The Final Word on Framing

Orac is struggling to understand the problem with “framing,” and thinks he has the answer:

I’ve concluded that a lot of issues underlying this kerfuffle may be the difference between the “pure” scientists and science teachers (like PZ and Larry Moran, for example), who are not dependent upon selling their science for the continued livelihood of their careers, and scientists like me, who are, not to mention nonscientist journalists and communications faculty (like Mooney and Nisbet), for whom communication is their career.

That’s a thought, but I think the answer is much simpler: PZ and Larry Moran are not primarily interested in promoting science.

“That’s crazy,” you say. But here it is from the horse’s mouth, Larry Moran in Chris Mooney’s comments:

I think religion is the problem and I’ll continue to make the case against religion and superstition. One of the many ways where you and Nisbet go wrong is to assume that people like PZ, Dawkins, and me are primarily fighting for evolution. That’s why you argue that in the fight to save evolution it’s “wrong” (e.g., not part of your frame) to attack religion.

When are you going to realize that our primary goal in many cases is to combat the worst faults of religion? Asking us to stop criticizing religion is like asking us to give up fighting for something we really care about. That’s not “framing,” it’s surrender.

That’s the beginning and end of the problem. The entire problem with “framing” is that Nisbet and Mooney are looking for the best way to promote science, while PZ and Larry are looking for the best way to smash religion. The goals are not the same, and the appropriate methods are not the same– in particular, Nisbet and Mooney argue that the best way to promote science would be to show a little tact when dealing with religious people, and that runs directly counter to the real goals of PZ and Larry.

As a very smart woman once said, “Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” There’s a non-trivial amount of overlap between their objectives, but when it comes down to it, Chris Mooney and Larry Moran have very different goals in what they’re trying to communicate, which is why “framing” seems like a good idea to Chris, and is anathema to Larry.

Really, that’s all there is to the issue. Not coincidentally, that realization pretty much marks the end of any interest I have in what Larry Moran thinks about “framing”– his goals are not my goals, therefore, I don’t particularly need to listen to his thoughts about strategy.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam
    April 18, 2007

    I still can’t understand the people that want to go to intellectual war with religion. I don’t care if they do (competition for attention and believers is fine, between churches, between religions and between religions and those that hold that all religions are wrong), so long as the public don’t assume that all or most scientists are anti-religion — I guess that most are at least agnostic, and many are atheists, but I’m using ‘anti-religion’ to mean something like ‘gunning for religion’. I don’t want to be part of some Great Crusade to change what people believe about spiritual matters and, in particular, I’m not interested in convincing them that there are no such things as ‘spiritual matters’. I don’t care what people believe; I care how they act, which can be driven by what people believe, but the general issue of belief is very much a personal one, so far as I am concerned. The focus should be on actions, not beliefs.

  2. #2 Jim RL
    April 18, 2007

    Good analysis. I support Framing because my fundamental science policy related goals are to get ID/Creationism out of schools, get people to take climate change seriously, and support stem cell research. Those goals require people to trust science and scientists, so attacking their core beliefs is counterproductive.

  3. #3 Scholar
    April 18, 2007

    That’s an idea…it’s just not a good one. I speak for PZ in saying that he wants to promote science as much as ANYONE. Moonbeam and Nisbert (and Orzel?) are content with the idea that a Creator could be responsible for evolution. This conflicts with what we now know about the human genome.
    http://scienceblogs.com/loom/2007/04/12/meet_the_monkey_cousins.php#more

  4. #4 igor eduardo küpfer
    April 18, 2007

    Adam:
    I still can’t understand the people that want to go to intellectual war with religion.

    Some of us live in countries outside of the USA. We live in secular societies where scientists are respected and where religious fundementalists are ridiculed, not pandered to. We look at the USA and see an extreme outlier in terms of public attitudes towards both science and religion. Some of us can’t help but think these attitudes are related in some way. Some people in the USA see this also.

    It’s pretty clear that the only motivations for the anti-science movement in the USA are religious ones.[*] That would be the reason why some people would want to wage an intellectual war against religion in the USA. Not me — it’s not my fight — but the chain of logic is pretty straightforward.

    [* There are of course other motivations for anti-science, but most of them are noticable only outside the USA.]

