Framing is back. Sheril Kirshenbaum is writing guest posts over at Chris Mooney’s place (1, 2 and 3 so far). In her first three posts, she’s talking sense, though her writing isn’t exactly rocking my geological column.
(That sounds a little dirtier than I intended. Ah, well, I’m not an old fossil yet.)
The interesting thing is that nothing of what Kirshenbaum has written involves deep anthropological foundations. You could have said exactly the same things before the framing kerfluffle and with no knowledge of Lakoffian whosiewhatsits. Now that the subject has been called back to my mind, I think I can offer an executive summary of what bothers me about the whole “framing” business.
First, any attempt to convince a person of a scientific fact on grounds other than the evidence is morally suspect. Second, one must demonstrate that such a trick is even effective. (Can a simple dollars-and-cents accounting convince people to buy compact fluorescent bulbs, without talking about any real environmental reasons to use them?) Arguing for science on the grounds that science means jobs and money forces you to compete with all the other arguments which key on jobs and money. (Can’t we also improve the local economy by opening a chicken-processing plant?) Third, people who genuinely care about fact and truth will not receive the message that science can offer them fact and truth.
Fourth, the whole debate has been bereft of practical suggestions. Where’s the handbook for scientists who want to talk to reporters, and the complementary book for journalists trying to write good science copy? The only halfway solidified suggestion to come out of the goop has been to push those uppity atheists back into obscurity — a proposition which is dubious on all levels. It ignores the way reform movements have historically achieved success (well-behaved infidels seldom make history). It deprives the media of an appealing hook which can keep critical thought in the public eye. It not-so-tacitly acknowledges that religion is above criticism, which is simply a loathsome idea. (If we can’t critique religion, on what grounds can we criticize astrology? Both are ancient traditions, both are omnipresent in our culture, and both are — let’s face it — factually wrong, unless we elevate them through learned talk to such an exalted plane that they no longer contact our daily reality. The stars in the sky only symbolize the stars which guide our lives; a perfect God does not need to perform miracles, and thus is indistinguishable from no God at all. It may be emotionally distasteful to tell a human being, “Your religion is not grounded in fact,” but is that discomfort any worse than the other products of skepticism? “Your sister is wasting money paying for Reiki massage.” “Those horoscopes your mother reads are nonsense.” We agree that such messages are appropriate to say regarding homeopathy or astrology, and that acknowledging the human frailties which lead to credulity is a wise move. Why isn’t the same message with the same acknowledgments appropriate for religion?)
Fifth, the argument that “scientists frame all the time” or, more broadly, that “all communication is framing” is not tenable. In the latter case, one might as well say “all communication is Wakalixication”; the insertion of the extra word brings no new information, and framing becomes like a Silly Putty God who moves in mysterious ways and can be twisted to fit any set of observations. The former, more restricted statement is a slippery slope argument in disguise.
Years ago, my father — who was usually a very talented cook — tried to make Swedish meatballs. Following a train of thought I find difficult to comprehend, he decided that if a little nutmeg was good, a lot of nutmeg must be incredibly great.
Neither I, my mother, my father or Ace the family dog were able to eat those Swedish meatballs.
The lesson, I hope, is clear: one must be careful when extending a proposition across regimes. When lecturing to a freshman biology class or writing a grant proposal, a scientist may be forced to constrain her statements and tailor them to her audience in a way she finds distasteful (and would not employ when speaking to a professional coeval). However, there are limits to the stretching and distortion tolerated, and more importantly, there exist error-correcting feedback mechanisms which keep the hype from getting out of hand and prevent the science from being dumbed down too far.
One should also mention that when giving an introductory lecture, a professor is typically interested in presenting the material as accurately as she can, given the limited background of the students, and under the assumption that the students will be using the knowledge later. This in itself holds back the amount of simplification the professor can employ. But pop science is not a continuing education: it lives and dies in the breadth of a newspaper story and presumes no continuity of material building upon prerequisites.
Sixth, the proponents of “framing” have not — in the material I’ve read — addressed the real divisions of human psychology involved in this situation. To appreciate this point, go now and read Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians (2007).
OK, now you know what I mean when I talk about “authoritarian components” in the human psyche.
