Climate communication

Doug McNeall recently gave a talk about surviving the climate communication environment, which he discusses in this post. A lightly edited version of the slides are available here. The slides, of course, don’t tell you precisely what was said in the talk, but I find little to disagree with. The environment can be difficult and challenging; we should try to say interesting things but also be careful of what we say; it should be relevant but not too complex; we should know the audience, and we should repeat the message.

One thing I will say is that Doug’s slides illustrate the apparent conflict between the deficit model and the cultural congnition model. I think such a conflict does exist, but I’ve never been sure why it needs to exist. It seems that there are some who are pre-disposed to reject certain information and that it’s extremely difficult to communicate effectively with such people if they don’t identify with you in some way. Therefore, some people (Katherine Hayhoe, for example) can be more effective communicators in some situations, and we should – in my opinion – encourage and support those who are capable of reaching people who might preferentially reject the information that’s being presented. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no place for those who simply see themselves as presenting information, rather then explicitly trying to reach certain groups. I don’t see a good reason why the deficit model and cultural congnition couldn’t be seen as complementary, rather than in conflict.

However, Doug’s post highlighted that some (mainly female scientists) are choosing to no longer engage on social media because of the harassment that they receive. This isn’t simply it being unpleasant, but is a level of harassment that is genuinely disturbing and that noone should be expected to endure. Doug asks what can be done about this, and I don’t have any good answers; it’s something that really shouldn’t happen, but clearly does. I also find it difficult to comment on something I’ve never experienced, and almost certainly will never experience.

All I can think of suggesting is based partly on a series of tweets from Jacquelyn Gill. Maybe we should try to continually remind ourselves that science communication can be difficult, that we can all do better, but that we should also try to support those who are engaging publicly and – when appropriate – promote what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean not correcting people when they make a mistake, or not suggesting ways in which they could do better; we just need to try and be constructive, and positive, when we do so (and, similarly, responding positively when people provide constructive criticism).

I really don’t have any suggestions as to how to deal with the harassment that some experience, but maybe we do need to try and remember how isolating social media can be and try to be more supportive of those who are engaging publicly. It won’t somehow negate the appalling harassment that some experience, but at least it shouldn’t make it worse. I know it’s not enough, and maybe it’s not even really a start, but it’s all that I can think of and it’s all that I think I can do. Maybe others, however, have better suggestions.

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96 Responses to Climate communication

  1. climatehawk1 says:

    [Mod: Thanks, fixed.]

  2. climatehawk1 says:

    Any thread where someone is being harassed is probably a good one, IMHO, to step in and thank them for taking the time to provide accurate information on an important issue. No real answer to the trolls, but at least it’s good to offer some moral support, empathy, and gratitude.

  3. No real answer to the trolls, but at least it’s good to offer some moral support, empathy, and gratitude.

    Indeed. I do sometimes step into threads where someone who isn’t commenting is being verbally abused. Doesn’t necessarily change what those involved in the thread say, but might help the person being verbally abused, if they happen to notice.

  4. russellseitz says:

    “it’s something that really shouldn’t happen, but clearly does. I also find it difficult to comment on something I’ve never experienced, and almost certainly will never experience.”

    Dream on– Bishop Hill’s acolytes will come round soon enough:
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2017/5/26/a-very-bad-boy.html#comments

    Oh dear poor old VV can’t help trying to demonstrate his intellectual prowess – sadly got a gobful of swamp weed.- kinda mangled stuff a bit.
    Nevermind – Trumpy will soon drain it.

    VV Troll emerges from swamp”

    Jun 10, 2017 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterKleinefeldmaus

  5. Roger Jones says:

    Trolls are one thing, but for women, much of the harassment is straight abuse because they are women. Clem Ford, a journo in Australia posts tweets and facebook posts to identify the abuser. It’s up to all of us to call this out if we see it. Challenge the idiot who it doing it – if they are anonymous declare their cowardice.

    The anonymity means they feel free to carry out abuse that they wouldn’t do if they lived in a small community where everyone knew everyone else. It’s those small community mores we should be pushing on the interwebs.

  6. Roger,

    It’s up to all of us to call this out if we see it. Challenge the idiot who it doing it – if they are anonymous declare their cowardice.

    Yes, I’m not sure if this is really enough.

    Russell,
    I’ve been immortalised by Josh, but this doesn’t really seem anything close to what some women seem to face when engaging on social media.

  7. Marco says:

    “Challenge the idiot who it doing it – if they are anonymous declare their cowardice.”

    Experience tells me that many of them are directly craving exactly that type of attention. Nothing gets a troll more upset (and demoralised) than to not get any attention.

