The goal of science communication

Since I’ve discussed research informing rather than influencing I thought I would briefly highlight a blog post I found about facts, risks, and emotions. It’s by Alex Freeman, who is the Executive Director of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication.

It essentially argues that quite a lot of science communication is more aimed at persuading than informing

For example, are you interested in what people do or think after they read or hear the information you provide? If you want people to change their behaviour or attitudes — to do something differently after hearing your message — then I would argue that you are primarily trying to persuade.

This is something I’ve pondered on a number of occasions. I think that the goal of research, and the communication of research results, should really be aimed at informing, rather than persuading. In fact, as the article highlights, people have the right to be informed and not persuaded.

In my view, the distinction between communication aimed at persuading and communication aimed at informing is not always made clear when people discuss science communication. I often get the sense that much discussion of science communication assumes that persuading people is the goal, when – in many cases – it’s actually more about informing, than persuading.

Of course, I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything wrong with communication that’s aimed at persuading, rather than simply informing. I think there’s place for both. However, I do think that it’s important to make the motivation clear. Is the goal to influence people’s behaviour and/or attitudes, or is it primarily to provide information so that people can decide for themselves how to respond.

Even if the goal is to inform, rather than persuade, I think it is still important to make the motivations clear. Why is the information being communicated, why is it important, and what do you hope might happen once this information has been provided? I communicate about climate science because I think it is an important topic and because I think that anthropogenically-driven climate change has the potential to have a significant impact. I do think that we should be thinking of ways to respond to this, but my preference is for the response to be informed, rather than people being persuaded to accept something without really understanding why.

One other thing I’ll add is that a consequence of this is that we should be careful of regarding a potentially poor response to something (which would be a judgement, anyway) as a failure of science communication. If the goal is to inform, rather than persuade, then we have to accept that the respone to this information may not be what some might have hoped.

My own view is that we should recognise that many different people/groups can be involved in communicating about a topic, some of whom are aiming to inform, with others using that information in order to persuade. Those who do the former can’t really define how the information is used, and those who do the latter should be careful of assuming that all who communicate have the same goals. That’s my basic view, but I will acknowledge that reality is probably somewhat more complicated.

Links:
Facts, risks and emotions: Has journalism and science communication crossed a line? (post by Alex Freeman).
Scientists are not salespeople (post about scientists not really being people who aim to convince people to buy their research results).
Informing versus convincing (a follow up to the above post).
Research should inform not influence (a post about the significance of the pressure on researchers to have societal impact).

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107 Responses to The goal of science communication

  1. dikranmarsupial says:

    Personally, what I really want is for political decisions on important issues (such as climate change or Brexit) to be based on good scientific, economic and sociological information, rather than misinformation (or worse still, bullshit). I do have preferences for what the decisions ought to be, but I also like democracy, but that won’t work very well if the electorate form their views based on misinformation – GIGO.

  2. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: You probably should eliminate the double use of the word “research” in the initial sentence of your OP.

    You may also want to alert both John Cook and Stephen Lewandowsky to this post and invite them to participate in the discussion.

  3. JH,
    Thanks. My impression is that John and Stephan don’t often get involved in blog comment threads, but they’d – of course – be welcome to. Something that I do worry about is that people will think that I’m arguing against communication aimed to persuading, but that’s not the case. Democractic societies benefit from people/groups advocating for specific policies and – in my view – benefit if this activism is informed. However, I do think that formal science communication should mainly be aimed at informing, rather than influencing. This, however, does not mean scientists cannot be activists. They’re part of a democratic society, so are – of course – entitled to engage in the democratic process. I just think we should be clear about our motivations, goals and – ideally – also our biases.

  4. Steven Shumak says:

    “If the goal is to inform, rather than persuade, then we have to accept that the respon(s)e to this information may not be what some might have hoped.”

    Do you believe that in the deepest sincerity?

    It is easy to imagine that there will be a set of individuals who will accept no inferential proof for the existence of anthropogenically-driven climate change. Call it faith, if you will. They have faith that the concept is little more than left-wing propaganda. Short of a direct proof or demonstration, their opinion cannot be shaken anymore than can their faith in other life-governing ideas.

    If such individuals obtain a position of decision making, however accomplished, would you not want to persuade them of the recklessness and self-harming nature of their belief?

  5. Magma says:

    From Alex Freeland’s post:

    For instance, professional forensic psychiatrists asked to assess the chance of a patients in a psychiatric hospital harming someone on release classify more as ‘high risk’ when asked to quantify that risk in the format ‘20 out of 100 patients like this would likely harm someone’ than when asked to state the risk in the format ‘this patient has a 20% chance of harming someone’. 20% chance for 1 patient harming someone sounds quite low. 20 dangerous patients out of 100 conjures up a more vivid image of potential disastrous consequences. The imagination of different potential outcomes has been set aflame.

    If Freeland’s target audience is at the level of readers or viewers who don’t understand that 20/100 = 20%, then I’d argue she isn’t really referring to science communication.

  6. Magma says:

    Correction: Freeman, not Freeland. I had another individual in mind while typing.

  7. Steven,
    Good question. I didn’t say you had to happy that the response might not be what was hoped. I do, think, however, that we should recognise that the information alone doesn’t define the response. I also think that scientists are quite entitled to engage in the democratic process if they regard a response as not being suitable, given the information. However, I also think that they should be clear as to their role. Are they a scientist doing their best to provide reliable information, or are they a member of a democratic society exercising their right to engage in the democratic process?

    Magma,
    I interpreted that paragraph somewhat differently. I thought “20%, that seems quite high”.

  8. Marco says:

    Magma and ATTP,

    How you communicate risk matters a lot for how it is perceived. Many people will consider the risk at the individual level when stated at the individual level, and at the group level when stated at the group level. 20% chance at the individual level means will be understood as unlikely. 20 out of 100 will be understood as, someone will be harmed for sure.

    But perhaps the example should have been more extreme. I think a lot of people would be more willing to accept the death penalty when someone states there is a 1% chance the person was innocent, compared to telling them that 1 out of 100 executed people was innocent. In the first risk presentation, the person was extremely likely guilty. The same will apply to the next person. They are, in fact, all extremely likely guilty! In the second risk presentation, it is made clear that one person out of 100 was completely innocent. Oops.

    This is not a matter of people not knowing that 1/100 = 1%. It’s the framing effect:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)
    Note that there are some examples where the people involved will undoubtedly know that 20/100 = 20%.

    I can also imagine, just as an example, that you better frame something as a subsidy for e.g. a Democratic audience, and as a tax-break for a Republican audience. The end-result, financially, is exactly the same, but the word “tax break” will resonate with the latter audience, while the former will be more likely to accept subsidy. In a tax-break the government takes less money away, in a subsidy the government gives you money. In a tax-break the government is less evil, in a subsidy the government is more kind.

  9. John Hartz says:

    Marco: Well said.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the first rule of effective communication.is:

    “Know thy audience.”

  10. David B. Benson says:

    Rhetoric is always important in all communication.

  11. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: A number of years ago, John Cook was advised to structure the set of climate science denial rebuttal articles that he had already developed into tiers of complexity, i.e., Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. That’s when Cook decided that he needed help and asked for volunteers to assist. Since then there’s been a mild internal debate about what level of educational level to target each tier to. One recommendation was to write the Basic version of an article for an audience with an 8th grade level of education.

    Having said that, what mean level of education do you assume your audience to have when you make a scientific presentation to an audience composed of the general public (assume adults 18 or more years older)? Is it the same presentation that you would make to a class of undergraduate university students?

  12. izen says:

    As with the distinction between inform/influence I have trouble parsing the difference in practise. Inform/influence/persuade seem to be stages in the process of human communication that it is unrealistic to reify into separate ‘events’.