  5. #5 Scholar
    April 18, 2007

    Here, this was just spewn forth from the squid’s mouth…

    “We can’t use an approach that brings god into the evolution picture. This is not because of atheism (though that position would make this same argument). It is because it is a) bad science; b) a wedge for bringing various forms of creationism into the classroom and c) illegal.”

  6. #6 ponderingfool
    April 18, 2007

    There are other questions regarding framing that I don’t think have been discussed enough. Framing works has been what is pushed by Nisbet and Mooney. Do not think anyone disagrees with that. There are questions though of how one frames and which frames one uses (biases one taps into to). What are the intermediate to long term effects?

    Nisbet:
    “That’s the power and influence of framing when it resonates with an individual’s social identity. It plays on human nature by allowing a citizen to make up their minds in the absence of knowledge, and importantly, to articulate an opinion. It’s definitely not the scientific or democratic ideal, but it’s how things work in society.”

    Scheufele:
    “And they highlight a key aspect of successful communication. Neither proponents nor opponents of stem cell research build their arguments on scientific information. What they rely on are heuristics or cognitive shortcuts that will allow voters to make decisions without understanding the obvious complexities surrounding the issues. And it doesn’t matter if these shortcuts are based on religious beliefs, celebrity, or personal hopes. Packaging matters … regardless of which side of the issue you’re on.”

    Does packaging such that arguments are not built upon scientific information but on the subjective help science in the long term? Or are we feeding into a society in which we turn away from the democratic/scientific ideal? If yes, we would be taking part in a downward spiral.

    The selection to win on issues in the current election cycle is dangerous. It creates the type of politics we have in this country. Maybe we should aim to frame better such that we can raise the discourse and educate at the same time. It is harder to do but according to the Adam

    April 18, 2007

    Igot #4: but it’s a daft way to go about things, is my point. If people try to insert Creationism or ID into the science classroom, then we should kick back (and have, with the support of most religious people, I would say) and get them back out of the classroom (a course of action in which, so far, the law has been on our side). Going after them ‘where they live’ just is very ill-advised, I think, not to mention often appearing to be spiteful, vengeful and replete with all the arrogant pomposity that charectarises the worst of the religious assaults, past and present, on rationality.

    I agree with you as to the correlation between certain sorts of religious fervour and anti-science attitudes, but if one goes after religious belief itself, it’s not just hitting at the loons that try to stomp science, it’s going after pretty much all religious people (which, apart from being an ill-considered action in general, is likely also doomed to likely and painful failure in this country, which is populated overwhelmingly with religious people). Furthermore, it’s not science in any case; some scientists may wish to pursue such a course, but I’d be happier if they weren’t invoking science as the reason, or the source of their certainty.

    Most of us scientists, I think, don’t give a toss about going to war with religion. Like most of the religious people, in fact (of course, these aren’t to distinct sets; there are religious scientists), we’d just like to get on with our thing and are only interested in bashing at others when they try to stop us doing it (and, note, ‘our thing’ is not ‘convincing the world that God doesn’t exist’, which is something outside of the scientific sphere altogether).

    People that like to scoff at others are never edifying to watch in action; they are much less good to associate with or be associated with. It’s not just the religious types that are more unreasonable in the US, I fear, but also some of the scientists (not just the US, though; my home nation, the secular UK, has produced Richard Dawkins, who is increasingly and bemusingly passionate in his anti-religious missionary campaign).

  7. #8 Orac
    April 18, 2007

    Yikes. I never saw that quote by Larry. You may well have a point.

  8. #9 Orac
    April 18, 2007

    Ooops. Hit “post” too soon.

    You may well have a point, except that I think that Larry and PZ see supporting good science and attacking religion as one in the same, or at least highly related. Consequently, they do not like the idea that you can do the former without necessarily doing the latter.

  9. #10 Chad Orzel
    April 18, 2007

    It’s pretty clear that the only motivations for the anti-science movement in the USA are religious ones.

    I would disagree with that, and I suspect Chris Mooney would, too. A large number of the anti-science actions discussed in The Republican War on Science are primarily economic, not religious– large industries trying to warp science in order to preserve their profit margins.

  10. #11 dileffante
    April 18, 2007

    It’s pretty clear that the only motivations for the anti-science movement in the USA are religious ones.

