Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lewandowsky helps Kahan look a little better

newish Inquiring Minds podcast by Mooney and Viskontas features a good dialogue between Stephan Lewandowsky and Dan Kahan. Eli and yours truly haven't been all that persuaded with Kahan's interpretation of his own work, which is very critical of climate hawks and pretty silent about the denialists, but in Lewandowsky's presence he moderates it and comes off much more persuasively.

Kahan says he supports trying all approaches (not quite what he said earlier). He acknowledges communicating information can actually persuade people in the lab, which is good, but suggests it hasn't worked in the wild, somewhat contradicting his claimed preference for science over impression-based analysis

I think the framing analysis and group identitity analysis has a lot of value to it, and that's why communicating the 97% agreement among climatologists is so useful. The people who doubt climate science don't perceive themselves as 97% out of the mainstream (disregarding all the Galileos). When they understand where the consensus exists, that's their mental framework of where they belong and where the scientists who share their group identity also are found.

And that's ignoring the fence-sitters and those who are open to the science but don't know how strong it is, and by knowing that can give it a higher priority in their politics.

UPDATE:  thought I'd add that Kahan and later Viskontas assumed some unproven facts so I thought I'd do the same - if the climate hawks hadn't been out there all these years arguing the facts against the liars and misleaders, then we'd have an even worse public understanding than the present.

And just to be contrarian, I'll agree with Kahan on something and partially disagree with Lewandowsky. Kahan said we should watch for and attempt to prevent partisan group identity development where it has not yet occurred, like on GMOs and vaccinations. Sounds fine to me. Lewandowsky said politicians have not been pushing hard enough on climate - that sounds a bit like the bully pulpit argument that has not fared well among political scientists. I'm not sure the bully pulpit is so completely ineffective in the long term though, and Lewandowsky may have just been arguing that it's time to try out all their new techniques for science communication.