    These injunctions that science ‘should’ restrict itself to informing seems to implicitly refer to a concept that information can be communicated without any possibility it could influence or persuade the person who acquires it. That information can be exchanged without changing the mind of the person that acquires it.

    But that is a feature of the intransigence, dogma, or scepticism of the person who acquires the information. At the very least they now reject the new information they have and refuse to incorporate it into their understanding of the world.

    There is a sign at my Dentist’s, it says “You only need to brush the teeth you want to keep.”
    Is that informative, or persuasive ?

  13. Ken Fabian says:

    Persuading people in positions of trust, responsibility and influence that they should be well informed seems very important. Absolutely vital. Their choices with respect to their efforts to inform and influence in turn should be based on best available knowledge. We are becoming all too familiar with the consequences of influential leaders and media informers, who enjoy high levels of trust within our communities, choosing to promote lies over truth and encourage resistance to arguments based on science and reason.

    Ordinary people cannot be expected to well informed or capable of competent critique and review of complex science – that’s a skill that requires… skills.

    I think that attempts by politicians who present themselves as being well informed and whose judgement is widely trusted to pass this back to the public to pass judgement by popular opinion is not democracy at work – it is responsibility avoidance at work. Ordinary people appear to have a “right” to believe and promote (within some bounds) whatever they want; people in positions of trust and responsibility do not. People with fiduciary duties should enjoy no such “right” – much as people doing science work within systems that include codes of professional conduct and enjoy no “right” to misrepresent their own professional conclusions or those of their peers.

    I don’t see any genuine problems with how scientist have been informing, through the papers, reports and studies that are passed to those in positions of power and public influence. The failures with respect to the climate problems are not of scientists’ being poor communicators but with the accountability of those who’s duties should require them to take such communications seriously.

  14. billbedford says:

    Steven Shumak said:
    If such individuals obtain a position of decision making, however accomplished, would you not want to persuade them of the recklessness and self-harming nature of their belief?

    Surely beliefs only become reckless and self-harming when they ossify into dogma and their adherents brook no alternative?

  15. John Hartz says:

    Ken Fabian: Well said. Don’t forget about he key role of the middleman, i.e., science journalists. Their job is basically to translate the science-speak into plain English. Thanks to Ruppert Murdoch and his ilk, a large percentage of the English-speaking world only receives anti-science propaganda disguised as “news.”

  16. Steven Mosher says:

    The inform/persuade distinction is very hard to maintain– like all distinctions.

    in some cases it’s clear and explicit X is the case, do Y

    Republicans favor smaller government.
    Vote for repulicans we support smaller government.

    in other cases its harder to draw the line

    However, one thing you could say is that when your goal is persuasion then your bag o tactics
    is larger. and potentially diabolical. think about your grand children

  17. Everett F Sargent says:

    “However, one thing you could say is that when your goal is persuasion then your bag o tactics is larger and potentially diabolical.”

  18. From Alex Freeman’s post:

    For instance, professional forensic psychiatrists asked to assess the chance of a patients in a psychiatric hospital harming someone on release classify more as ‘high risk’ when asked to quantify that risk in the format ‘20 out of 100 patients like this would likely harm someone’ than when asked to state the risk in the format ‘this patient has a 20% chance of harming someone’. 20% chance for 1 patient harming someone sounds quite low. 20 dangerous patients out of 100 conjures up a more vivid image of potential disastrous consequences. The imagination of different potential outcomes has been set aflame.

    Naturally that is science communication. Even if the audience were not numerate. But I agree with Marco that the difference is framing. Alex Freeman seems to suggest that 20 in 100 is more emotional and thus persuasion. If that is the case, I do not agree.

    To put a mental picture in someone’s head of 100 patients of which 20 do harm helps this person to understand emotionally what 20% means. It like does make a difference. In case one used 20% the judge may think it unfair to lock someone up for a small chance something goes wrong, while in case of 20 out of a 100 the focus is on the danger to the public. That is a difference in framing, but both can be informing.

    (I used the same trick when Americans seemed to assume that a 30% chance of Trump winning means the Clinton will win because 30% is less than 50%. So I wrote before the election that it means that every 3 such elections America would have a big problem.)

    For example, are you interested in what people do or think after they read or hear the information you provide? If you want people to change their behaviour or attitudes — to do something differently after hearing your message — then I would argue that you are primarily trying to persuade.

    According to the above definition if would become persuasion if the goal were to entice the judge to free the patient or to keep the patient locked up. If the choice was not deliberate it would be information. I must admit that I hope the choice would be deliberate and my impression is that the judge would be informed best by saying 20 of 100. I would like to call that informing the judge, it could still be even if the communicator is aware of the consequences, but it would be a quite grey area.

    I like the definition, but it does make the distinction very subjective. No one can look into the communicator’s head.

    Both informing and persuading is normally not present in its distilled form (as Platonic idea). Someone mostly aiming to inform still makes choices, for example whether to talk about climate change and not number theory. This has a reason.
    Someone mostly aiming to persuade will still inform their audience in most cases because that is persuasive or unavoidable. (Even in an extreme example: persuading people you are great by wrongly claiming to have had the largest inauguration, still informs people there was an inauguration.)

  19. angech says:

    ATTP
    “This is something I’ve pondered on a number of occasions. I think that the goal of research, and the communication of research results, should really be aimed at informing, rather than persuading. In fact, as the article highlights, people have the right to be informed and not persuaded. ”
    Bravo.
    Yet people here are being too nice.
    Reading this blog for the last 4 years the overwhelming position is people need to be persuaded.
    I commend your article wholeheartedly which as you realise is not always…… the case.
    DM’s comments are spot on as well.

    Ken Fabian’s comment, sorry Ken,
    “Ordinary people cannot be expected to well informed or capable of competent critique and review of complex science – that’s a skill that requires… skills.”
    reminds me of someone else’s comment on American voters but she did not use ordinary. I am not trying to pick on you, just the concept of ordinary people is very fraught to us who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

    John Hartz ‘s comment, sorry John, continues the theme
    ” John Cook was advised to structure the set of climate science denial rebuttal articles that he had already developed into tiers of complexity, i.e., Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. Since then there’s been a mild internal debate about what level of educational level to target each tier to. One recommendation was to write the Basic version of an article for an audience with an 8th grade level of education.”

    Magma , summarizes the problem
    “If Freeland’s target audience is at the level of readers or viewers who don’t understand that 20/100 = 20%, then I’d argue she isn’t really referring to science communication.”

    The dilemma of what to do with science when communicating information when processing that information is either not possible or not relevant is a thorny problem but your message is communicating properly is important, I would say paramount. What people choose to make of it and what to make of their choices is a separate political problem.

  20. angech says:

    Izen “There is a sign at my Dentist’s, it says “You only need to brush the teeth you want to keep.”Is that informative, or persuasive ?”
    Persuasive and sarcastic and scaremongering.
    Information would be Fluoridation saves far more teeth than brushing.
    Brushing may both cause endocarditis through bacteremia and prevent it from better gum hygiene.
    Going to the dentist next week for a floss and clean,
    Might take an antibiotic prior this time??

  21. Cool write up. Communication aimed at Persuading / Communication aimed at Informing. Good distinction to consider when writing.

    Although I would like to point out an oversight. Not detracting from anything you’ve written, simply pointing the big missing real world element. There’s no acknowledging or incorporating that we are dealing with honest vs. manipulative communication.