    Far from “pretty clear”, Igor, and I’m afraid that’s a weak link in your chain of logic. As Mooney documents in his book, the monster has many heads, and a big head beside the religious one has the face of bussiness. The hand that puts stickers in biology books is a nuisance; the hand that changes scientific reports in goverment agencies is a major problem (more difficult to handle, and with heavier consequences). The tide may change, and Rove’s conservative majority may even break down or fail; but corporate America will still be there, and this may be a reason for wishing to enlist some religious people in the defense of science.

  11. #12 Mike Bruce
    April 18, 2007

    There’s another possible difference in goals: do you want to help other people understand the world better, or do you want to prove how smart you are and how stupid and deluded they are?

    Some styles of argumentation aren’t really aimed at promoting understanding, they’re just about beating up on an out-group and garnering admiration from those who already agree with you.

    I think there’s probably some fantasy at the end of this where people are actually convinced of something, but that seems secondary.

  12. #13 Josh Rosenau
    April 18, 2007

    And here’s PZ in his comment thread. I suggested this approach:

    Would it be dishonest of you to say “I’m an atheist, I don’t think religion contributes to society or morality, but I respect the scientific work of my theist colleagues, and regardless of our disagreements over religion, science is a powerful source of unity and knowledge”? I haven’t watered down what I understand your views on science or religion to be, but I think that putting it in less oppositional terms makes it a message that draws in people inside and outside the scientific community rather than pushing people away.

    His response:

    As for your rephrasing, it misses the point. I’m not arguing for everyone to be a scientist, I’m arguing against the corrupting influence of religion. Do you also think the best way to oppose crime is to be nice and avoid saying unkind things about criminals?

    My emphasis.

  13. #14 windy
    April 18, 2007

    That’s the beginning and end of the problem. The entire problem with “framing” is that Nisbet and Mooney are looking for the best way to promote science, while PZ and Larry are looking for the best way to smash religion.

    Wrong. Leaving aside what PZ et al’s main motives may be, the goals Nisbet and Mooney state as most important is to get the public to side with certain “policy decisions” in the short term. This is not “promoting science”. It’s promoting a small subset of the results of science.

  14. #15 Mike Bruce
    April 18, 2007

    Do you also think the best way to oppose crime is to be nice and avoid saying unkind things about criminals?

    If getting Tough on Religion bears the same fruit as being Tough on Crime, we should probably all start practicing our hymns.

  15. #16 Herb
    April 18, 2007

    I think PZ would say that he IS in fact primarily interested in promoting science. It’s just that he thinks that battling religion is the most effective way of achieving this goal.

  16. #17 Corkscrew
    April 18, 2007

    I’d disagree with Larry Moran’s framing of the Passionate Atheist stance – IMO there’s a strong argument that fighting religion is a necessary part of defending science.

    The question, though, is “what do we mean by science?”. If we’re talking about the existing body of knowledge, or the current community, then Passionate Atheism is certainly not the way forward. If, however, we’re using Feynman’s definition of science, atheism in the absence of evidence becomes just another part of good scientific practice, and as worthy of promotion as any other.

    “The first principle [of scientific ethics] is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.” – Feynman

  17. #18 Mike the Mad Biologist
    April 18, 2007

    Chad,

    I’m glad you noticed that Larry Moran comment too. Great post.

  18. #19 adam
    April 18, 2007

    Corkscrew #17: I wholly disagree with that. Sure, if the religious types try to play their games on our lawn, scientists should try to kick them off it. Our duty, though, isn’t to convert people away from being religious (and I don’t see that atheism in the absence of evidence is the scientific stance, for what it’s worth; agnosticism would appear to be more sensible, if one were just to look at the evidence).

    Not fooling ourselves is a good rule for everyone to follow, every individual should try it. I don’t have a burning ambition to tell everyone else when I think that they’re fooling themselves, though and, frankly, I doubt that it’s likely to bear great fruit.

    Much science was done by people that were religious themselves and there still are religious scientists. I don’t see that ‘fighting religion’ is necessary in defending science per se (although in some cases, it will be, that depends on whether they are encroaching on our ability to do science), and I don’t like the idea that it might in some sense lead to trying to convert or boot out current scientists that are religious (it would hardly make any sense to only be fighting it outside of science, after all, if fighting religion is an imperative).