    For some, publicly calling them out can be effective, but then you’d have to have some kind of leverage with them. For example, a public figure may not like public attention to his bad behaviour.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    I rather disagree with the bit about not expecting answers to questions (news at ll! ;o). Asking questions and answering them is an excellent way of reaching an understanding of each others position, and if you don’t like answering questions about your position, perhaps you should be questioning your position yourself! This assumes of course the questions are asked with the intent of seeking the truth (i.e. clarifying your interlocutor’s position or demonstrating an inconsistency in it) – this isn’t always the case (e.g. a Gish gallop of questions – one question per turn is more reasonable).

  9. Dikran,
    I can’t work out what your comment is referring to?

  10. dikranmarsupial says:

    I shall answer your question ;o)

    I should have said I was referring to “The slides, of course, don’t tell you precisely what was said in the talk, but I find little to disagree with.”, I also found little to disagree with in the slides, apart from that point.

    “I really don’t have any suggestions as to how to deal with the harassment that some experience”

    Blog posts discussing the issue is a good start in encouraging an environment (generally) where such harassment is not seen as in any way acceptable. We have to start with ourselves.

  11. Dikran,
    Thanks. Are you referring to the “How to win at Twitter” portion of the slides?

  12. dikranmarsupial says:

    yes, entirely possible I missed the point though.

  13. I think it’s meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek, but also highlighting behaviour on Twitter that isn’t conducive to reasonable interactions (i.e., insisting that someone answers your questions). I don’t think it’s really a suggestion that you shouldn’t answer questions.

  14. dikranmarsupial says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong in pointing out that someone isn’t answering your questions, provided the question was reasonable and/or asked in good faith, as evasion is a good indication that the other party is not engaging in the discussion in good faith. The problem is that it is often difficult for the lurkers to discern whether the question was reasonable or asked in good faith (sometimes people ask unreasonable questions out of ignorance, which is then easily confused with bad-faith – and human nature to do so – Hanlon’s razor). My approach is usually to try and give a straight answer to the question, whether it is in good faith or not.

  15. Dikran,
    I think it depends on the situation. If, in a discussion, someone avoids answering a question, then pointing that out might be fine. If, however, you simply randomly fire a question at someone on Twitter, then pointing out that they didn’t answer might suggest that the initial question was loaded/leading.

    I personally try to lean towards giving people some leeway; if they don’t want to answer a question, that’s fine.

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    yes, me too.

  17. dikranmarsupial says:

    perhaps the compromise would be an expectation that the questioner does something with the answer (if only explicitly state they accept it)?

  18. Shantanu says:

    Social media harassment is increasing a lot, like the so called trolls are always reasy to shame someone instead of debating with logic. We can just hope our words reach more sane people than ignorant ones.

  19. Roger Jones says:

    Remember the people who are being abused. If they are aware of the support, they will feel better. It’s not just about naming and shaming the perpetrator. It’s about people standing shoulder to shoulder (metaphorically) and saying do not pass!

  20. If they are aware of the support, they will feel better.

    Agreed. I think maybe we don’t put enough effort into supporting people.

  21. John Hartz says:

    Spot on!

    Sara ElShafie used to struggle to explain her research to her family in a meaningful way. A UC Berkeley graduate student in integrative biology with an emphasis on how climate change affects animals over time, she says she “would always get lost in the details, and it was not doing justice to what is so amazing about natural history.”

    But she doesn’t have that challenge anymore. Today, 28-year-old ElShafie is one of the few people in the country who focus on adapting storytelling strategies from the film industry to science communication. For the past year and a half, she has been leading workshops for scientists — primarily graduate students — on how to tell stories about their research that resonate with a broader audience.

    ElShafie found her storytelling solution at Pixar Animation Studios, in Emeryville. A Pixar fan her entire life, she emailed the company’s outreach department in 2015 and asked if anyone there would like to talk with students at the UC Museum of Paleontology about how to adapt strategies for filmmaking to communicating science to people outside the scientific community.

    “I just thought, ‘Why not?’” she says. “Communication skills require training, just like any other skills. Good communication requires good storytelling. Maybe we can learn from professional storytellers.”

    To her surprise, two story artists at Pixar were interested and volunteered their time for the project. They collaborated with ElShafie to present a pilot seminar at the museum that attracted not only students, but faculty and staff. Seeing the project’s potential, ElShafie worked over the following year to develop a series of workshops inspired by Pixar. Last March, together with a Pixar collaborator, ElShafie presented the first public workshop on the Berkeley campus. Although the studio is not formally involved, additional artists at Pixar have been generously contributing their time and feedback.

    Drawing on examples from Pixar films and scientific studies, the workshops illustrate storytelling strategies that make science accessible by reframing research into a story with characters, obstacles and revelations. According to ElShafie, these techniques help to overcome scientists’ difficulty with communicating science about non-human subjects. Pixar films — often about animals — are great models, she adds, because they have compelling themes and emotional depth and appeal to a broad audience.