    {A}
    Within the scientific community, it’s pretty much Honest Discussion (thanks to it being composed of informed skeptical individuals), even when you are pushing your ideas/data – in the end you report honestly, and you also listen to, acknowledge and absorb competing information that colleagues present. Which is incorporated into evolved thinking.
    {I’m no scientist (but have listened to tons of lectures) so this is my impression – am I mistaken?}

    {B}
    Then we have the public dialogue where one sides takes it as it’s right to misrepresent data, then when they lose the argument on the facts of the matter, they immediately reach for the personalization and dirty tricks (sort of a digression, but not really – any of you folks watch Kavanaugh’s Judiciary Committee interview Thursday? – K’s behavior and language was like a super fractal of the Santer/Mann/Schneider/etc/etc character assassinations game in the full blossom of time. Distract from the evidence, scream and bully hard as they can, threaten and vilify – that has been the GOP / Koch,Murdoch etc. game plan since the GOP’s marriage with evangelicals. This circus today is what comes from decades of a communal habit of capitation to fantasy thinking and Faith Based-Absolutism in the public arena.)

    ATTP, your essay up there was excellent, but where does the reality that our public dialogue is being driven by deliberate tactical factual misrepresentation, factor into it?

  22. Steven Mosher says:September 30, 2018 at 9:42 am
    “Republicans favor smaller government.”
    https://www.quora.com/Why-do-Republicans-claim-to-be-for-small-government
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/05/24/donald-trump-attacks-amazon-jeff-bezos-gop-principles-column/637123002/

    Seems more like Republicans are all about ME FIRST and self-destructive absolutist thinking.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “DM’s comments are spot on as well.”

    yes, I can see how someone that wanted to prevent action on climate change might like them! ;o)

  24. I ‘m not sure who the target audience is. If you believe this polling study, up to half the population is unreachable because they are rationalizing lies to own the opposition — i.e. the establishment. I did not realize this many were admitting that the assertions were false but somehow felt were ok as a means to challenging the consensus.

    “The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue: Proclaiming the Deeper Truth about Political Illegitimacy”
    American Sociological Review
    Oliver Hahl, Minjae Kim, Ezra W. Zuckerman Sivan,
    “The second main result is that the principal way these Trump voters reconciled Trump’s lying demagoguery with his perceived authenticity was by recognizing the demagogic lie as a lie but justifying it as symbolic protest. To be sure, Trump voters were significantly more
    likely than Clinton voters to rate the false demagogic statement as true: 68.8 percent of
    these Trump voters saw the statement as highly false, compared to 95.5 percent of Clinton voters (M for Trump voters = 5.90 versus M for Clinton voters = 6.80; t = 6.80; p < .001; DF =
    361). But 68.8 percent of survey participants who supported Trump rated the statement as
    highly false, and only 5.34 percent of Trump voters saw the statement as highly true.

    By contrast, Trump supporters were significantly more likely to justify the lie as a form of symbolic protest. In particular, a significantly higher fraction of Trump voters agreed that Trump did not literally mean the Chinese created the concept of global warming than rated the statement as true (M = 3.91versus M = 5.90; t = 11.63; p < .001; DF = 370). Trump voters were also much more likely to think the statement “was his way of challenging the elite establishment” than to see the statement as true (M = 3.67 versus M = 5.90; t = 10.35; p < .001; DF = 370). Finally, Trump voters were more likely to see Trump as authentic the less they took the statement literally (corr. = .22; t = 3.02; p < .01; DF = 184). Trump voters were also more likely to see Trump as authentic the more they saw the statement as a challenge to elites (corr. = .36; t = 3.61; p < .001; DF = 89).

    more on this thread

  25. Steven Mosher says:

    ““However, one thing you could say is that when your goal is persuasion then your bag o tactics is larger and potentially diabolical.”

    I have never been shy about my profession as a evil black hat marketing type. I’ve worked on both sides of the inform/persuade. persuading is way more fun,

  26. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of communicating the science…

    The Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues at the American Association for the Advancement of Science began work on 24 September to share scientific and technical evidence with policy-makers working at all levels of government in the United States.

    The EPI Center, led by director Michael Fernandez, is a new initiative by the association to make nonpartisan information available to decision-makers as they act on issues from clean water to the opioid crisis. Instead of lobbying for a particular law or offering a years-long exhaustive study of an issue, the center hopes instead to create timely, well-communicated evidence narratives—what scientists know about a topic, how they know it, what the evidence means, and how it relates to other public policy issues.

    “We want to have an impact on policy and policy-making, not by advocating for certain policies but ensuring that when decisions are being made, the evidence is being appropriately considered and evaluated,” said Fernandez.

    The center’s launch was driven in part by the desire of AAAS members to have another outlet for shaping public policy and sharing their work in ways that bear on larger societal challenges, he said. “Our members are an amazing resource of expertise and commitment, and they will be the center’s best ambassadors.”

    AAAS EPI Center Launch Brings Evidence to Policymakers by Becky Ham, AAAS, Sep 27, 2018

  27. John Hartz says:

    Paul Pukite: You wrote:

    I ‘m not sure who the target audience is. If you believe this polling study, up to half the population is unreachable because they are rationalizing lies to own the opposition — i.e. the establishment.

    I believe that the universe you are talking about is Trump supporters. If so, that universe represents about 33% of registered voters. Am I correct?

  28. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallengeYT asserted:

    Seems more like Republicans are all about ME FIRST and self-destructive absolutist thinking.

    Over-the-top global assertions such as this are not helpful and only foster tribalism. The are definitely not part of a civil discussion.

  29. John Hartz says:

    Prominent climate scientists such as Richard Alley, Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Stephan Rahmstorf and others are recognized as effective science communicators and have won awards in recognition of that fact. Does anyone happen to know members of this group have written articles explaining how they acquired their communication skills? If such exists, I would certainly like to read them.

  30. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: How would you rate your science communication skills?

  31. JH,
    I try to avoid rating my own skills 🙂

  32. John Hartz said:
    ” If so, that universe represents about 33% of registered voters. Am I correct?”

    That could be. According to the study, those voters can agree with the consensus scientific conclusions, yet openly support politicians who challenge 180° those same results. It’s referred to as “owning the libs” , “triggering the libs”, or “making the libs cry”.

    There is no hope that better communication of the scientific results will improve anything with this fraction of the population. They are recalcitrant in ways that have nothing to do with science.

  33. Mitch says:

    There was a time when the US Congress would go to the US National Academy of Science when they wanted clear advice. On uncontroversial subjects they still do. However, they stopped with climate. The last time that I am aware of, congress asked the NAS for information about the Mann hockey stick and got this:
    https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11676/surface-temperature-reconstructions-for-the-last-2000-years

    It was referenced by academics for a year or two, but there has been deafening silence from congress.

  34. izen says:

    @-angtech
    “Brushing may both cause endocarditis through bacteremia and prevent it from better gum hygiene.
    Going to the dentist next week for a floss and clean,
    Might take an antibiotic prior this time??”

    You do have a propensity to be wrong, about everything it would seem.

    Even if you are in an ‘at risk’ group, MVP, congenital and rheumatic heart disease, and previous valve surgery, the research shows NO increased risk from dental procedures.
    You are more likely to suffer anaphalaxis, or intestinal problems from the antibiotics.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4985400/
    “In fact, a direct causal relationship between dental procedures and IE has never been proven. Reportedly, bacterial inoculum of 1 × 108 colony-forming units per milliliter is required to consistently produce experimental endocarditis.24,25 In contrast, the intensity of bacteremia in humans is of the order of 1 × 101 or 1 × 102, which does not extrapolate easily to dental procedures as a cause of IE.”

    This is intended to be informative, not persuasive of course…

  35. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM there is also persuading/misinforming.

  36. John Hartz says:

    My point is that the polling results that you have extracted from represent about one-half ot the approximately 33% of registered voters in the US.

  37. John Hartz says:

    Mitch: Perhaps the good folk at the AAAS decided that the typical NAS analytical processes took to long to be of immediate use.