Authoritarian followers usually support the established authorities in their society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people have historically been the â€œproperâ€ authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled, customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these followers have personalities featuring:
1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;
2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3) a high level of conventionalism
Because the submission occurs to traditional authority, I call these followers right-wing authoritarians. Iâ€™m using the word â€œrightâ€ in one of its earliest meanings, for in Old English â€œrihtâ€ (pronounced â€œwritâ€) as an adjective meant lawful, proper, correct, doing what the authorities said. (And when someone did the lawful thing back then, maybe the authorities said, with a John Wayne drawl, â€œYou got that riht, pilgrim!â€)
As Altemeyer explains (and illustrates with statistical evidence), a person’s score on the “RWA” scale indicates to a considerable extent how they acquire and evaluate ideas. Naturally enough, “authoritarian followers” are very good at accepting what their trusted authorities say (well, who wouldn’t?), but the phenomenon goes deeper:
authoritariansâ€™ ideas are poorly integrated with one another. Itâ€™s as if each idea is stored in a file that can be called up and used when the authoritarian wishes, even though another of his ideas — stored in a different file — basically contradicts it. We all have some inconsistencies in our thinking, but authoritarians can stupify you with the inconsistency of their ideas. Thus they may say they are proud to live in a country that guarantees freedom of speech, but another file holds, â€œMy country, love it or leave it.â€ The ideas were copied from trusted sources, often as sayings, but the authoritarian has never â€œmerged filesâ€ to see how well they all fit together.
We all do this, to some extent. In fact, one ability which scientists in particular hone and sharpen is the skill of holding two or more contradictory ideas simultaneously in mind as alternative working hypotheses. However, this is a means to a goal, namely the determination of a solid fact which can trump the other possibilities. This is quite a different approach than authoritarian doublethink (or n-tuplethink), which implies holding a clutch of contradictory ideas all in the mind’s filing cabinet indefinitely!
High doses of authoritarianism also mean that the distinction between “is” and “ought” is blurred or obliterated outright. The listener judges the factual correctness of a statement by its moral character. “Homosexuality is a sin,” they’ll say, and so the only studies which can be deemed “scientifically sound” are the ones which correlate homosexuality with broken families, pedophilia and so forth. Sherlock Holmes warned us against this kind of bad judgment, but we didn’t listen. Rather than learning all the facts, guessing the outcome of an action and evaluating that outcome against our moral principles, a Bronze Age morality is allowed to determine the acceptable facts.
So, that’s the frame within which science must be squeezed! A tight fit, isn’t it?
Seventh, dividing between short-term and long-term efforts is a good idea, but to suggest something slightly heretical, the side of reason is already doing pretty well on the short-term end (not perfect, looking at indices like court cases, but pretty well). The problem we then face is one of induction: winning the first N battles is no guarantee that you’ll win N + 1, so long-term thinking is vitally necessary.
Today, you have to “frame” evolution. Next year, you’ll have to “frame” nuclear power. In five years, you’ll be “framing” gene therapy. A decade after that, you’ll have to “frame” nanotechnology. Isn’t that an awfully long time to be repeating the mantra, “It’s good for jobs. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for America”?
If you want to hire a PR firm to repeat that mantra to politicians and lobbyists, that’s fine. In the short term, it might work. But isn’t it a good idea to invest some resources in long-term thinking? (Why, that’s exactly what people are saying we should do for the environment! How shocking.) You might be grateful a few years down the pike.
Here’s a trick. Science is a body of facts and a method for discovering facts, so every time you see a disagreement about science policy, why not replace the word science with the word fact? The question “does science support a particular political position” sounds deep and troubling, but by replacing equivalent words, we can parse it to the question, “Do facts matter in politics?”
This suggests that the scientific community should bend itself to the current political situation only insofar as we are changing that situation to reflect actual fact. Science is not just another pork barrel project. It’s not just a trendy metanarrative. It’s our path to the truths we need to improve our lives. Knowledge gives birth to technology, and technology — be it Napster or the atom bomb — has a nasty habit of changing the economic playing field. If we don’t put serious effort into making our political processes reflect this, we’re going to have ourselves an extremely unhappy century.
Previous Sunclipse posts on “framing”:
- “I Was Framed!” (10 April 2007)
- “Interlude: Framing” (16 April 2007)
- “In Soviet Russia, Evidence Frames You!” (17 April 2007)
- “Addiction” (20 April 2007)
- “Blaggregation at Darwin’s” (27 April 2007)
I also have a crude taxonomy of bad science journalism, entitled “All the News that Fits, We Print” (22 April 2007).
8 thoughts on “Framing is Back”
Internecine stuff gets me all antsy.
