What would I advise climate science communicators?

January 30, 2013 • Climate Change & Mitigation, United States, Daily Email Recap

What would I advise climate science communicators?  
See: http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/1/29/what-would-i-advise-climate-science-communicators.html

This is what I was asked by a thoughtful person who is assisting climate-science communicators to develop strategies for helping the public to recognize the best available evidence–so that those citizens can themselves make meaningful decisions about what policy responses best fit their values.  I thought others might benefit from seeing my responses, and from seeing alternative or supplementary ones that the billions of thoughtful people who read this blog religiously (most, I’m told, before they even get out of bed everyday) might contribute.

So below are the person’s questions (more or less) and my responses:

1. What is the most important influence or condition affecting the efficacy of science communication relating to climate change?

In my view, “the quality of the science communication environment” is the single most important factor determining how readily ordinary people will recognize the best available evidence on climate change and what its implications are for policy. That’s the most important factor determining how readily they will recognize the best available scientific evidence relevant to all manner of decisions they make in their capacity as consumers, parents, citizens-you name it.

People are remarkably good at figuring out who knows what about what. That is the special rational capacity that makes it possible for them to make reliable use of so much more scientific knowledge than they could realistically be expected to understand in a technical sense.

The “science communication environment” consists of all the normal, and normally reliable, signs and processes that people use to figure out what is known to science. Most of these signs and processes are bound up with the normal interactions inside communities whose members share basic outlooks on life. There are lots of different communities of that sort in our society, but usually their members converge on what is known to science.

But when positions on a fact that admits of scientific investigation  (“is the earth heating up?”; “does the HPV vaccine promote unsafe sex among teenage girls?”) becomes entangled with the values and outlooks of diverse communities-and becomes, in effect, a symbol of one’s membership and loyalty in one or another group-then people in those groups will end up in states of persistent disagreement and confusion. These sorts of entanglements (and the influences that cause them) are in effect a form of pollution in the science communication environment, one that disables people from reliably discerning what is known to science.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/1/29/what-would-i-advise-climate-science-communicators.html

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