Folding, spindeling, and mutilating lauguage for fun since Aug, 2004
Sunday, 15 April 2007

My  apologies to those not interested in framing.

PZ Myers has reacted to a Washington Post Op/ed by Nisbet and Mooney.

Far be it from me to disagree with Prof. Myers, but on this one, I DO.  Not his principles, but his interpretation of the framing agenda.  As one of the potential targets of "framing", I gotta say, it would be helpful for me.  You know who argues with non-scientist anti-science types most often?  Non-scientist pro-science types, that's who.  I would really welcome some good tools that would help me accurately argue with people who I encounter on a dialy basis who think they "know enough" to be consumers of science, and make decisions in ignorance that they don't even realize is ignorance.  I would like a faster, better way of getting to the meat of scientific matters.

Prof. Myers seems to view it as an attempt to silence or gag atheist scientists, or sugar-coat science.

I don’t see it that way at all.  I see it as asking the science community as a whole to order their priorities, and emphasize those priorities in their explanations of their work to the general public.

Let’s say you’ve got a house with a gecko infestation.  I choose gekkos because they are inherently funny, and I am trying to lighten the mood.  Yes, it is a ridiculous analogy.  Just roll with it.  In this case, I suppose geckos are analogous to the fact that while pursuing scientific knowledge, you will encounter challenges to any faith you might happen to hold, and there may be aspects to that faith that you will abandon as a result of those challenges.

You want to sell your house, and you want to present it to the largest portion of buyers.  You know that the geckos are going to be a critical point in the sales strategy.  Some people think geckos are cute, but wouldn’t want them in the house, some people will see the inherent benefits of having a houseful of geckos (no bugs, for one) so you would be best served to “frame” your presentation of the house by emphasizing the non-gecko attributes.  It has a large kitchen, it has numerous conveniently placed bathrooms…look at that lovely skylight, and then mention the geckos at a convenient time, after the people have had a chance to get ALL the information.  You can’t deny that the house has geckos, but maybe that fact doesn’t have to be at the fore-front of the discussion.

Now pretend your neighbor wants to sell his house, and his house is gecko free because he is unscrupulous about using whatever means are necessary to have a gecko-free house.  Poison, cats, bludgeoning them with clubs, etc.

He puts up a big sign that says “I want to sell you a house.  My neighbor just wants to sell you a big load of geckos.”

So what do you do?  You could put up a big sign and say “I want to sell you a house.  My neighbor is an evil bastard who likes to slaughter innocent animals.”  That is true, and it might convince some people to hear you out.  It’s a little mean, but it’s not like the neighbor didn’t deserve it.  Problem is, you’re going to attract a bunch of people who are interested in the fight and name-calling, and people who just want to buy a house are going to keep driving.  Calling a spade a spade can be refreshing and feel good, but if your primary goal is to sell your house, it might not be the best approach.

What about “Yep!  We’ve got Geckos!  And How!”

Well, it’s honest, and you’re going to get a LOT of interest in your house from Herptaphiles…but maybe you want a bigger set of perspective buyers.

What about a sign that says “spacious kitchen, ample bathrooms, gorgeous skylight, many recent improvements that my neighbor doesn’t have because he spent all his money on the latest gecko-killing gadgets”.

Get the people in the house, show them what you’ve got.  Let them look around.  Let them shop your neighbor’s house, too.  Let them see the geckos, but for Pete’s sake get them in the door.

Sure, some percentage of them will leave with a crawling case of the heebie-jeebies and beat a path to the neighbor’s house and embrace his anti-lizard agenda…but YOU will have a LOT more perspective buyers to choose from.  You may even change some minds about whether or not it is possible to live comfortably with geckos.

Sunday, 15 April 2007 07:42:56 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [8] |  | #
Tracked by:
"Joshua Bell and Framing Science" (A Blog Around The Clock) [Trackback]
Sunday, 15 April 2007 21:58:50 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Trees,
You hit a few good framing techniques but need to refine them a little.

First, you need to represent your Gecko as a kinder, friendlier pest controller. Ideally with little Forest Ranger cap and stuffed toys for the kids. Your sales sign says "PEST FREE thanks to Ranger Gecko" with the little guy peeking over the top with a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a splayed toed grip on the corner.

You need to push the economic aspects more. Your Geckos are a free renewable resource. Hell, they’re even carbon neutral! You don't have to pay for your Geckos. As a matter of fact you might think about having some of the little guys genetically modified to glow in the dark like some fish (http://www.glofish.com/images/glofish_037_std.jpg). That way you can turn off the lights (lower energy prices), watch gecko races (saving on cable) and avoid all the costs of pesticides etc.

Finally, your Geckos are part of the family. Tirelessly working to keep you and your children healthy. Where else can you buy a house with built in Nile virus protection. You’re not buying Geckos, you’re protecting your children.
Monday, 16 April 2007 05:31:26 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Ben,

Thanks! Are you sure you're not in marketing? :-)

Monday, 16 April 2007 21:24:53 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Wait.

How do you frame the Gecko crap on the walls?
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 10:06:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Free guano for all your plant fertilizer needs needs.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 11:50:08 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Sounds to me as though "framing" is just marketing hype. That's the last thing science needs - more hype! Especially by the scientists themselves.
Mark
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 12:29:48 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Mark,

Well, it needs SOMETHING...because as just straight science, it is getting it's ass kicked by the "framing" of people who have ideological bias against the outcomes. At least the goals of "framing" from scientists would be to deliver the REAL outcomes to the public, rather than the fake ones.

I'm sure the scientific community would be open to any alternatives. A good many of the scientists seem to not want the added responsibility of trying to get the message through all the counter-hype. And who can blame them?
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 07:57:05 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Umm - right. And who is going to deliver the REAL outcomes to the public? The unbiased news media? The media has become nothing more than tabloids. I don't have a good answer. I'm sure there's one out there, but I'll be darned if I can think of it.
Mark
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 08:58:28 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Mark,

That is kind of a different problem. The science bloggers are more looking at what THEY can do to deliver the REAL outcomes to the public.

but, if you make the REAL outcomes more accessible, I believe more people will find them attractive and interesting, which WOULD cause the news media to find them more attractive to present.

But statistics show that fewer and fewer people are getting their news from "the media"

More people are buying books and going online, and pursueing other forms of media for information. The press will eventually have to wise up and fly right, I hope.

But nobody will present the outcomes if they are just incomprehensible, uninteresting, and difficult to relate to everyday life issues or matters that are important to everyday people.

Maybe nobody will deliver the "framed" outcomes, but right now they are not either. You can't deliver a product that doesn't exist.
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