A bit out of left field: there’s still this national association of school boards election coming up, the only candidate is one of the creationism supporters from Kansas, and there is some sort of campaign to find and write in a good evolutionist. And everyone mentioned in the article surely gets tons of spam, ’cause I found their e-mail addresses with Google.
Patricia Princehouse, patricia dot princehouse at case dot edu (philosophy and evolutionary bio prof organizing a write-in campaign)
Sam Schloemer, Sam dot Schloemer at ode.state.oh.us (a possible evolutionist candidate)
Steve Rissing, Rissing dot 2 at osu.edu (evolutionary bio prof who supported Schloemer when he was running for state office)
Today’s insidious propaganda piece at The Intersection; Culture, Conflict, Climate, speaks for itself. Since you are a Feynman fan, you should see the not-so-slick PNAC prescription for the future.
Since you refer to this concept of framing as a silly-putty god, and link it elsewhere, I thought, ‘there’s no better place to comment back on this one.’
I have a number of other responses to your post, but a long post means long responses, and I wasn’t sure if you were interested. So I’ll only do that if you want me to, whether by e-mail or no.
As I said, your fifth point is why I came to this post initially. I came here to point out an analogy which appealed to me when I looked at your concept of ‘Silly Putty God’, to try to explain how ‘Silly Putty God’ is, besides being a nice way of equating framing with religion, a fairly weak criticism when applied to a theory which has a lot of applicability.
If you went and watched sports, and you mentioned to everyone who played any kind of sports (basketball, pool, hockey, soccer, whatever), ‘Hey, that’s really physics, you know’, would you find it reasonable for them to say, ‘Then clearly the word ‘physics’ just means ‘sports’ or whatever else you want?’ I’d think not. Physics explains things. Lots of things. Lots of everyday things.
Framing is a communication theory. Communication is a common, everyday thing. Just like all communication involves words (and their denotations/connotations), gestures (ditto) and other such things, at a slightly higher level, involves framing. It isn’t this weird, abstract, undefinable concept. Any more than physics’ relationship to sports, or chemistry’s relationship to cooking.
And no, the analogy isn’t perfect, because framing is a theory of communication, and communication inherently has explanations in framing , while sports/cooking inherently involve/are subsets of physics/chemistry. But I hope that it points out ways in which your criticism is far too general, and can be applied to basically anything with significant power to explain things.
Hopefully that makes some sort of sense. Framing’s a really easy word and concept to overuse, but that’s because it’s so damn expressive. Such things just seem odd when applied to words. Having a grounding in what it really means helps, with that, and it is not hard to get such a grounding. (Imagine if I’d done the whole reply post! Oy. Way too long.)
I don’t have a problem with theories of communication. (Claude Shannon had a good one.) But I’ve got a real beef with “theories” which don’t make falsifiable predictions or make both of two mutually exclusive predictions with equal ease.
Being applicable in many situations is good, but giving vague, waffling or inconsistent predictions in a specific situation is bad. This is an essential distinction.
Consider a set of ideas like Newtonian mechanics. It covers a fantastically vast territory, but for every phenomenon it describes, it gives predictions about what will happen which experiment can in principle prove wrong. Lo and behold, experiments did eventually do just that, and not just once. Sometimes, the discrepancies were resolved by finding extra matter — a.k.a. the planet Neptune — whose gravitational interactions had been causing subtle and unexpected effects. Later, Einstein and company discovered that the Newtonian rules themselves were wrong, or said more carefully, that they had a limited range of validity.
If Newton’s laws had been of such a vague character that one could say, “Eh, the planets will move like this,” while somebody else could look at the same equations and the same starting conditions and say that “The planets will move like that,” then those laws would not have been very useful. One does not make progress by saying that the planets move because they’ve got a kind of “oomph.” Explanations which can be stretched to cover all circumstances are not good explanations.
I don’t think your physics/sports analogy is very helpful. First, it’s kind of daft to say that football or hockey is “just physics,” because there’s also the rules of the game. Physics will tell you where the ball will go if you specify the force applied to it, but whether that trajectory is a “goal” or a “strike” or a “foul” depends upon human convention. There’s additional information you have to specify to go from the general principles of physics to their particular application in rugby or jai alai.
It is the fact that when applied to a particular situation, the equations of physics give definite, falsifiable answers which makes them mighty. A “law” which applied to a specific circumstance does not give definite predictions is not a good candidate for an explanation of nature. We are fortunate that physical theories do not have this character; they are not Silly Putty, and the complaint I voiced about “framing” does not apply to them.