  38. jacksmith4tx says:

    John Hartz,
    It’s not Trump supporters we need to worry about – it’s most of us. You could say we are hardwired to downplay or reject future risk and the problems only get worse the more complex and the farther out in time we perceive the threat.
    I was impressed with the work of Daniel Kahneman. He wrote a book called Thinking, Fast and Slow a few years ago and he won the Nobel prize for Economics back in 2002. His work along with fellow Nobel winner Richard Thaler (book:Nudge) basically defined the field of behavioral economics. My opinion is we lack the cognitive ability to understand the nature of time and the scope of the problems intertwined with climate change. This doesn’t mean the problem is unsolvable but it looks to me like we will need a technological solution.
    Imagine a visualization tool like the one below but with 6-12-18 month forecasting ability.
    https://asunow.asu.edu/20181001-creativity-illustrating-dance-earth
    http://cici.lab.asu.edu/polarglobe/
    If we can create technology that can reasonably predict the future climate it will, over time, change our behavior in the present.

  39. JH said:
    “My point is that the polling results that you have extracted from represent about one-half ot the approximately 33% of registered voters in the US.”
    Could be. Yet those are exactly the ones that we tend to argue with on social media. I’d like to be able to come up with one name from the usual suspects that isn’t also an “aggrieved traditionalist” as Sivan calls them.

  40. angech says:

    John Hartz re Paul
    “I ‘m not sure who the target audience is. If you believe this polling study, up to half the population is unreachable because they are rationalizing lies to own the opposition — i.e. the establishment.”

    “I believe that the universe you are talking about is Trump supporters. If so, that universe represents about 33% of registered voters. Am I correct?”

    One would imagine the universe of registered USA voters is defined by law. Not all people vote. Not all votes count the same due to distributional rules.
    Trump supporters overall were slightly less than Hilary supporters and there were other candidates taking a small percent of votes. However distributionally I would imagine Trump got close to 48% of those who voted and overall 46%. Give or take.
    I think you can only claim 33% by including all registered voters who did not vote as not being Trump supporters. Whereas statistically they should split in the same 46 and 48% ratios. Note the definition of a Trump supporter is purely down to whom, on that day, preferred Trump to Hilary. A lot of people might not actually support Trump in the general sense of support but did when it was that particular choice.
    As an aside I thought Paul’s reference to up to 1/2 the population rationalising included both Democrats and Republicans and lies on both sides.

  41. John Hartz says:

    jacksmith4tx: I agree with you. the die-hard Trump supporters are a “lost cause” and a distinct minority of the US population. There’s not much point in interacting with them on social media or elsewhere.

  42. Steven Mosher says:

    SM there is also persuading/misinforming

    you could have said there is informing and misinforming

    baldly. informing/misinforming has as its minimal goal making the audience aware of X.

    Persuasion aims at getting you to believe X or more usually to act on X.

    Again hard to draw lines here.

  43. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM you are quite right, I should have said “persuading/disinforming”.

  44. angech said:

    “As an aside I thought Paul’s reference to up to 1/2 the population rationalising included both Democrats and Republicans and lies on both sides.”

    Only one political party in the USA lies about everything, both big lies and small, and that is Trump’s party. They lie because their supporters want to implode the system and it shows that they can thumb their nose at authority without suffering any consequences.
    I am sure you have the same problem in Australia

  45. John Hartz says:

    Angech: The approximately 33% I reference is based on current polling and is used widely by the US MSM. Not all of the people who voted for Trump (many voted anti-Clinton) are still Trump supporters today — in fact, some have died..

  46. John Hartz says:

    angech: You wrote:

    Not all votes count the same due to distributional rules.

    What are you talking about? To the best of my knowledge, there are no “distributional rules” in the federal, state, or local elections in the US and I’ve been voting for more than 50 years in all three.

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    “distributional rules”

    A reference to the electoral college? A voter in Arizona counts for more than a voter in NY.

  48. angech says:

    “Only one political party in the USA lies about everything.”
    “I am sure you have the same problem in Australia”
    Paul, I lost my faith in all political parties years ago, especially in Australia.
    You need a little less faith.
    ” The approximately 33% I reference is based on current polling and is used widely by the US MSM”.
    I accept that statement, I question what it means though John. We are talking about the people who vote or the people who are able to vote?
    Surely you would agree that the subsection who do not vote would still split into the same two camps generally speaking. I think you are drawing a fine distinction there to get to 33% for whatever reason. Persuading as opposed to informing perhaps.
    “there are no “distributional rules” in the federal, state, or local elections in the US and I’ve been voting for more than 50 years in all three.”
    A misunderstanding or my poor choice of words? ? The votes needed per seat are distributed unequally thus Republicans can pick up more seats with less votes, Hilary won the popular vote but lost the overall seats. The gerrymander for what the republicans did to achieve this was boosted in the last 20 years. We have a similar problem with seats in Australia. The distributions mean small areas in the country for instance [more conservative] get seats with far less votes than city areas [more liberal]. The rules meant the way these seat numbers and locations are worked out.

  49. John Hartz says:

    Dave: That’s what immediately came to my mind as well. The Electoral College system is part and parcel of the federal government structure as defined by the US Constitution. As such, it is not a “rule”.

  50. John Hartz says:

    Very interesting and encouraging (from my political perspective) trend in US politics….

    For decades, research has suggested that married women, like Garcia, tend to be more conservative than unmarried women, in part because of social networks, spousal influence and economics. And election results have confirmed that academic research.

    But recent interviews and polling suggest the traditional marriage gap might shrink this November.

    “Married women have, especially in the last six months, turned against Trump and also are starting to lean towards voting more Democratic in the congressional races, which is a pretty significant change,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

    Married Women May Be Moving Away From The GOP by Asma Khalid, NPR News, Oct 2, 2018

  51. John Hartz says:

    Re the NPR article I cited above, also see:

    Even before Christine Blasey Ford delivered her controlled but explosive testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, college-educated white women like her represented a rising threat to Republican prospects in the November election.

    But Ford’s detailed allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could allow Democrats to solidify an unprecedented advantage among those women, who represent one of the few steadily growing components of the white electorate.

    Coming even as many professional white women are already recoiling from President Donald Trump’s definition of the Republican Party, and Democrats have nominated an unprecedented number of professional women for Congress, the collision between Kavanaugh and Ford — a professional herself — has the potential to reinforce a lasting shift in loyalties that could tip the partisan balance in white-collar suburbs around America.

    “College-educated white women have identified very strongly with Dr. Ford and relate to her as a person, and will be turned off by the angry diatribes of Brett Kavanaugh,” says Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin. “This dynamic will likely further boost college-educated women’s engagement in this election.”

    Educated white women were already recoiling from Trump. Then came Kavanaugh., Analysis by Ronald Brownstein, CNN, Oct 2, 2018

  52. John Hartz says:

    angech: You wrote:

    ” The approximately 33% I reference is based on current polling and is used widely by the US MSM”.

    I accept that statement, I question what it means though John. We are talking about the people who vote or the people who are able to vote?

    Surely you would agree that the subsection who do not vote would still split into the same two camps generally speaking. I think you are drawing a fine distinction there to get to 33% for whatever reason. Persuading as opposed to informing perhaps.

    As my prior two posts about political trends indicate, the US electorate is undergoing profound shifts in party and person affiliations as we speak. What transpired in the Nov 2016 elections (especially in light of Russian interference) is no longer a good predictor of how the 2018 election will turn out. Our Pretend President and his cronies are literally casing live-long Republicans to leave the GOP and become Independents.

  53. John Hartz says: October 1, 2018 at 3:28 pm
    citizenschallengeYT asserted:
    “Seems more like Republicans are all about ME FIRST and self-destructive absolutist thinking.”
    Over-the-top global assertions such as this are not helpful and only foster tribalism. The are definitely not part of a civil discussion.
    =======================

    Sure John, I agree, yet… did you listen to the American President’s inauguration address? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/01/20/in-his-dark-america-first-inaugural-speech-trump-had-a-message-for-the-world/ Don’t you think this ME FIRST echo’s through everything the Trump-Republican Party is doing to our government and Trumps much attended and loved speeches?