    Ph.D. student pioneers storytelling strategies for science communication by Tianyi Dong. Berkley News, June 6, 2017

  22. L Hamilton says:

    “I don’t see a good reason why the deficit model and cultural congnition couldn’t be seen as complementary, rather than in conflict.”

    Indeed there is plentiful evidence that both processes occur, with a variable balance between them. For example, I have stacks of graphs from my own research like the one below, showing a positive relationship between information indicators (education, science literacy, “understanding” etc.) and agreement with the scientific consensus among liberals and moderates, consistent with information deficit — more info, more agreement. But the same graphs show a negative relationship among the most conservative, suggesting stronger cultural cognition — more info, less agreement.

    Similar right-opening megaphone shapes appear in dozens of other studies, with diverse measures of science perceptions on the y axis, and diverse indicators for information or cognitive tests on the x axis. While the most liberal and conservative positions give the megaphone its shape, what’s happening in the center (i.e. independents or moderates) is interesting too — often, still a positive slope, suggesting they are reachable by science information.

  23. L Hamilton says:

    A few more examples — many different surveys, different questions, same right-opening megaphone pattern.

  24. Lawrence,
    Thanks. That would seem to suggest that we should be considering multiple approaches. Some can provide a more standard science communication approach that provides information to those who are more open to accepting the information (deficit model). Others, who can more easily reach those who are possibly pre-disposed to reject this information, might put more effort into that (cultural cognition).

  25. L Hamilton says:

    Yes, exactly. Different approaches suit different audiences, content and presenters.

  26. russellseitz says:

    The information deficit model has at last been transcended.
    Last week’s Breitbart headlines,

    CLIMATE CONSENSUS A ‘MASSIVE LIE’ and
    58 SCIENTIFIC PAPERS DECLARE GLOBAL WARMING ‘A MYTH’
    have been followed by this one on the same columnist:
    DELINGPOLE: Breitbart 100 Per Cent Correct About Climate Change, Expert Peer Reviewer Confirms

    In which Delingpole dismisses all objections by admonishing us to focus on what he didn’t say:

    Hence the significance of those 58 scientific papers published in 2017. None of them says directly “Man-made global warming is a myth.” But then, they don’t need to and anyway that’s not how science works…
    I suppose, though, if you weren’t aware of them, you might look at the Climate Feedback article and go:
    “Hmm. Well these guys do sound like they know what they’re talking about. One’s a Physical Oceanographer from the British Antarctic Survey; another’s a Professor at McGill University. And there’s all sorts of complicated sciency stuff in there like ‘To see the clearest fingerprints of the extra energy added to the climate system from fossil fuel burning, you have to look at the energy content of the entire climate system over the last several decades (most of the extra energy has gone into the ocean [Levitus et al. 2012]*)’ which I don’t quite understand but which looks pretty impressive.”

    Don’t worry. This is what’s known as “blinding the reader with science.” It’s how these charlatans roll. It’s only one notch up from that paper the other day about how penises cause climate change.

    Just judge my piece on what it said – not on what it didn’t say but these desperate alarmists are trying to claim it did.

    What I said was 100 per cent accurate. Which is why these guys are so angry. They don’t like it up ’em, do they?”

  27. It’s kind of cute that Delingpole thinks he knows how science works. I was going to say that it’s bizarre to claim that “Breitbart 100 Per Cent Correct About Climate Change, Expert Peer Reviewer Confirms” but maybe they are – in a sense – a peer of Delingpole’s.

  28. Steven Mosher says:

    [Mod: redacted]

    Folks should go back and review the cage match I set up and promoted at climate audit between the team of judith and Lucia and Gerald browning.

    Twitter. .blog comments…forums…bbs…These have always been domains of verbal harassment. ..some folks can handle the moshpit…others cannot.

    Women will get a double dose of initiation rituals when entering the treehouse.
    Picking those that can survive.????..not hard if you know what to look for. Judith and Lucia have it. Kayhoe…nope…Tamsin..
    I never tested her chops but I suspect he has them.

  29. Steven Mosher says:

    Thanks. That would seem to suggest that we should be considering multiple approaches. Some can provide a more standard science communication approach that provides information to those who are more open to accepting the information (deficit model). Others, who can more easily reach those who are possibly pre-disposed to reject this information, might put more effort into that (cultural cognition).

    ########

    Speaker
    Audience
    Purpose.

    This is not science boys and girls.
    This is rhetoric. Classical style..
    Willard will be along with citations…

    Short version..before you speak…know your audience. .then
    Decide what you want to do to them.then choose the best actor to do that. ..and then choose your classical form from the matrix. It’s a formula. .sort of.

  30. Women will get a double dose of initiation rituals when entering the treehouse.
    Picking those that can survive.????.

    Why should women have to endure a double dose? In my view, it would be better if people didn’t have to survive something that isn’t really relevant.

