Friday, April 20, 2007

O What A Hot Debate In the Science Blogosphere!

How should scientists communicate to the general public what they know about global warming, evolution, stem cell research, and other topics?

That question becomes downright urgent when the science on those topics comes under organized attack from some religionists, corporations, pundits, or politicians. Lately, heated posts have been flying all over the science blogosphere on what scientists should, or can, do to respond to those attacks. Now, the intrepid Bora of Blog Around the Clock has organized in one place a feast of links to nearly every post in the debate. For that massive effort alone, he ought to win a medal or two.

Broadly speaking, the debate falls into two camps. In the first are the folks who seem to think any effort to tailor the science message to the general public represents the worse spin. In the second are the folks who seem to think tailoring the science message is plain good sense and necessary in today's world. While that brief description of the camps leaves a lot to be desired, it should be enough to get you off to a good start. The debate is important if only because who wins it could go a long way towards deciding whether scientists ever develop effective responses to the public attacks against their disciplines.


laurie said...

The 'science mesage?'

Paul said...

Sorry for the clumsy way I put it, Laurie. By "science message" I meant the information that a relevant science can offer the general public on a given topic.

laurie said...

No it wasn't clumsy, I was not sure what you meant, thank you for the clarification...I thought that was a phrase you'd perhaps seen elsewhere.

It's a catch 22 of scientists and science educators. First, what is a public education including the sciences for if not to lead to an informed citizenship? That's what teachers have been trying to do all along. It has been due to interference by the fundamentalist secotr that this has come under fire.

And for scientists to address the creationist position at all has the effect of legitimizing it as a scientific view, which it most emphatically is not. Yet, for them to not address it gives creationists an unopposed public voice with which to sway the public and lawmakers.

More later!

George said...

I've been trying to forumulate a post on the whole issue, but can't decide on the best way to frame it. ;-)

So far the best I can devine is that certain people bristle at any suggestion that they try to consider the perceptions of their audience when they present ideas. Others - notably Republicans - have long ago realized this is the royal road to communicating any idea, whether it is true or not.

steppen wolf said...

This is really not a case of "winning" a debate. The debate is for us to increase awareness of certain issues in the scientific community.

The "winning" point is what many on the anti-framing boat have contested, which is that winning is the politicians' job. But then I wonder: do you really trust to let politicians who know nothing of science decide what scientists ought or ought not to do? Seeing what the results of that are, I'd say that the status quo is not an option.