubt on his judgment.

  73. #74 kellbelle1020
    October 13, 2007

    Ichthyic-

    I googled it, but the only articles I found about the Chilean lake hypothesized that seismic activity opened up a fissure that the water flowed through. Furthermore, it was only 10-12 acres in area, only had been there for 30 years, and was located in an area known for seismic activity and such.
    (Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6225676.stm)

    In any case, the event Gore referred to involved a freshwater body twice the size of the Caspian Sea that flowed into the ocean relatively quickly, causing the sea level to rise ~4 feet probably in about a year by some estimates. Seeing as how there are no longer freshwater lakes this large precariously held back by ice dams, his claim that it would be impossible now is accurate. What is at issue is the salinity changes that occured due to the fact that it was freshwater, and whether melting glaciers in the Greenland area occuring over decades or centuries will have a similar detrimental effect on salinity, currents, etc.
    (source: http://www.livescience.com/environment/060629_lake_bursts.html)

  74. #75 Ichthyic
    October 13, 2007

    I found the link to the original story I had read on the issue a while back:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6268608.stm

    Experts now say melting glaciers put pressure on an ice wall that acted as a dam, causing it to give way.

    not saying it was on the same scale, just that I was reminded of this by the earlier comment on the much larger lake system.

  75. #76 inkadu
    October 13, 2007

    Tulse:

    There’s nothing in Bab5 that would surprise any student of history, nor any citizen of Eastern Europe…

    Mollari and G’Kar carried that entire show — those are some great actors. If I finish the series, it’s just for geek history value.

  76. #77 Interrobang
    October 13, 2007

    You know, you can be pro-framing and not on Nisbet’s “side,” so to speak, inasmuch as there are sides here. Personally, PZ, I think you’re quite a brilliant untrained framer in your own right.

    John Morales, I must disagree: Labelling is, in fact, invoking a frame of one sort or another, depending on the label you choose, especially when it’s a loaded term like “Chamberlain atheist.” (Check out the term-of-art meaning for “loaded” sometime.)

    Nisbet strikes me as a twit, and someone who thinks he’s better at communicating than he is. I’m not a spinner or a liar, myself, but I do pay an awful lot of attention to word choice when writing for public consumption, well, things that are more put-together than the odd blog comment.

  77. #78 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    Babylon 5 is not obscure.

    “They say… there is a ROOM!”

  78. #79 Matt Penfold
    October 14, 2007

    The problem I have with Nisbett’s article is that he only cites data from the US. This is not the first time he has confused a global issue with a national one. Global Warming is not solely confined to affecting the US as I am sure even he will acknowledge. It therefore behoves him to look at the affect Gore has had globally, and not just concentrate on the issues within one nation, especially as it seems that the US will not be one of the countries worst affected. I wonder how the people of Bangladesh regard Gore.

    As an professor of communication Nisbett seems to be very poor at doing so.

  79. #80 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    Babylon5 is just obscure. Really, really obscure.

    But maybe not on Pharyngula or the internets. Maybe I need to nerd it up a little more.

    I thought every nerd except me was a fan of it?

    Maybe someone can explain the discrepancy.

    Bab5 fans are more likely to be online than Trekkies? Just guessing…

    It therefore behoves him to look at the affect Gore has had globally

    Not much, because just about everyone was already convinced that global warming happens and is manmade.

    If you come across a global warming denier, chances are s/he has a US passport (…or rather, s/he does not have a passport, but is a US citizen). If you come across someone who says raising the minimum wage will destroy the economy, someone who is afraid of the idea of automatic health insurance for all citizens, or someone who has ever heard of people who use the adjectives “big” and “small” to modify the noun “government”, chances are very good you are dealing with a US citizen. If you come across an evolution denier from a halfway rich country… OK, I think Turkey counts.

  80. #81 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    Babylon5 is just obscure. Really, really obscure.

    But maybe not on Pharyngula or the internets. Maybe I need to nerd it up a little more.

    I thought every nerd except me was a fan of it?

    Maybe someone can explain the discrepancy.

    Bab5 fans are more likely to be online than Trekkies? Just guessing…

    It therefore behoves him to look at the affect Gore has had globally

    Not much, because just about everyone was already convinced that global warming happens and is manmade.

    If you come across a global warming denier, chances are s/he has a US passport (…or rather, s/he does not have a passport, but is a US citizen). If you come across someone who says raising the minimum wage will destroy the economy, someone who is afraid of the idea of automatic health insurance for all citizens, or someone who has ever heard of people who use the adjectives “big” and “small” to modify the noun “government”, chances are very good you are dealing with a US citizen. If you come across an evolution denier from a halfway rich country… OK, I think Turkey counts.

  81. #82 gerald spezio
    October 14, 2007

    What does a yuppie propagandist professor do when he DESPERATELY needs some attention.

    He creates BUZZ.

  82. #83 inkadu
    October 14, 2007

    David Marjanovi?

    I thought every nerd except me was a fan of it?

    Listen, buddy, I’ll speak out against any God you want, but when it comes to crossing the nerd fan base of Babylon 5, I’ve learned to keep my heresy to myself.

  83. #84 robotaholic
    October 15, 2007

    I’m sure, Al Gore is awesome. I don’t care if that puts me into a green leaning gaytheist stereotype. I welcome it. At least he stands for something good.

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