  19. #20 igor eduardo kupfer
    April 18, 2007

    #10 & #11: Point taken. My repsonse is that anti-science economic forces are a global constant that every country has to deal with (in Canada, we have more than our share) -but no other western industrialised country has the same level of anti-science sentiment. Economic forces, at work everywhere, cannot explain this alone. I would argue that they cannot explain even a lot of it — certainly in cases, like stem cell research, where economic forces are pro-science (or at least neutral) and only religious objections remain.

  20. #21 Science Avenger
    April 18, 2007

    I won’t presume to speak for PZ or Larry, but I am in their camp and I’d say it’s not religion per se we are intent on battling, but irrationality. Religion just happens to be the most prominent contributor to the problem, but it is certainly not the only one. It is, however, the only one lobbying for special treatment. What I am saying, and I believe others are as well, is this:

    Have your religion. Believe whatever you damned well please. Just remember it is your personal nonscientific belief, and as such should not be part of the political or scientific discourse. The minute you start making scientific or political statements based on those beliefs, you will be called on it, just as hard as anyone who interjects any such personal belief into those public realms.

    There would be no battle over stem cell research without religion. That this baseless voodoo concept of a soul at conception is dictating our public policy is an embarrasment worthy of a Monte Python skit, just to pick one of many examples out there. It makes no sense in the long term to only attack the symptoms of irrationality and ignore the biggest cause. That just leaves more battles to fight.

  21. #22 Chad Orzel
    April 18, 2007

    Leaving aside what PZ et al’s main motives may be, the goals Nisbet and Mooney state as most important is to get the public to side with certain “policy decisions” in the short term. This is not “promoting science”. It’s promoting a small subset of the results of science.

    That’s one heck of a “leaving aside,” seeing how that was kind of an important part of the post…

    But, OK, my phrasing may have been a little pejorative. I tend to agree with the Mooney and Nisbet position, after all, so I’m inclined to paint them in a more favorable light.

    So, fine, neither side is primarily about promoting science. Mooney and Nisbet are primarily interested in achieving a certain fairly broad set of policy goals, and Myers and Moran are primarily interested in eliminating religion.

    The main point is unchanged: these two groups have very different goals, that happen to overlap in a few places. As such, it really doesn’t make much sense for Mooney and Nisbet to concern themselves with what Myers and Moran think about their strategies. And vice versa, for that matter.

  22. #23 Chad Orzel
    April 18, 2007

    My repsonse is that anti-science economic forces are a global constant that every country has to deal with (in Canada, we have more than our share) -but no other western industrialised country has the same level of anti-science sentiment. Economic forces, at work everywhere, cannot explain this alone. I would argue that they cannot explain even a lot of it — certainly in cases, like stem cell research, where economic forces are pro-science (or at least neutral) and only religious objections remain.

    I’m not sure I entirely believe that, either. My impression has been that the European countries are vastly more hostile to things like genetically engineered foods than the US is, for reasons that aren’t either religious or economic (though there’s an element of protectionism to the whole thing). That’s sort of faded into the background in recent years, but in the late 90′s, the European public appeared much more hostile to at least some forms of science than the American public.

    I think you can find strong anti-science sentiments, for some definition of “science” in pretty much any country and region. The particular forms of the anti-science sentiment will differe from place to place, but I think the current political prominence of the American anti-science factions has created the illusion that this is a uniquely American problem, when it’s really not.

  23. #24 adam
    April 18, 2007

    ScienceAvenger # 21:I also don’t think that the role of science is to fight irrationality. Sure, people can take on that mission if they wish, regardless of whether they are scientists; I just don’t think that it’s essentially the mission of the scientist. We do science; we do have to sell it to the people that fund it (largely, the taxpayer) but I think that we can, and ought to, do that by showing them the benefits of the endeavour rather than going to war with their beliefs. If their beliefs mean that they don’t appreciate our achievements as much as we ourselves do, well, they’re entitled to an opinion; I don’t think that changing their minds is important enough to try and change their religious beliefs, particularly not from a position that they are deluded. It’s certainly not a reponsibility I want to take on nor do I want it picked up on my behalf.