    I think the refusal to fully acknowledge the absolutist thinking that is driving the Trump-Republican Party, translates into political impotents.

    Did you listen to Kavanaugh the other day – seems to me, no matter what part of the spectrum you belong to that was over the top juvenile behavior, at best. Not the slightest ‘judge’ instinct going on inside that mind. Yet, yet. seems that half the country is trying to normalize the spoiled brat as okay to sit as Judge on the Supreme Court of our land. It’s terrifying. But lets not call them absolutists?
    __________

    Paul Pukite (@WHUT) says:October 1, 2018 at 11:23 am …Becky Ham
    Thanks for sharing that, interesting seeing it written up like that.

  54. verytallguy says:

    Angech,

    I’ve no idea what your content is because

    Posts

    Without

    Paragraphs

    Are unreadable. It’s not difficult.

  55. John Hartz says: October 1, 2018 at 11:15 pm – jacksmith4tx: I agree with you. the die-hard Trump supporters are a “lost cause” and a distinct minority of the US population.
    There’s not much point in interacting with them on social media or elsewhere
    _______________________________________________________________

    So we toss up our arms and shrug it off? Just like we did with Creationists who insisted no one had a right to question their FAITH and most all the rationalists nodded their heads, then geared down to respectful mumble mode, (as if it didn’t matter profoundly). Rather than defending physical truth and honest discussion and a vociferous defend of curiosity and learning – we gave agenda driven religious (pickpocket) dogmatists a green light – to reintroduce faith-based willful ignorance into dealing with critically important matters. First Creationism, then science denial, then an amazing disconnect from physical reality. (Trumpism is the fruits of those labors – so today when society should be preparing for the weather related onslaughts coming our way, our leaders are playing Payton Place and tin solder games).

    But more to the point – There’s another aspect to this ‘Don’t Bother With Them’ attitude I been bucking against for over a decade. I’m talking about the public debate on various internet arena, YouTube comments, Letters to the Editor, etc.

    Citizen Communicators so to speak. People who have learned their science from listening and learning from others, not dedicated experts themselves.

    How better to hone one’s own understanding, then to present it to others?
    Only by actually explaining what we know do we learn about what we don’t understand so well. The honest student embraces that, because it shows us where we need to do some research to learn about it. Thus resulting in better understanding for oneself.

    Only in the challenges of a debate can our own understanding increase.

    Of course, there is also the onlooker aspect. Now we have a situation where the craziest stuff is said with not very much direct objections. So onlookers are left with A said xyz and B didn’t bother to offer anything to dispute A. Guess I trust A more than B who can’t even be bothered to respond.

    That leaves me with my question for J.H.,
    What’s wrong with direct engagement, even in seemingly hopeless circumstances ?

    Such as – you are wrong about this, because of this, this and this. Don’t believe me here are objective sources that explain the situation in better detail.

    If they use rhetorical tricks or malicious slander, why not call them on it? Why not openly describe the deception being played to divert the discussion? Why not force the conversation back to physical facts having the last word? At least make the effort.

    Here again we are not dealing with just a protagonist, one is performing for an audience of onlookers, whom we are also trying to reach out to and engage. If we don’t try, nothing can happen as the past decades of nothing changing attests to.

    Seems to me a little friction is a lot better than today’s situation where most the time most people simply talk past each other without the least interest in actually engaging. We agree to disagree as the days of horror creep ever closer, thanks to our communal neglect. It’s all overwhelmingly sad.

  56. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallenge: You challenged me to answer the following question:

    What’s wrong with direct engagement, even in seemingly hopeless circumstances?

    It’s akin to attempting to pushing water uphill and has a tremendous opportunity cost.

    In the US political system the objective of citizens like you and me who have a deep and abiding concern about the need to swiftly take action to mitigate manmade climate change has to be to vote the bums out and replace them with people who have an open mind about climate science and the critical need to take action. In order to do so, one has to energize a majority of the electorate to fully engage in the political process and vote. That’s who my target audience is, not the minority of the ever-shrinking Republican cabal.

    In any human endeavor, one should focus on the things that matter the most.

  57. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallege: You wrote:

    I think the refusal to fully acknowledge the absolutist thinking that is driving the Trump-Republican Party, translates into political impotents.

    Exactly who are you referring to?

    I know for a fact that there is an army of volunteers/organizations diligently working to register voters prior to the 2018 Mid-term elections. This army is by no means “political impotent.”

  58. Joshua says:

    It’s not
    Quite
    That
    There are no paragraphs just
    That for
    All
    appearances the
    Paragrahing
    is
    Random.

  59. Joshua says:

    It’s kind
    Ofeecummingsishin
    A way.

  60. A bogan may refuse to conform to accepted ways of speaking or grammar, is that correct angech?

  61. angech says:

    A bogan would not recognize accepted ways of speaking or grammar.
    I seem to be blind to this “correct way” to format responses, it is just how I think.
    Not wilful. We have been over this territory before and I think most of the problem is the content not the style.
    Mind you there seem to be many ways that people approach responses, capital letters, spacing, etc that I do not get either.
    One problem is an occasional flight of ideas and the fear that if I do not write them down quickly they will disappear.
    Thanks Joshua for your funny response, a bit like a haiku I guess. Appreciated.

  62. Great John you answered my question by repeating yourself while ignoring all my words and the reasoning behind my perspective.
    Well done,
    dog meet tail.

    From inside the happy leftie bubble I’m sure you can find a million reassuring signs, as my gal is constantly pointing out. But then on the street, or walking door to door it doesn’t seem like much as has actually changed. Same distracted disinterest from most the people. Heck Kavanaugh still has good chance of becoming Supreme Court Judge – that picture doesn’t terrify you? Two years ago I kept hearing the same optimistic rejoinders, ten years ago I was told not to worry about Lord Monckton, that he was a has been not worth any attention. and so on.
    _________________________________________________________

    Trump Republicans, hmmm who are they? All depends. Are we discussing the 1% who’s profiting from trumpism. Or are we talking about the 1/3 of regular Americans who rather believe in a transparent calculated con job, because all the right words are used, rather than look beyond the facade to the substance of the matter. Think shades of King Lear.

    Rich white guys who believe they are better than everyone else.
    They believe deliberate calculated lying is their free speech right.
    They believe in their own entitlement and are viciously possessive of their power.
    They believe in obsessive self-interest rather than Enlightened Self-Interest.
    They resent America’s pluralistic foundation and principles.
    They believe profits are more important people.

    http://time.com/5351087/republicans-donald-trump-values/

  63. angech says:

    JH
    “As my prior two posts about political trends indicate, the US electorate is undergoing profound shifts in party and person affiliations as we speak.”
    As an outsider the right seems to be suggesting the left is going more left.
    Trump seems, from the reporting I see, to be getting big attendances at his current rallies.
    There is no Democrat of sufficient counter status out there hustling.
    That I am aware of.
    I keep hearing of a blue wave but only the next 5 weeks will tell.
    As a betting man [who tends to lose money] I would say that the US electorate shift, if any, is going the opposite way to what you are hoping and expecting.
    Lower taxes, more people in employment, a nationalist agenda which probably pulls deep down on the heart strings of a lot more ordinary folk than we realise [Americans love their country and people who tell them that they love their country] and decent Democrats becoming as strident or worse in their behaviour calling out Trump.
    Well we will see soon enough, I did not see the first coming but I do not see the fightback you are hoping for.

  64. Michael 2 says:

    I subscribed to National Geographic for about forty years. When the new editor announced that the goal of National Geographic was to *change* the world, not merely discover and report on it, that is when I allowed my subscription to lapse.