  31. This is not science boys and girls.
    This is rhetoric. Classical style..
    Willard will be along with citations…

    But this is slightly subtler than just that. There are some audiences that someone like me probably can’t reach, whatever I was to do. That doesn’t, however, mean that I should simply give up altogether. I should support this who can, and focus on things that I can do effectively. There’s no real reason why we have to see the different approaches as in conflict; they’re really complementary.

  32. ‘Women will get a double dose of initiation rituals when entering the treehouse.
    Picking those that can survive.????’

    Acceptance of sexist behaviour contributes to it’s continuation, I don’t think it is at all acceptable or has any benefits. Women shouldn’t have to put up with a double dose; none of us should have to put up with a single dose – it would be better if we could just have a rational truth-seeking discussion of interesting/important issues, rather than getting sidetracked all the time by those just looking for a bit of a ClimateCraic.

    Imho, of course!

  33. Willard says:

    Women scientists don’t make harassers harass.

  34. Willard says:

  35. Susan Anderson says:

    John Hartz, I love the Pixar story, thanks. That was a woman in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, you can’t manufacture that kind of serendipity (PhD student at Berkeley, Pixar lover), but increase in understanding overall leads to more people ready and willing to form effective partnerships.

    Harassers, perhaps climate trolls in particular, are looking for weakness and when they find it they move in for the kill. Support from fellow commenters is what moved me forward over the early years. As an amateur I come in for another specialist form, the insistence that I do my own science or shut up. No matter how clear I make it that I prefer expertise from experts and most of us who are not experts have to treat the climate the way we treat our health, the attacks keep coming. Often someone else will be encouraged to provide technical support which is a welcome backup, but I will continue to believe that people can, if they try, discern the difference between the Delingpole-style arrogance and lies and real hardworking scientists with real curiosity.

  36. russellseitz says:

    In the service of science communication, Willard should copy his gif to Bishop Hill’s comment section.

  37. Willard says:

    There are at least two kinds of audience. Playing ClimateBall is very different when playing home than when playing visitor. Here’s an example where AT was playing visitor:

    Something to ponder. If the ECS is < 1.2C, then that implies that non-Planck feebacks are 0, or slightly negative. Given this, how can there be internally-driven Millenial Cyclic Warming?

    http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=7139

    (Note the usual suspects. The contrarian network is a small world. I did not know Clive hung up with Friends of Science freaks.)

    How AT’s question has been ignored was loud and clear. But what I want to underline here is that the abuse AT receives is caused by in-group dynamics. This is seldom the case when scientists are harassed over the tweeter.

  38. Francis says:

    Dear attp:

    Please compare the slides to the threads immediately below. If this site is to be a source of climate communication, I urge you to be quicker to remove content that is tangential and inflammatory, such as the way that various countries treat certain of their distinct and disfavored minority communities. Expecting people not to respond is asking people to ignore the turd in the punchbowl — someone left it there daring the community to (a) leave the point unanswered and thus presumably agreed with, (b) delete it and claim censorship; or (c) derail the topic of conversation. If people want to talk about the controversial issue, you can open a separate thread.

    Written communication is different from oral. We all can ignore a passing comment; text remains visible unless actively deleted.

  39. Francis,
    I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting (what do you mean by “compare the slides to the threads immediately below”). We had a recent thread where someone did indeed introduce a claim about human rights abuses in some countries, but that wasn’t really left unchallenged.

  40. Ken Fabian says:

    John Hartz – re the communication skills of Pixar, I keep wishing institutions like The Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences would team up with the best of our documentary makers and, amongst other things, make use of the potential for CGI to provide compelling visualisations of climate and climate change processes – and trade on their enviable reputations to give it real scientific credibility… (I won’t take up more space with it – a lot of folk here have heard me on this pet wish of mine. No reply to my unsolicited communications to RS so far…)

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    Why should women have to endure a double dose? In my view, it would be better if people didn’t have to survive something that isn’t really relevant.”

    Agreed. But my agreement changes nothing. If you ever tried to break into a group conversation that was largely female you might find that you’d get a double dose as well.
    That’s my recollection working in a largely female department at grad school. It’s my recollection from trying to join in the ladies bridge game after thanksgiving dinner.

    Personally I rather prefer the female perspective as most guys are stupid. That is why I arranged for judith and Lucia to kick Gerald s ass. And why I pushed both to start their own blog.
    The behavior toward them changed after that and only warmist types stooped to the sexist talk.

  42. Steven,

    Agreed. But my agreement changes nothing.

    Of course, but this isn’t really an argument against promoting the idea that people shouldn’t have to face extra hurdles just because of some demographic to which they happen to belong.

    The behavior toward them changed after that and only warmist types stooped to the sexist talk.

    I’m assuming you’re being ironic, but I can’t quite tell.

  43. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Agreed. But my agreement changes nothing.”