    The fact is that most (85%ish, I think) Americans are religious to some degree. They may not endorse all our opinions as scientists, but I don’t think that the majority of them are hostile to science; I certainly don’t want to be attacking the religious beliefs of the lot of them just to solve our problems with a few of them.

    If people wish to be what I consider irrational, I have to accept that, to some extent, they’re making an adult choice. Even if I don’t, I have to accept that I’m not going to be changing too many minds and, even if I could, I’d have to be aware that I could be taking from them something that makes them happy and leaving them without it. Sure, you might claim that it’s pathetic to be happy based on irrational beliefs but I would say that happyness is sufficiently important and, for many, hard to achieve that it may be worth more than rationality.

  24. #25 olvlzl the Heretic
    April 19, 2007

    Just remember it is your personal nonscientific belief, and as such should not be part of the political or scientific discourse. The minute you start making scientific or political statements based on those beliefs, you will be called on it, just as hard as anyone who interjects any such personal belief into those public realms. Science Avenger

    Well, good luck about banning peoples’ nonscientific belief from political discourse. Uh, give me the undisputed, scientific requirements for political and legal equality, against slavery, for due process, … It is irrational to think that the very specific, very focused and quite limited information base of science is adequate to govern a society. The information that science brings to the process of governing is absolutely essential and it is a crime when the corporate state distorts or lies about it, but it is hardly enough. I have yet to see any evidence that what are called the social sciences have as much to bring to political discourse as history, hardly a science. It was history, not science, that convinced those writing the constitution that separation of church and state was more likely to produce a relatively non-violent society and country.

    Science is a very specific type of activity, at its best undertaken to gain a very reliable kind of knowledge. It isn’t applicable to the study and understanding of very complex systems and things, it breaks down most badly when it attempts to. That is one of the reasons that the social sciences are relatively unstable. Life is too complex to attempt the kinds of grand unified theories so beloved of scientists out to make their name for all time. The smartest seem to understand that their name might just turn out to be written in water, the most foolish of these turn to grand schemes like abolishing religion. It is foolish and will turn out to be futile. Since the vast majority of people in the world choose to believe in religion of some kind it is more likely to produce a violent counter-reaction than their pie-on-the-ground atheistic utopia. Maybe if they got outside their specialites, stopped worrying about their lasting reputations and did a bit of reading in history they might have a better knowledge base for thinking about politics and society in general.

  25. #26 olvlzl the Heretic
    April 19, 2007

    There would be no battle over stem cell research without religion. That this baseless voodoo concept of a soul at conception is dictating our public policy is an embarrasment worthy of a Monte Python skit, just to pick one of many examples out there.

    I forgot this bit. There wouldn’t be an argument over stem cell research without religion? How do you know? I’ll bet you that there are non-religious people, including professed atheists, who would argue against stem-cell research. Are you familiar with Nat Hentoff on abortion?

    Since polling shows the majority of Americans favor stem cell research and the majority also consider themselves religious believers it is a reasonable conclusion that just being a religious believer isn’t sufficient to make someone oppose stem cell research, a distinction too subtle for some of the Dawkinsite persuasion to master. I’ve heard religious people make arguments for the morality of fetal stem cell research based on religious beliefs. Your statement isn’t what might be called a necessary conclusion.

    As for “voodoo concept of a soul at conception”, you really are going to make a lot of converts to your point of view with that kind of framing, aren’t you. And you guys are always telling us how smart you are.

  26. #27 Peter Erwin
    April 19, 2007

    I’m not sure I entirely believe that, either. My impression has been
    that the European countries are vastly more hostile to things like
    genetically engineered foods than the US is, for reasons that aren’t either
    religious or economic (though there’s an element of protectionism to the
    whole thing). That’s sort of faded into the background in recent years,
    but in the late 90′s, the European public appeared much more hostile to at
    least some forms of science than the American public.

    It’s definitely true that there is (still) significant European opposition
    to genetically modified foods. However, it’s a fairly narrow issue (partly
    motivated, as you suggest, by protectionism) and one aimed at the corporate
    deployment of a particular technology, not at science in general. That is,
    the objection was not to genetic research, or even genetic engineering per
    se, but to the idea of messing with what people actually grow in their fields and eat.

