That frame looks crappy on you

I hate this ‘framing’ crap – and I’m not the only one, which is good to know. Matthew Nisbet seems to be doing a good job of communicating to people what framing is and getting them to hate it. Excellent.

Over the coming decades…scientists and their organizations will need to work together with religious communities in order to formulate effective policies and to resolve disputes. A major challenge for scientists will be to craft communication efforts that are sensitive to how religiously diverse publics process messages, but also to the way science is portrayed across types of media. In these efforts, scientists must adopt a language that emphasizes shared values and has broad appeal, avoiding the pitfall of seeming to condescend to fellow citizens, or alienating them by attacking their religious beliefs.

Scientists must adopt this baby-talk – while at the same time avoiding seeming to condescend to fellow citizens, and also avoiding alienating them by attacking their religious beliefs. Oh must they. Who says? Matthew Nisbet, of course.

He also, very puzzlingly to me, says he’s only ‘following the lead’ of Paul Kurtz among others. Paul Kurtz says scientists must avoid attacking (for which read disputing or criticizing or disagreeing with) people’s religious beliefs? Really?

In discussing Dawkins, I am actually only following the lead of many prominent atheists, some who happen to be his friends (i.e. Michael Shermer, Paul Kurtz etc).

Is he being tricky here? (Is he ‘framing’?) In context he seems to be claiming that he’s saying something similar to things Paul Kurtz and others have already says – but he avoids actually literally saying that. He leaves that impression without actually saying it. Maybe he’s just saying that Paul Kurtz has discussed Dawkins, and he is discussing Dawkins too. I did see Michael Shermer’s sloppy criticism of Dawkins (sloppy in that it was inaccurate, as so many of these pieces are), but I certainly haven’t seen anything similar by Paul Kurtz. I think it pretty unlikely that he would write anything of that kind – not unlikely that he would have any criticisms at all, but unlikely that he would write one of these ‘militant atheists should stop it this minute’ items. Look, Paul Kurtz likes B&W, he told me so himself, and nobody who likes B&W would write one of those soppy ‘extremist atheists are big meanies’ articles. I asked Nisbet where Paul Kurtz said anything similar to what Nisbet says, but who knows if he’ll answer. I’m mighty curious, I must say.

I like what Larry Moran said.

Nisbet believes that scientists should spin their scientific messages in a way that avoids upsetting religious people and religious groups…Many of us believe that this is a fundamentally dishonest way for scientists to behave. We believe that science should not be deliberately “framed” by the personal beliefs of scientists whether they are atheists – as are the majority of scientists – or Christians, or whatever. We believe that science should be presented as uncompromised pure science and that it is wrong for scientists to consciously alter their message in order to appease religious citizens who might be offended by hearing the scientific truth. It is not the business of scientists to second guess what the religious public wants to hear, or not hear.

I also like what PZ said.

We can gain some quick policy advantages by, for instance, appealing to purely practical concerns (“We can make more money/we can cure some diseases if you let us do this research”) or by accommodating our tactics to religious beliefs (“God wants you to save the planet!”) at the price of privileging flawed thinking…Let’s encourage people to think science is OK as long as it promotes American business and can be wedged into some theological rationale…and also continue to allow people to believe that religion and quick profits are primary over knowledge and truth. That’s precisely what this approach does, and precisely where it leads to catastrophe.

I hate ‘framing.’

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