    I disagree, it makes the environment incrementally less tolerant of sexist behaviour in the same way that explicit acceptance makes it incrementally more tolerant of sexist behaviour.

  44. Willard says:

    The first thing that abuse victims need is safety. The second is that the abuse gets acknowledged. Beware “big boyz pants” gaslighting, which could be worse than the denier-alarmist-luckwarm censoring of the mainstream position.

  45. JCH says:

    I never tested her chops but I suspect he has them. – Mosher

  46. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    I never tested her chops but I suspect he [sic] has them.

    Personally I rather prefer the male perspective as most women are stupid.

    It’s amazing how simply reversing the genders reveals the underlying weenie-ness of certain preferences.

  47. Susan Anderson says:

    [Kindly playing the ref is still playing the ref. AT has an email. – Willard]

    Women, like men, are individuals. I have never had occasion to revise my opinion of Judith Curry, which was formed in the early days on RealClimate and Collide-a-Scape, where she refused to answer technical questions and played a polite-ish form of victim-bullying. There appeared to me to be a habit of evading difficult questions by attacking the questioner, and one might adduce a parallel with her treatment of climate science: evading difficult questions by changing the subject. The eagerness to seize on prejudice-confirming “science” (using quotation marks in lieu of a variety of description ranging from not even wrong to slightly distorted) is popular, which is sad.

    Here’s another take on the war of the sexes: https://tamino.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/yesallwomen/

    While I sometimes enjoy the efforts to engage with these unscientific and/or unskeptical “skeptic” blogs, I wonder if any progress is ever made there. Contributing clicks to people who count clicks? Science is never going to be “popular” in that way, but it has integrity, perhaps a vanishing value in our crazy world.

  48. dikranmarsupial says:

    “While I sometimes enjoy the efforts to engage with these unscientific and/or unskeptical “skeptic” blogs, I wonder if any progress is ever made there.”

    I doubt it, I have tried to explain how we know the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic at a variety of climate skeptic blogs, yet they still continue to post articles questioning this most basic fact. However I think the value in doing so is largely for the casual reader who gets directed to those blogs, who see the counter-arguments and realise the skeptic blogs are promulgating nonsense. That would be my hope anyway.

  49. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    If you ever tried to break into a group conversation that was largely female you might find that you’d get a double dose as well.

    At least until you learned not to “break into” (manterrupt?) a largely female group conversation 8^D.

  50. JCH says:

    My manpaux was the derisive use of “Judy Judy Judy”. Cary Grant insisted to Johnny Carson that he never actually said it. Anyway, I stopped.

  51. Willard says:

    > the value in doing so is largely for the casual reader

    The same kind of vicarious learning obtains with situations of intimidation. Harassers may always continue to harass, but those who want to be cool will appreciate when the cool kids take a stand against bullying.

    Language is a social art.

  52. Mal Adapted says:

    JCH:

    My manpaux was the derisive use of “Judy Judy Judy”.

    Heh. Movies are rich lodes for quote-mining. And if you’re familiar with the source and the context, you’re likely a lone voice crying in the Currian wilderness.

  53. izen says:

    @-“Language is a social art.”

    It is rarely art.
    Sometimes it is well crafted,
    strives to be utile.

  54. Mal Adapted says:

    Tangentially, if not wholly off-topic: I keep getting “Error: 500 Internal Server Error” from realclimate.org. Is it just me? If not, anybody know what’s up?

  55. Mal,
    I’m getting the same error.

  56. Mal Adapted says:

    Thanks ATTP, that’s re-assuring, if only somewhat. At least it’s not all about me ;^).

  57. Mal Adapted says:

    I very much hope RealClimate.org is back up soon. Love that instant preview!

  58. russellseitz says:

    Willard :”Language is a social art.”
    Is an historially embeded sentence–what gets said about science has for the last generation depended on the polics of those who teach its history :

    https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-frankfurt-school-diagnosed-the-ills-of-western-civilisation

  59. russellseitz says:

    ATTP: Having given up on climate communication , the ex-editors of the late Climate Debate Daily , until recently offered by The Chronicle Of Higher Education offer a sobering explanation of why they pulled the plug after nine years :

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/06/another-echo-chamber-bites-dust.html

  60. Roger Jones says:

    Sophie Lewis has published some of the comments that have come her way since she published an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald. This is the sort of abuse that should not go unchallenged if at all possible.

    https://sophieclewis.com/2017/06/13/shes-not-a-climate-scientist/

  61. Roger,
    Those are awful. A good number – I think – from Jo Nova’s site.

  62. John Hartz says:

    Roger: Please provide a link to her SMH op-ed. Thanks.

  63. John,
    It’s here. I think it’s a very courageous thing to write, and the responses that Sophie Lewis highlights are really awful. I did check, and a number of the comments originate from posts on WUWT and Jo Nova.

