Monday, April 23, 2007

Nisbet and Copernicus' Foreword

Not sure yet what I think of the Nisbet-Mooney framing science thing (see Stoat for a pithy writeup).

I heard Nisbet asked on a public radio program how he would've advised Copernicus way back when:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How would you have advised Copernicus to advance his highly controversial and unpopular sun-centered theory of the solar system?

MATTHEW NISBET: Well, again, you know, there are certain ideas that come about in science that clash so strongly against prevailing world views that any type of short-term communication effort is going to run up against a wall.

Actually, there was a way around the clash - in the editing process of Copernicus' original De Revolutionibus, someone else added a foreword describing the book as a mathematical exercise, and not necessarily meant to describe reality ("these hypotheses need not be true nor even probable"). Sounds like a framing attempt to me, to get an idea out to the audience without provoking a too-strong counter-reaction. Was that a good move?

Maybe this example is unfair to the N-M thesis, which could recognize "bad" frames that sacrifice too much in the way in the way of accuracy. Still....

The other problem with frames is that as their use gets more widespread, people will get better at deconstructing frames, especially the awkward and obvious frames, the ones that scientists would use. When people realize that a scientist is trying to push psychological buttons, that might not play well.

My little suggestion is to minimize the framing when talking straight science, and then pull out all the stops when talking science policy. Not sure if that idea really works though.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.