    And you don’t really have large parts of the population in most European
    countries thinking that maybe science is part of some anti-religious
    conspiracy aimed at undermining traditional values.

    I think you can find strong anti-science sentiments, for some definition of
    “science” in pretty much any country and region. The particular forms of
    the anti-science sentiment will differe from place to place, but I think
    the current political prominence of the American anti-science factions has
    created the illusion that this is a uniquely American problem, when it’s
    really not.

    This doesn’t meant that the overall level of anti-science sentiment is
    somehow the same for all countries, which is what you seem to be
    suggesting.

  27. #28 ponderingfool
    April 19, 2007

    But, OK, my phrasing may have been a little pejorative. I tend to agree with the Mooney and Nisbet position, after all, so I’m inclined to paint them in a more favorable light.
    ********************************************************

    So you framed to make your side look a little better, bending the truth because of your own biases. Isn’t that the danger with the type of framing Nisbet,Mooney and Scheufele are advocating? One that takes shortcuts to get people on your side without having them engage the facts. I know you did not mean to deceive but you are human as we all are. Myers and Moran have their biases. Everyone does. We tend to favor them when not given the time to think and engage the pertinent facts. You add to that the desire to win in issues right now and you have a dangerous combo.

    The scientific process is a means we scientists use to collectively over time to over come such biases.

    Isn’t the role of scientists in society to put forth the facts and not be politicians? Shouldn’t we be framing so that the public understands the facts? Isn’t that our role? Is it ethical for a scientist as a scientist to frame things any differently? Now in communicating the facts, scientists do need to do a significantly better job of framing, finding the right hooks and communication styles to reach people.

    Last post forgot the links to Nisbet’s and Scheufele’s comments.

  28. #29 Chad Orzel
    April 19, 2007

    Peter Erwin: This doesn’t meant that the overall level of anti-science sentiment is somehow the same for all countries, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

    No, certainly not. If I implied that, it was not intentional. The US currently has the anti-science bug a good deal worse than any other country I’m aware of, thanks to our political leadership.

    I just don’t agree that we’re the only country with a problem, or that anti-science sentiment is always and only religious in origin. Another example would be HIV denialism in Africa, which seems to be pretty widespread and highly destructive, but not particularly religiously based.

    ponderingfool: So you framed to make your side look a little better, bending the truth because of your own biases.

    Yes, and? You have me confused with somebody who objects to framing…

    And if you think Myers and Moran et al don’t frame their arguments to make their side look better, well, you’ve got the right nom de Net. The entire “noble truth-telling scientist vs. craven spinning appeaser” line is nothing but a stunningly disingenuous frame.

    Isn’t the role of scientists in society to put forth the facts and not be politicians?

    That would be lovely if it were true. It’s not the world we live in, though, and it never has been, going all the way back to Galileo.

  29. #30 olvlzl The Heretic
    April 19, 2007

    The anti-science manifestation in the United States is largely driven by the kind of fundamentalism that sprang up in the post Civil War South and spread from there. Specifically, it gained strength due to its utility to the Republicans in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Acts passed in the 60s. Studying its absurd attempts to gain scientific respectability is useless to understanding its strength which is the direct result of its being allowed free reign in the broadcast and cable media. If the atheist fundamentalists weren’t so interested in asserting their own dogmas they might realize that the best hope of defeating them is to organize the larger number of liberal religious believers in an alliance to prevent the destruction of the wall of separation between religion and the government. I propose that people who are more interested in saving democracy and the teaching and funding of honest science, history and health issues will have to abandon anyone who is more interested in snark than in finding what will really work.

  30. #31 Science Avenger
    April 19, 2007

    Adam wrote: The fact is that most (85%ish, I think) Americans are religious to some degree. They may not endorse all our opinions as scientists, but I don’t think that the majority of them are hostile to science; I certainly don’t want to be attacking the religious beliefs of the lot of them just to solve our problems with a few of them.

    I agree with you. I am not suggesting attacking people’s religious beliefs per se (although there are certainly forums where it is appropriate to do so), because as many have stated here that would be unproductive. What I am suggesting is that we stop making scientific and political concessions for religion, and treat it the same as the many other beliefs people hold for little or no rational reason, such as astrology, four-leafed clovers, or my personal belief that the Arizona Cardinals will never, ever, win a Super Bowl. We have a right to believe what we want. But when it comes to engaging a serious study of reality (ie science) or forcing our beliefs on others (politics), we should have the good sense, and the courtesy frankly, to leave those picadillos aside and deal only with that which we can rationally justify. That, like democracy, may not be a perfect system, but it is better than all of the others.