  64. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Thanks for the link to Lewis’s op-ed. While I was searching for it on the SMH website, I came across a follow-up article by Ruby Hamad, a staff writer of the SMH. Heres are the cites/links for both.

    I’m worried having a baby will make climate change worse, Opinion by Sophie Lewis*, Sydney Morning Herald. Mar 20, 2017

    *Dr Sophie Lewis is a climate scientist and research fellow at the Australian National University.

    Why I decided to never have children by Ruby Hamad, Sydney Morning Herald. Mar 20, 2017

    Note: Lewis’s Op-ed does not have a comment thread. Hamad’s article does and it attracted a goodly number of comments. Based on a quick scan, most of the comments appear to be thoughtful and civil.

  65. Mal Adapted says:

    Sophie Lewis, at Roger’s link:

    I do not pretend my motivation for having children was anything other than entirely selfish, but I hope the
    consequences are not.

    [Yay! RC is back online.]

    Presumably, many of us hope the consequences of our selfish actions are not exclusively to our private benefit, or at least have no socialized cost. That’s a fine thing to hope, but a desire to bear a child is a powerful human motivation that’s partially inherited from our evolutionary ancestors, making it harder not to fool oneself about the anticipated consequences. Props to Lewis for her candor, no doubt supported up by her training as a scientist, since “the first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” (R. Feynman, amirite?)

    BTW, my preferred ‘nym alludes to my youthful decision not to become a father, later affirmed by medical procedure. My motivations were complex but fundamentally selfish, to wit: I just never wanted to be bothered with kids. OTOH, while I could be fooling myself, I’m reasonably certain the consequences of my decision are not selfish.

  66. Mal Adapted says:

    FWIW, I quoted Dr. Lewis at John’s link to the SMH, not Roger’s to her blog.

  67. angech says:

    Good one , Willard.
    While we are at it one could raise JCH comment re getting it that one should naturally be polite to people.
    It seems though that women and skeptics are two different groups. People feel free to abuse skeptics yet now realise that it is wrong to abuse women?
    No double standards here then.
    True purity would recognise and act on the principle that everyone has a right to be free from abuse.

  68. People feel free to abuse skeptics yet now realise that it is wrong to abuse women?

    I have a feeling that you’re confusing criticism and abuse. Not to say that some skeptics have not faced abuse (which we should not condone) but we are talking about genuine abuse, not just disagreeing with what someone has said.

  69. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech talking about double standards

    True purity would recognise and act on the principle that everyone has a right to be free from abuse.”

    Is rather inconsistent with your behaviour elsewhere.

  70. Dikran,
    I don’t think consistency is some people’s strong points. Or, as sometimes seems the case, what is regarded as abuse depends on the target (legitimate criticisim of people I agree with = abuse; abusing people I disagree with = legitimate criticism).

  71. Mal Adapted says:

    Angech must think “skeptics” are born that way. That would explain a few things, actually.

  72. angech says:

    Thanks ATTP.
    Your second comment does sum matters up well.
    Re the first comment I have no illusions on the difference between criticicism and abuse.
    When reading the articles here I try to ask questions on things I am not clear about and on
    the science and statistics issues that I enjoy hearing about.
    My viewpoint is different as to where we are going but the science is the same.
    I have no beef with being criticised, how else can I learn?
    I have little beef with abuse, not that I have a thick skin, I do not, but I do realise that commenting across the divide, as you and some others here also do does leave one open to less than welcome comments.
    I do nothing we will ever get the mix right for any or all groups, but I do not think that this is always a bad thing. Tribalism, football, femininism, race and climate science will always be decisive issues. In the group we feel free to let our primitive emotions out. Outside the group when we all have to get along civility has always been the best working model.
    We have a bike tour saying “what goes on on the ride stays on the ride”.

  73. angech says:

    divisive issues sorry re the spelling late here in Italy.

  74. dikranmarsupial says:

    “what goes on on the ride stays on the ride”

    no, not really. If you write something on a public forum, you are responsible for what you write, and if it casts you in a light that you don’t like, then change your ways. Admitting it was wrong would also be a good start, much better than the option you chose.

  75. Joshua says:

    In the vast number of cases, I find the idea of “abuse” in blog comments to be rather drama-queenish.

    The climat-o-sphere, like the blogosohere more generally, is a nasty place. Everyone knows that going in. No one is forced to comment, and the insults and vitriol rarely have impact beyond giving someone an excuse to claim victimhood. What makes the claims of “abuse” that much more dubious, IMO, is that rarely do those who decry the “abuse” from one side take offense at the same, supposedly “abusive” behaviors from their own side. Consider Stevie Mac playing games about the term “alarmist” without pushback in a forum where the wails about the offensiveness of “denier” are deafening.

  76. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The climat-o-sphere, like the blogosohere more generally, is a nasty place. ”

    It is the way we make it (i.e. all of us), which includes via acceptance of the way it is.

