[asa] Communication science

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Sun Mar 02 2008 - 21:50:59 EST

Another symposium I was able to attend at the AAAS meeting in Boston was on the topic "Communicating Science in Religious America". Among the speakers were Kenneth Miller, Barbara King, Brother Guy (from the Vatican Observatory), Larry Case from Kansas U, and some communications experts.

Ken Miller is quite an engaging speaker and spent his allotted 20 minutes urging evolutionists to reclaim the term "design" and to use it to refer to the design of nature based on natural selection, etc. Barbara King decried the tendency for any scientist to reveal his spiritual bias, taking to task not only Stenger, Dennett, et. al. but also Collins. (she said she wouldn't even talk about Dawkins). She felt it was irrelevant and inappropriate for a scientist to reveal such a position let alone advocate it.

There was a good discussion about communication techniques. One observation that I thought was relevant was that scientists too often make the fallacious assumption that "if you knew what I know, you would think what I think." That usually works in a scientific setting, though not always, but seldom works in the public arena. It's simply not enough to present the facts and expect the public to draw the same conclusions that we do.

One good piece of advice was to first reassure the audience in some way that there is no hidden agenda to undermine their faith. Easier said than done, however. One of the communication experts focused on the need to help the listener "frame" the situation. That is, help them understand the bigger context and implications for them and not just the bare facts. Communication of science to non-scientists needs to be a two-way interaction and cannot just be a process of throwing out the facts.

The net was that there are no easy ways of communicating science to the public. But we need to make more use of communications expertise rather than simply behave as typical scientists.


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Received on Sun Mar 2 21:52:22 2008

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