    I was in a camera store and the salesman was trying to sell a lens (*) to a customer and not making much progress. I came in and talked the customer about the things I had been doing with that same lens over the past year and the result was the customer bought that lens. “Buying” happens naturally if the product appeals to the customer; and to make it so, it helps to have it appeal to someone else.

    Fear is strong but short-lived. If you are going to sell something using fear as the motivator your window of opportunity is brief. On the other hand, hoping for something better has much longer lasting power; even when that something better is in your next lifetime. Since the whole point of climate stabilization is NOT to seek something better, but to avoid disaster, you have nothing positive to offer; nothing new and shiny.

    Disaster can be ignored. Does anyone live near mount Vesuvius? Indeed they do. Yellowstone Caldera? For sure. San Andreas fault? No worries! Nearly everyone on Earth is a heartbeat away from disaster: Earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, sinkholes.

    * It was a Tamron 70-200 mm f2.8. It’s a great lens but mine did not withstand a rainstorm while photographing a sports event so I was looking for one a bit more water resistant.

  65. Michael 2 says:

    Paul Pukite (@WHUT) says: “Only one political party in the USA lies about everything, both big lies and small”

    No party lies about everything and no party always tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Still, it isn’t equally divided. Socialists justify lying but don’t call it that. It’s Newspeak.

    Marxist theory of Truth https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/the-marxist-theory-of-truth
    “For interventionist marxism therefore, objective truths are not uncovered so much as created. “(a) The only possible criterion of truth is action, practice. (b) In a society where it is not the community, the ‘we’, but the individual, the ‘I’, which constitutes the subject of action, the criterion of truth can only be individual and cannot have a universal validity.

    It gets pretty weird and is simplified in George Orwell’s “1984”. It is about a totalitarian government and how it obtained power and stays in power. It is anti-libertarian obviously, so whichever party is most afraid of libertarian (I choose for me, you choose for you) is your candidate for totalitarianism.
    [https]://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

    “The progressive movement requires both deceit and euphemism to mask its apparently unpopular agenda.” [https]://www.nationalreview.com/2017/05/why-progressives-lie-leftist-agenda-requires-deception/

    Interesting research on lying: [https]://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/lying-hoax-false-fibs-science/

    “To put it bluntly, they either lie or they lose.”
    [https]://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/27/why-politicians-must-lie-and-how-selling-ice-creams-is-like-an-election-campaign

  66. aporiac1960 says:

    As soon as you move away from informing towards persuading you cease to be a scientist, and are correctly recognised as such – even by people with zero scientific training (because they do not require scientific training to recognise the banal).

  67. aporiac,
    I disagree. Someone who is a scientist is perfectly entitled to get involved in advocating for some of policy action. What would potentially be wrong is if they didn’t make clear that they were engaging as a member of the public, rather than as someone who is seen to have relevant expertise (although there is nothing wrong with them using their expertise in their advocacy work).

  68. aporiac1960 says:

    ATTP ” This, however, does not mean scientists cannot be activists.”

    There is nothing to stop anyone from doing anything. Scientists can certainly be activists – but thereafter they cease to be scientists because the two vocations are mutually exclusive. Science is a vocation, as is activism. Of course there are people who claim they transcend contradictions. Entire religions have been based on this. There is no reason why a scientist cannot be an activists any more than there is reason they cannot be a deity. Scientists, like everyone else, can be whatever they want to be in their own mind.

  69. aproriac,

    There is nothing to stop anyone from doing anything. Scientists can certainly be activists – but thereafter they cease to be scientists because the two vocations are mutually exclusive.

    No, they’re not. Scientists can, and do, have opinions, and biases, just like everyone else. Expressing views publicly, and demonstrating some bias, doesn’t suddenly make someone not a scientist.

  70. jacksmith4tx says:

    Another astrophysicist and thoughts on climate change. Martin Rees sounds a bit like ATTP about the future of climate change but perhaps a bit more pessimistic about our options.

    https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/10/martin-rees-brings-on-the-future-prospects-for-humanity-to-harvard/
    “Astrophysicist and cosmologist Martin Rees visited the Center for the Environment this week to discuss his new book, “On the Future: Prospects for Humanity.”

    Rees: I think a lot of the debate about climate policy is not so much about the science. There are a few people who deny the science, but most people accept the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change range of projections as the best we can do. I think the difference between the policy recipes that different people put forward are differences not of science but of ethics and economics, in the following sense: If you take the standard discount rate which you would use in deciding to put up an office building or something, as does [Copenhagen Consensus Center President] Bjorn Lomborg, then you discount the future at 5 percent and then you write off what happens after, say 2050, and then you conclude, as he does, that dealing with climate change is lower priority than helping the world’s poor in the short term.

    On the other hand, if you say, in this context, that that is not the right discount rate to apply and we should pay regard to the life changes of a baby born today, still alive in the 22nd century, and apply a low discount rate, then we should then feel it’s worth paying an insurance premium now to remove a possible risk from someone at the end of this century. And that is really the basis of conventional climate policy, that you don’t take a commercial discount rate, you take a lower discount rate and you avoid some irreversible disaster which may be not hugely probable, but it’s something we should insure against

    And people like Martin Weitzman, an economist here at Harvard, have made this case very forcibly — that we should pay an insurance premium against a worst case in the long term.

    But in both cases, there’s a problem, because it does require concerted action. Of course, with the politicians, the local is what dominates in the short term. I quote [President] Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Union, who says, “We know the right thing to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected if we’ve done it.” And that’s the common attitude of politicians.

    Realistically, the best we can do to hope to constrain climate emissions is the one win-win situation. That’s to hugely enhance research and development into all forms of clean energy and its ancillaries. Not just clean energy sources but battery storage and all that. And to increase the public and private R and D to a level closer to defense research or medical research. It’s far, far lower than that now.

    The faster you do the research, the faster the progress you’ll make and the faster the costs will come down.

    GAZETTE: When you talk about the idea that this century is unique, in that we have the power to change the Earth, is there also an obligation to stewardship?

    Rees: I think there is, yes, and of course we all care about leaving a good world for our grandchildren. Cosmologists bring a special perspective, because we know that the time lying ahead is even longer than the time that’s [passed] up to now.

    The sun has 6 billion years ahead of it, and the universe, maybe forever. What happens this century is important not only for us but it resonates in the far future. If we screw up too badly, we would foreclose all these potentialities in the very far future. That’s why this century is crucial. If we’re lucky, it could be a transition where we can move to a sustainable world and maybe a symbiosis with electronic intelligences. If we’re unlucky, it’s a century when we could foreclose all those options.”

  71. aporiac1960 says:

    ATTP “demonstrating some bias, doesn’t suddenly make someone not a scientist.”

    I’m afraid it does. Science is a vocation for which “demonstrating some bias” disqualifies you. However, that does not disqualify you from being a deity, so scientifically you are making all of the right arguments.

  72. aporiac,

    I’m afraid it does. Science is a vocation for which “demonstrating some bias” disqualifies you.

    No, it doesn’t. In this context, I mean some bias in favour, or against, some views. Scientists are just as entitled to express their views publicly as anyone else. Doing so doesn’t suddenly disqualify them from also being scientists.

  73. aporiac1960 says:

    “Scientists are just as entitled to express their views publicly as anyone else. ”

    You are right.

  74. izen says:

    @-aporiac
    “As soon as you move away from informing towards persuading you cease to be a scientist”

    Informative and persuasive are not distinct categories.
    They are certainly NOT mutually exclusive.

    Can you think of any example of an informative process that is not also persuasive? Even a price label or bus timetable persuades people to make a choice.

    Can you give an example of persuasion that avoids any communication of information?