    “Everyone knows that going in. No one is forced to comment, and the insults and vitriol rarely have impact beyond giving someone an excuse to claim victimhood. ”

    See the discussion of sexism upthread.

  77. Joshua says:

    … which includes via acceptance of the way it is.

    I don’t see how my “acceptance,” or lack thereof, changes anything, or your your non – acceptance (or lack thereof).

    How do you “accept” or not “accept” something like online nastiness?

    I can control my own level of nastiness. Anders has some level of control over the nastiness at his own blog.

    Drops in the bucket.

    And for all the control Anders exercises at his own blog, it likely generates more nastiness elsewhere in response.

    There is certainly no harm in stepping in to support people who are being targeted with nastiness, maybe that can help. Maybe that is a form of non – acceptance. But I would think that the best thing to do for someone who gets upset by online nastiness it to get them to go offline or limit their online engagement (to places where people aren’t near to them).

  78. And for all the control Anders exercises at his own blog, it likely generates more nastiness elsewhere in response.

    Possibly, but I don’t really regard myself as being responsible for how others respond to what I might choose to do here. I do have a contact form and am open to people contacting me if they disagree with what I’ve done. Most, however, choose to rant on Twitter, which is something I can’t do much about.

  79. Joshua says:

    =={ Possibly, but I don’t really regard myself as being responsible for how others respond to what I might choose to do here }==

    I wasn’t intending to suggest that you are responsible. They are responsible for their own behavior. The ubiquitous, juvenile lack of accountability for online behavior (“They did it first” and “They do it too.”) has been a real eye-opener for me.

    I know that online commenters is a self-selecting group…but still…sheece.

  80. I know that online commenters is a self-selecting group…but still…sheece.

    Indeed, the “he/she made me do it” is strong amongst online commenters.

  81. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I don’t see how my “acceptance,” or lack thereof, changes anything, or your your non – acceptance (or lack thereof).”

    see discussion of sexism upthread.

    “Drops in the bucket.”

    that is a bit like arguing that there is no point in me reducing my carbon emissions because they are a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the world. If nobody does anything on that basis, it guarantees that nothing will change.

    “And for all the control Anders exercises at his own blog, it likely generates more nastiness elsewhere in response.”

    which rather makes the Ander’s point IMHO. If those being nasty to him had a valid answer to his arguments they would use it. but evidently they don’t.

    “I would think that the best thing to do for someone who gets upset by online nastiness it to get them to go offline or limit their online engagement (to places where people aren’t near to them).”

    see my comments about sexism upthread. Would you suggest that approach to female scientists who want to discuss their science? I certainly wouldn’t and I don’t see why it should be casually accepted by anybody else. BTW I tend not to get upset by online nastiness (at least not directed at myself), I mostly just find it tedious, which is why I try to respond as ATTP does (tries to do – non of us are successful all the time).

  82. russellseitz says:

    When it comes to the First Amendment, many PC comments are abusively CI- constitutionally incorrect.

  83. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    “=={ see discussion of sexism upthread. }==

    I don’t see much point in talking about “accepting” or not “accepting” behavior over which you have no control or positive influence. And I don’t see how we have control or influence of there behaviors that we’re discussing. Does “acceptance” equate to a lack of response? Well, fine, if you want to respond go ahead. Personally, I don’t see how any response is going to change anything and I don’t think that a lack of response = “acceptance.”

    Maybe to offer some support to people who are being treated poorly is what you mean by not “accepting?”.If offering support to people who are being treated poorly translates to not “accepting” it…then I guess we might be in agreement. Except the people who are being treated poorly still have a choice to make – to deal with people being nasty to them (with support) or to find other forums for engagement where people typically aren’t nasty to people they don’t agree with. Online engagement certainly isn’t such a forum.

    =={ If nobody does anything on that basis, it guarantees that nothing will change. }==

    What do you propose “doing” that will create some meaningful change?

    =={ which rather makes the Ander’s point IMHO. If those being nasty to him had a valid answer to his arguments they would use it. but evidently they don’t. }==

    The Ridley argument,…that you can tell that people don’t have a valid answer because they are being nasty? It’s a fallacy. People are nasty because they’re nasty. They think they have a valid argument.

    =={ see my comments about sexism upthread. Would you suggest that approach to female scientists who want to discuss their science? }==

    I would suggest that if they want to engage in environments where they know that people are going to be nasty, and where there is no way to reduce their level of nastiness, that they work on not letting it bother them, as you have done – because the only other choice is to engage with nasty people and let it bother them. Or, they can choose to engage only in environments where they aren’t going to encounter nasty people.

    =={ I certainly wouldn’t and I don’t see why it should be casually accepted }==

    Once again, I don’t see how “accepting” it is particularly meaningful. It isn’t a matter for us to “accept,” as I see it. It is a matter for us to deal with in some fashion. And your description of “casually” is an interpretation that doesn’t fit with what I was saying (i.e., it’s a strawman).