  31. #32 Science Avenger
    April 19, 2007

    Olvlzl the Heretic, you are attackng an army of straw men, but then that comes as no surprise coming from someone who tosses about oxymoronic terms like “fundamentalist atheist”. I’m using science in a much broader sense than you are, which would include things such as history. Your other comments were similarly ill-targeted. I did however enjoy the blatant logical fallacy you employed to go from me saying “There would be no battle over stem cell research without religion”, which is true, to “just being a religious believer isn’t sufficient to make someone oppose stem cell research”. The fact that all NFL coaches are men does not imply that all men are NFL coaches. Or was that basic piece of logic too subtle for you to master?

    Try putting your anti-atheistic bigotry aside and look at what people are actually saying instead of your silly mischaracturizations. Reality is so much more interesting than delusions.

  32. #33 PonderingFool
    April 19, 2007

    Yes, and? You have me confused with somebody who objects to framing…

    And if you think Myers and Moran et al don’t frame their arguments to make their side look better, well, you’ve got the right nom de Net. The entire “noble truth-telling scientist vs. craven spinning appeaser” line is nothing but a stunningly disingenuous frame.
    *********************************************************

    First off when did I say Myers and Moran don’t frame? They do. I personally don’t agree with the manner of expressing their desire not to be oppressed by religion. Moran, I think is incredibly biased when it comes to the three domains of life (he sticks to the old-school eukaryotic/prokaryotic divide and lashes out at annoying who disagrees) and he does frame that argument such that he twists the truth which frustrates me to no end & uses intellectual shortcuts that do not belong in a scientific debate IMHO.

    There are legitimate concerns about what frames you tap into. It is very easy when trying to persuade someone of your argument to tap into biases in our society. The Republican Party has been especially good at this. I raised the point not to say “framing” is bad nor that scientists are noble. Scientists serve a role in society. Politicians serve another. If scientists move more in the direction of framing like a politician, I do worry what are the long term consequences of this. I realize that science is engaged in politics and vice versa and has been for awhile.

    Nisbet and Mooney are asking for more of it. They see very real problems in society that they think can not be addressed by better teaching due to the immediate need for change. They want to take advantage of intellectual shortcuts that do not require educating the general public with facts but by playing to the subjective wants/desire/hopes people have. That is great, more power to them. My questions, 1) is why should scientists be the one’s doing that? 2) what are the risks/rewards if scientists do this to a far greater extent? 3) how do we prevent ourselves from playing into racist/sexist/classist frames?

    The other question I have, is with that approach doesn’t that leave us open to the gotcha moment? That is how I would respond if I was the other side. I would pull up some facts that muddy the waters and undermine the credibility of those framing who originally did not put information out upfront. Basically the reverse of the examples of Nisbet gives of framing the Bush administration on issues of public accountability, hiding something etc.

    To me framing is not spinning but finding the hooks necessary to communicate information/viewpoints effectively, to engage one’s audience. There are different hooks you can use. Some are easier to tap into than others. A number that are easy to tap into feed into fears of “other”. Should scientists do that? I would say no. We should strive for to use different hooks. It probably is harder but why not strive for more? Are things that bad in the world that we don’t have the time/resources to try?

  33. #34 olvlzl The Heretic
    April 19, 2007

    Science Avenger, please identify:
    What the strawmen you are talking about consist of because I can’t find them,
    What in anything I’ve written constitutes anti-atheist bigotry, I could point out that you have no idea if I’m a believer or a non-believer or some kind. The definition of the term “atheist fundamentalist” is someone who pretends to “know that there is no god”, an impossibility since it would require the falsification of every possible proposed god. A person who doesn’t believe in a god and who says “I don’t believe there is a god,” or even “I don’t see how a rational person could believe in a god,” isn’t a fundamentalist because they aren’t pretending to a knowledge that is impossible to possess. It is the exact, same method of telling a religious fundamentalist from a religious liberal.