    Advocacy is in the eye of the beholder in most contexts.
    I am not persuaded your attempt to make this distinction between informing and persuading is credible, largely because you have failed to provide any information that supports the assertion.

  75. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallengeYT: As has been the case in prior comment threads, our discussion has pretty-much run its course — no need to bore everyone to death by plowing the same ground over and over..

  76. John Hartz says:

    Angech: I concur. We will not know how the US political system is evolving until the election results are in..

  77. John Hartz says:

    A dash of humor goes a long way in effectively communicating serious stuff, For example,,,

    In this new advice column, climate journalist Sara Peach answers your questions about how climate change could affect you and the people you love.

  78. Steven Mosher says:

    “Can you think of any example of an informative process that is not also persuasive? Even a price label or bus timetable persuades people to make a choice.”

    The sky is blue.
    F=MA
    2+2=4.
    the speed of light is 299 792 458 m / s
    Ouch.
    The symbol for gold is AU

    In a trivial way all exchange of information is directed at getting the audience
    to modify it’s behavior ( not necessarily “make a choice”)

    Can you give an example of persuasion that avoids any communication of information?
    arm twisting.
    pure force. but even the display of force communicates
    ######################################

  79. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” Science is a vocation for which “demonstrating some bias” disqualifies you. ”

    Given that no human being is capable of being completely without bias, that implies it is impossible for a human being to be a scientist. A scientist’s training helps them to see their biases and gives strategies for dealing with them, but nothing more. The idea that scientists can be completely unbiased and objective is, err, “somewhat unscientific”.

  80. angech says:

    Best of luck JH for your side. There are good things that can happen whichever party gets in. A pity we cannot have the good bits of both.

  81. Marco says:

    “The sky is blue.”

    If this somehow goes against people’s deeply held beliefs, whatever they may be, I’m sure this statement will be considered an act of persuasion, too. Besides, it isn’t even true. Just this morning it was red, and right now it is just some poorly definable greyish color out here.

    “F=MA”

    Trying to persuade me to abandon Einstein’s theories, you evil scientist?!

  82. dikranmarsupial says:

    ““The sky is blue.”

    mmm it preferentially scatters blue light, but I am not persuaded that the sky actually is blue ;o)

  83. John Hartz says:

    Steve Mosher:

    just to inform you: my tribe is stupid

    Until reading this, I’ve alway thought of you a a tribe of one. 🙂

  84. John, only in your head.
    Guess I’ll never get you to discuss my actual content – blight dismissal is as far as your interest goes. But, than it seems we’ve turned into a society that rather talk past each other. {Have you check political polls lately, looks to me like the fruits of our general apathy and that god-awful laziness when it come to actually confronting what the other is trying to express.}

    Coincidentally, that little go around between ATTP and aporiac, felt too typical for this day and age.

    ‘Yes it does, no it doesn’t, yes it does, no it doesn’t, end of conversation.’

    Rather than digging into the substance of aporiac comment which is not altogether wrong, from an idealistic perspective, but which doesn’t really stand up to reflection. Since it seems to me that it would also disqualify scientists who are interested in practical applications of science rather than simply learning for the sake of knowing. In any event there’s an interesting little exchange of ideas to be had around that subject.

    (As it happens I been listening to David Wooton’s ‘The Invention of Science’ lately and it would have been wonderful having some of you smart guys spend a little time wrestling with aporiac suggest. It definitely deserved more than the easy ‘no but doesn’t’. But that’s just me and apparently I’m a real freak of nature.)

  85. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallengeYT: What I dislike about engaging you in a discussion is your propensity to falsely define me using only your gut instinct. For example. your wrote:

    Have you check political polls lately, looks to me like the fruits of our general apathy and that god-awful laziness when it come to actually confronting what the other is trying to express.

    Implicit in your statement is the belief that I am not paying attention to what is going on in US politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been a political junkie since my highs school days when JFK ran for President. I choose not to engage you in a discussion about how best to counter our Pretend President and his followers because I simply do not have the time to do so. In addition, this venue is not the appropriate place to do so.

    Your confrontational modus operandi (fully on display on this thread and others) seems to be ingrained into your psyche. As such, there is not much I can do to convince you that your confrontational style may not be the best way to accomplish your goals. In addition, I simply do not have the time to attempt to do so.

  86. angech says:

    Steven Mosher says
    “Can you think of any example of an informative process that is not also persuasive? “
    Listening to an audio of Wuthering Heights?

  87. Steven Mosher says:

    “Until reading this, I’ve alway thought of you a a tribe of one. ‘

    looks like that more and more every day

  88. izen says:

    @-SM – re; persuasion without information.
    “arm twisting.
    pure force. but even the display of force communicates”

    I think you are conflating persuasion with coercion.

    The key process in communication, whether it is information-influence-persuasion that has been omitted is understanding.
    But to quote America’s greatest composer,

    “Information is not knowledge.
    Knowledge is not wisdom.
    Wisdom is not truth.
    Truth is not beauty.
    Beauty is not love.
    Love is not music.
    Music is THE BEST.”
    F.Z.

  89. Steven Mosher says:

    “F=MA”

    Trying to persuade me to abandon Einstein’s theories, you evil scientist?!

    if you insist

    1=1

  90. izen says:

    @-SM
    “if you insist
    1=1 ”

    An arbitrary assumption made in set theory to facilitate most mathematical formalisms.
    (may be less useful in quantum mech)

  91. John Hartz says: October 4, 2018 at 5:36 pm
    Have you check political polls lately, looks to me like the fruits of our general apathy and that god-awful laziness when it come to actually confronting what the other is trying to express.

    Implicit in your statement is the belief that I am not paying attention to what is going on in US politics.
    ============================================
    “…your propensity to falsely define me…”

    Oh John STOP already! It’s not all about you personally! Excuse the sloppy rhetorical device.

    I’m trying to discuss citizen dialogue, engagement, motivating – you know a healthy Democracy demands an informed and engaged citizenry and all that. 


    {ATTP’s articles are about the dialogue within the scientific community, there’s much value in them. Be clear I’m discussing the dialogue at street level, citizens communicating with each other, the world outside of that community.}

    Please, I was asking about the fact and not poking at you. Consider what we have witnessed in America this past week. You know the Kavanaugh hearing and the voter opinion polls that look like they’ve gone though a wild 15/20 point swing. Republicans have suddenly been justified and energized and Democratic momentum seems to have evaporated. What happened? How can that be justified, what does that portent for the coming election?

    Then my point:
    Kavanaugh’s testimony demonstrated a very passionate, even belligerent and threatening partisan. A man who felt free dropping conspiracy theories without offering a shred of evidence, in order to distract from the actual issue at hand.

    Kavanaugh delivered an emotionalized, personalized, angry, even threatening diatribe. He projected himself as the great entitled white American male playing the victim card like a consummate performer. He used anger and indignation to evade all questions and America ate it up because of, … why? Why were out Senator so blindsided and incapable of capitalizing on the moment?

    Did it matter that we were discussing a life time appointment on the Supreme Court. Temperament, partisanship and lying – seems to me no matter where anyone is on the political spectrum, his behavior would have seemed abhorrent. Why can’t that be directly asked?

    What happened to America’s dedication to a pluralistic society? What about ‘fair play’? Why aren’t we confronting right wing political players with such questions?

    Instead of talking past each other why not a little confrontation?

    Why didn’t some of the Democratic Senators asking Kavanaugh to reread his Clinton sentence and then to explain it. Why not ask him about his self awareness? Why not ask about the importance of impartiality? Then ask him about his partisanship and that outpouring of pure hatred towards elected representatives of over half the nation. Then ask him to explain how could he be an impartial justice of the land.

    Nope instead, a lot of talking past each other, with anger and fear winning again. While we loss the Earth.