  84. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I don’t see much point in talking about “accepting” or not “accepting” behavior over which you have no control or positive influence.”

    You do have positive influence, as Willard put it (if I understood him correctly):

    “The same kind of vicarious learning obtains with situations of intimidation. Harassers may always continue to harass, but those who want to be cool will appreciate when the cool kids take a stand against bullying. “

    Some kids that are so square they are tesseractoid also object to bullying, not just the cool ones

    “It is a matter for us to deal with in some fashion. And your description of “casually” is an interpretation that doesn’t fit with what I was saying (i.e., it’s a strawman).”

    what I wrote is this:

    “Would you suggest that approach to female scientists who want to discuss their science? I certainly wouldn’t and I don’t see why it should be casually accepted by anybody else.”

    the “it” in that sentence refers to the approach you advised. In other words we shouldn’t follow that advice without carefully thinking whether that was a good thing in the long term.

    I think I’ll leave the discussion there as I haven’t the energy for a fisk-a-thon when it seems obvious that if we don’t like “nastiness” then (i) we shouldn’t be nasty ourselves (ii) we should be willing to object to nastiness when we see it and (iii) we should be supportive to those who have something to say but are put off by the nastiness.

  85. Mal Adapted says:

    Joshua:

    I don’t see much point in talking about “accepting” or not “accepting” behavior over which you have no control or positive influence. And I don’t see how we have control or influence of there behaviors that we’re discussing. Does “acceptance” equate to a lack of response? Well, fine, if you want to respond go ahead. Personally, I don’t see how any response is going to change anything and I don’t think that a lack of response = “acceptance.”

    In this context, “savage glee” is as good a reason to respond as any IMHO.

  86. Mal Adapted says:

    To be clear, ‘respond’ means ‘take the time to provide accurate information on an important issue’. Glee’s OK as long as your arguments are well supported, otherwise it’s just denialist bravado 8^|.

  87. Joshua says:

    =={ Harassers may always continue to harass, but those who want to be cool will appreciate when the cool kids take a stand against bullying. “ }==

    If they see the harassers as being not cool. Or the defenders as being cool. Seems to me that the condition of coolness is baked into the cake: Those who I identify with are cool, by definition and those that I don’t identify, aren’t.

  88. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    =={ In this context, “savage glee” is as good a reason to respond as any IMHO. }==

    Sure. It can be somewhat cathartic. Doesn’t alter the underlying dynamics though, IMO.

  89. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    =={ it seems obvious that if we don’t like “nastiness” then (i) we shouldn’t be nasty ourselves (ii) we should be willing to object to nastiness when we see it and (iii) we should be supportive to those who have something to say but are put off by the nastiness. }==

    I prolly wouldn’t use “should” but all (iii) are ways that I try to approach the situation.

  90. russellseitz says:

    MAL
    In this context, “savage glee” is as good a reason to respond as any IMHO.
    BOSWELL
    I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned savages.”
    JOHNSON
    ” Don”t cant in defence of savages.”
    BOSWELL.
    ” They have the art of navigation”
    JOHNSON
    ” Sir, any fish can swim.”

  91. Mal Adapted says:

    russellseitz:

    BOSWELL “I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned savages.”
    JOHNSON ” Don”t cant in defence of savages.”
    BOSWELL.
    ” They have the art of navigation”
    JOHNSON
    ” Sir, any fish can swim.”

    MAL “Not every fish is Kamehaha of the House of Keoua, however, or Lili’uokalani of his line.”

  92. Mal Adapted says:

    Dang, Russell, you caught me with Otaheite, which is not Owyhee

  93. John Hartz says:

    A timely and informative article…

    To Counteract Propaganda, We Should Look to Lessons from Advertising by Krystal D’Costa, Scientific American, June 21, 2017

    Takeaway paragraph:

    The best campaigns follow a basic formula: keep the message simple, repeat the message, and keep the audience from hearing anything else. These are the general rules that make lies successful too. And the rules being applied to alternative facts and the current national rhetoric are the same: say it in its most basic form, repeat the message and amplify those repetitions, and reduce access to alternative perspectives (in this case, by discrediting the media). Repetition is key here. It is the way that beliefs are established. And the thing is that repetition of any kind—even in opposition—furthers the original agenda. This is part of the reason that challenging statements that climate change is a hoax or that voter fraud is rampant—even with relevant data—is so difficult. When our brains later recall the information presented, it’s the repetition of “climate change” and “hoax”, or the “occurrence of voter fraud” that is recalled. Our brains emphasize what we have already heard. It is only within our circles of like-minded experience that we may get a complete message.

  94. Mal Adapted says:

    John Hartz:

    A timely and informative article…

    Heh. Apropos: Would You Trust Tom Selleck With Your Life Savings?

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