    Anyone who can mistake history, which uses some of the techniques and methods of science but which can only be called science if the word is distorted out of all meaning and still believe themselves to be avenging science is simply mistaken.

  34. #35 Larry Moran
    April 20, 2007

    PonderingFool says,

    Moran, I think is incredibly biased when it comes to the three domains of life (he sticks to the old-school eukaryotic/prokaryotic divide and lashes out at annoying who disagrees) and he does frame that argument such that he twists the truth which frustrates me to no end & uses intellectual shortcuts that do not belong in a scientific debate IMHO.

    Just for fun, lets look at those sentences in the context of “framing.”

    First, you use “bias” to refer to my scientific opinion on a scientific issue. Would you use the same word to describe the few remaining supporters of the Three Domain Hypothesis? Or is this an example of effective framing?

    Second, you say that I “stick to the old-school eukaryotic/prokaryotic divide” when I’ve made it very clear that I was a supporter of the Three Domain Hypothesis until the early 1990′s when the evidence started to turn against it. I now support the “net of life” hypothesis of Woese and Ford Doolittle. Is your false portrayal of my position an example of good framing?

    Third, you claim that I “twist the truth” and use “intellectual shortcuts” to explain my position on the Three Domain Hypothesis. This, in spite of the fact that I put up six long postings describing the positions of both proponents and defenders of the hypothesis. Is your false description of me another example of effective framing?

    If this is what framing is all about then I don’t want any part of it.

  35. #36 Chad Orzel
    April 20, 2007

    If this is what framing is all about then I don’t want any part of it.

    I’m a little tired of this disingenuous act where you make like you never say anything that isn’t the absolute and unvarnished truth. In fact, that’s nothing but your own “frame” or “spin” or whatever you want to call it. Spare me the big show of affronted dignity.

    I don’t know what your history with Pondering Fool is, and I really don’t care– both of you, take your mutual accusations of hypocrisy to somebody else’s blog. Attempts to continue an argument that started somewhere else in my comment section will result in lossy compression.

  36. #37 Larry Moran
    April 20, 2007

    Chad says,

    I’m a little tired of this disingenuous act where you make like you never say anything that isn’t the absolute and unvarnished truth. In fact, that’s nothing but your own “frame” or “spin” or whatever you want to call it. Spare me the big show of affronted dignity.

    Chad, you don’t seem to understand the problem. When I say something I sincerely believe that it’s the truth. If you call that “spin” of “framing” then the word has no meaning.

    What I object to is other people telling me what I should say, especially if it’s not what I believe to be true.

    Contrary to what you think, I don’t have that much confidence in everything I say. I throw it out there to see what kind of response I get. It’s one of the ways I learn.

    Why do you think I should change and adopt the Nisbet & Mooney tactic? Is it just because you like their kind of “framing” better than my way of behaving?

  37. #38 ponderingfool
    April 20, 2007

    Attempts to continue an argument that started somewhere else in my comment section will result in lossy compression.
    *****************

    Fair enough and I do apoligize & to Larry.

    I do understand we all do frame which is what I was trying to address. One of my concerns is what frames we tap into. My personal experience is that most scientists are extremely busy people. They have a lot on their plates (grant writing, teaching, advising, administrative tasks, lives outside of academia). Most (like most people in the general population) give into society biases when they don’t have time to think. It amazed me for awhile in graduate school how many professors were blind to sexism, classism, racism sitting right under their noses until it was pointed out, until I realized it was because of the pressures they were under that kept them so busy. If these busy scientists frame to the public how do we prevent tapping into these frames, especially when the selection is to win topics in there here and now?

  38. #39 Paul Schofield
    April 21, 2007

    You may well have a point, except that I think that Larry and PZ see supporting good science and attacking religion as one in the same, or at least highly related.

    I have to agree with this one, and take this back to Dawkins.

    Dawkins views religion as harmful for a range of reasons, but in particular because it offers an alternative to science which is attractive to those who don’t actually study or understand science.

    Personally, I feel that combating the lack of understanding would achieve more than combating the alternative views, because, as experience with new-agers and all manners of religions springing up, even if you do show one alternative to be nonsense, peoples lust for explanations and inability to understand science (however false that inability is) will drive them to invent or embrace their own religious or non-scientific viewpoints.

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