    Everything I say isn’t aimed as an insult at you, though I get tired of having what I’m actually trying to discuss constantly sidestepped.

    peace

  92. Steven Mosher says:

    “I think you are conflating persuasion with coercion.”

    yes.

    But now look at all the wonderful words we have

    inform (mis inform, dis inform)
    persuade
    coerce.

    Do you suppose they are all different?, or is all informing really persuading, and is all persuading
    really coercing. I suppose willard will show up to discuss free will, determinism and compatibilism.

    I’ll suggest they are all different, although the lines are really fuzzy and if you look too hard and try to distinguish them with necessary and sufficient conditions you will have a rough time, but if you just crush that desire to be philosophical the problem will pretty much vanish, for the most part.

  93. For what it’s worth, thought I should let you know I’m sharing part of this dialogue over at http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2018/10/failures-to-engage-kavanaugh-hearing.html it helps me try to make a point. and no its not about you. 🙂

  94. dikranmarsupial says:

    Sometimes we make scientific statements is because we want to discuss it with someone in order to discover the truth, in which case, the intention is not to inform or to persuade. We all do things for a mixture of reasons, we very rarely say or do something with a single pure motivation. Or at least that is true in my case, but since I seem to be a rather less sophisticated in these things than others, I assume for the moment it applies more widely than that ;o)

  95. John Hartz says:

    citizenschallengeYT: Peace!

  96. John Hartz says:

    Please do not underestimate the important role that scientists can play in communicating the science to the general public through the media. Here’s real time example…

    NHTSA’s statement implies the seven degree projection means our climate is doomed no matter what we do, so there’s no use debating small fluctuations in fuel efficiency policy that wouldn’t make a difference.

    Ilissa Ocko, a climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, called that reasoning “totally inaccurate,” and “a really bizarre statement based on their own analysis.”.

    “[NHTSA’s] interpretation of their results is totally backwards,” she said, pointing out that NHTSA’s model could just as easily be used to show an alternate reality—if the world worked to cut global emissions of CO2 and methane in half in the next decade and maintained that reduction through the end of the century, global temperatures would rise only three degrees..

    Ocko added that NHTSA’s model uses statistics to make an argument that’s extreme and deceptive..

    “You have to start somewhere. You can’t all of a sudden slash emissions by 50 percent by changing something small for no cost. That’s not how it works,” she said..

    Trump’s Wrong. We Can Still Stop Apocalyptic Global Warming by Victoria Albert, Daily Beast, Oct 5, 2018

  97. Ken Fabian says:

    When if comes to informing and persuading, it looks like complex interactions between forcings and feedbacks are at work. Can we set the climate modellers to work to develop a PIICM – Political Information and Influence Circulation Model?

    Maybe expert knowledge about the nature of our climate system – informative science communication – is a political forcing, as is the organised influence of commerce and industry to misinform. The feedback mechanisms, negative and positive, probably include politicians and political parties, lobbying, advertising and media organisations, think tanks and, probably schools, churches. None seem likely to reveal themselves to be pure forcings without being subject to feedbacks and it may tax even the computers climate models use to bring these interactions into focus and get useful insights and, possibly, predictions.

    Not that we really need that level of understanding. I still think this a lot simpler, ie it is very much about trust and responsibility that, by default, should be guided by long standing common law precedents – even when courts are struggling with the time scales, the diffused responsibility, economic dependency and ‘soft’ corruption that can use various forms of influence over legislators, legislation and public opinion to override existing, long established principles around fiduciary duties and accountability. If we must rely on direct communication between experts and voting public to force the issues into a “will of the people” type stand-off – when the will of the people is something whole industries are devoted to influencing, with enough proven success to shift the balance points, even if not get any kind of absolute mind control. I do wonder if more psychology experts work at persuading those vulnerable to give in to impulses that go against their own long term best interests than work a improving their ability to resist such influences.

  98. John Hartz says:

    Can better communication move people from a state of apathy to action on man-made climate change, or will it take a catastrophic Black Swan climate event to do so?

    For more about the apathy problem, read…

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/05/climate-change-apathy-not-denial-threat-planet

  99. Ken Fabian says:

    JH – If our leaders/office holders remain unreceptive to science communications (which I think they have a duty to give due consideration to) and their doubt, deny, delay position (which is central to their efforts to inform and persuade) is strongly affirmed and supported by large elements of mainstream news media then I suspect the ability to bypass the influence of our societies’ power classes and make the issue a populist one that cannot be withstood by politicians and governments will be limited. Like you I see the role of major media organisations as very important.

    I suspect it cannot become a compelling enough populist issue to work from the bottom up without at least a significant level of top down support. That there is such top down support has been very significant and means that it doubt, deny and delay does not hold all the powerful cards.

    I think the balance is shifting, that there is a shift within commerce and industry and it’s lobbying that is undermining the previously unified doubt, deny, delay stance of their lobby groups and other efforts to influence, which I put down to the extraordinary and unexpected successes of wind and solar making the alarmist fears of economic ruin less tenable as well as tenacious efforts to keep the climate issue in the spotlight – despite the efforts of organised, well placed and influential others to prevent it.

  100. John Hartz says:

    Ken: I don’t disagree as it applies to the US, but the op-ed is focused on what’s happening in the UK.

  101. angech says:

    John Hartz says: October 6, 2018 at 7:48 pm
    Can better communication move people from a state of apathy to action on man-made climate change, or will it take a catastrophic Black Swan climate event to do so?”
    New IPCC report out
    “Holding global warming to a critical limit would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” says a key report from the global scientific authority on climate change.
    …To limit global warming to 1.5 degree C is “possible within the laws of chemistry and physics,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. “But doing so would require unprecedented changes.”
    Too late?

  102. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/05/climate-change-apathy-not-denial-threat-planet
    “Partisanship is a problem, too. Arguments about climate change are often polarised between left and right, and the public widely see it as a left issue. This is a problem because people are more likely to believe what they hear from those they identify with, and to reject what they hear from others. …”
    “And there are more psychological barriers. Cutting emissions requires people to trust authorities to be competent, honest and fair – a tall order at a time when only a third of people say they trust government. …”
    “Yet, daunting though these barriers are, they can be beaten with political leadership and honesty. …” (nice, a wave in the general direction of the need for truthfulness, but it still misses the boat)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I read it, can’t disagree with a thing. Although lets be honest that article was simply a repackaging of what’s been written many times, for decades now. As ‘right on’ now as it was in the 90s,
    the problem was (and is) with its omissions.

    I could not find a thing about the lavishly funded and very methodical, strategic attacks based on deliberately dishonest media campaigns, intent on sowing confusion rather than constructive debate and learning.

    You know, all those deliberate campaigns to lie about the facts, all intended to confuse an under-informed and rather apathetic public.

    I’m told that a would be impolite and only a jerk would dare actually talk right into contrarian faces and directly at their lies. Only a jerk would make a point of explaining God is in our minds and hearts and is profoundly personal; that no human has a one on one relationship with god. What we have is ego and personal drive to do better and have more. What we need is each other to keep ourselves honest.

    Nope instead I’m told keep it polite, don’t ruffle any feathers. I’m wondering should my example be those impotent men sitting on the Judiciary Committee who keep within everyone’s comfort zone. Even if it meant being incapable of exposing Kavanaugh’s rabid partisanship, which was on full display, threatening promises and all. Then demanding that it disqualified K from judgeship, before anything else is even considered!! But no, our Democrat leaders fold yet again.

    Now I sit here processing the passing of yet another grievous tipping point which will help make it worse than we can imagine at this point. All the while, back in the world of Earth’s physical reality, climate communicators continue believing they just need to do a better job of what they been doing for decades already.

    Excuse my bitter honestly, but I seem to have matriculated from wannabe networking activist to social critic and impotent witness to this slow motion train wreck society is creating for itself.

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