Stranger Fruit

No more theory!

People are discussing the Nisbet & Mooney “Framing Science” paper, but due to real life getting in the way, I haven’t been able to either read the (short) paper or the (long) blogospheric coverage. I will however note that Greg Laden makes a great point over at Pharyngula:

In the manner of Dale Carnegie, I’ll say it and I’ll say it again and again: Let’s try to drop the “theory” from “evolutionary theory”… this word is doing so much work out there in normal language, it DOES NOT MATTER that scientists think “theory” means a certain thing. It does not. that is not how language works. The minority does not get to define the meaning. So let’s replace our phrases on that one, switch Evo. Theory to Evolutionary Biology, for instance. That’s easy for us to do.

Now that is the sort of “framing” that I think would be effective.


  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    April 9, 2007

    Your title has an interesting double meaning. While I’ll sound my agreement with Greg Laden’s sentiment, I also have to note that I’m not sure a simple trick like that qualifies as “framing” in some technical anthropological sense. If that’s all there is to it, what’s the point of the jargon?

    Nisbet has acknowledged that the word framing is the subject of a “disciplinary turf battle” in the social sciences. This makes me think that it is not an appropriate term to invoke when making policy proposals! Indeed, judging from the comments and posts I’ve read, people seem to be in greater agreement about specific, actionable proposals than about the grand notions of theoretical anthropology.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    April 9, 2007

    PZ Myers echoes my sentiments:

    I’m not playing dumb, I really am confused. I’ve got people telling me I already use frames, that I use frames well, that I use them badly, that I’m ignoring frames at my peril, what I’m describing isn’t framing, what I’m describing is framing, that frames are this thing or that thing or this other thing.

    I’m getting next to nothing that’s practical. OK, don’t call it “evolutionary theory”, call it “evolutionary biology”. Is that it?

    Maybe I do need a course in this.

  3. #3 gwangung
    April 9, 2007

    People are confused because they’re trying to impose their experiences on others.

    Not using the word “theory” IS practical. People get confused because you’re using a technical term with a colloquial meaning. And you’re adding yet another explanation on top of another explanation, making your job harder. How much more practical can you get???