This has happened >a href=”http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/04/nisbet_and_mooney_in_the_wapo.php#comment-403070″>plenty of times> in the sprawling discussion of “framing” as it has metastasized through the blogotubes. One person says, “The Democrats lose elections because they don’t frame properly.” Another shouts back, “Did you sleep through November 2006? The Democrats won because they stood up and stopped trying to ‘frame’ some conciliatory message.” And then the reply, “That’s still framing!” Back and forth, onwards and downwards.
If “all communication is framing,” then any instance of communication is an instance of framing, and the additional vocabulary word is not helpful. (Just like it would do no good to say “all physics is the expression of the ineffable,” for example, or “all chemistry is poetry.”) Lately, Nisbet has muddied these waters by making the word “framing” mean what he wants it to mean (and I’m not the only one with this complaint).
If I equate “framing” with religion, it is not a rhetorical trick to express my displeasure or to fool the reader into reacting negatively. It is simply a reflection of observing common features.
I’ve gotten rather tired of talking about “framing,” actually, since AFAICT the discussion does no good whatsoever. If I had my way, I’d never hear about it again.
I thought that the sports analogy might be helpful. Take it or leave it. *shrug*
Ha to the Shannon ref. But that ref points out, to a degree, exactly what the difference is. You don’t seem to think this social science theory is worth anything because you can’t falsify it. And, in fact, any social science theory, seems to be your implication, is not good enough for you. I could list off half a dozen theories with good evidential support, and you’d go, ‘But I can’t understand or falsify them! They’re of no worth!’ That’s inherently similar to someone saying ‘You can’t prove evolution because you can’t observe it.’ ‘Studying history is crap because you can’t observe it.’ That’s the kind of reasoning you’re implying, and you almost certainly think it fallacious.
Framing speaks to a trend, is the thing. You want it to be easily falsifiable. You know what would make it false? It’d be false if the word choices we used did not then affect our opinions or discourse, and furthermore that changing those word choices can change opinions and discourse. And the evidence is against that. It makes clear predictions, to a point: People who accept certain word choices and associations will generally believe certain things. For example, if someone thinks it’s fine to call women ‘bitches’, then there’s not much respect there, especially if they argue, when told that that might be offensive, ‘I can say what I want, you’re just oversensitive.’ The fact that ‘people can argue about it, so framing is meaningless’ is like saying ‘historians dispute the number of people who died in this war, so clearly historical analysis is useless.’
You might say, ‘Oh, but that’s _obvious_.’ Except it’s not. If it were ‘obvious’, then people would not argue that ‘it doesn’t matter how we say something, it’s what I mean that counts’. Or half a dozen other things. That happen every day. It wouldn’t have taken until the 70’s to codify and name it well. Etc. Etc.
Consider that Moony and Nisbet are literally having to _justify their entire well backed field of study_ to you, a non-expert, before you’ll give them the light of day. Man, if I could do that to win an argument, I’d never have to argue with anyone ever again, because doing that for any real field would take them months. Years. But for some reason, that’s ‘okay’ if it’s social sciences. It’s ‘okay’ to call social sciences, and their usage, lying, and wrong, and not ‘good enough’. To attack the users as “scientists”. To demand they justify their existence and theory to you, personally, every time it comes up.
I addressed the ‘all communication is framing’ thing more fully in the cut response. It’s not that ‘all communication is framing’ exactly. But almost all communication involves framing. Things have a societal context. Calling people what is colloquially ‘crazy’ means that you’re treating them as crazy, when you communicate. Then you are safe in ignoring them. Crazy people are for ignoring, dismissing. For example.
The equating of “framing” (why scare quotes?) with religion is a rhetorical trick. You’re equating _social science theories_ with religion. By observing common features, you are attempting to draw a comparison between the two, a comparison that says, ‘Hey, look at these two things. They’re pretty similar. You don’t one of them. You gotta dislike the other! Eh? Eh?’ That is almost the definition of a rhetorical trick! (Subtly) Observing common features is an attempt to draw a parallel to support your point. It is why, in fact, comparing someone to Hitler in any way, whether valid or not, is generally considered bad/unfair. The attack is much the same. Religion is just the Ornery Scientist/Atheist’s rhetorical Hitler, as it were (is this a Meta-Godwin? Ha ha.) Call something like religion, and it’s automatically bad. Put it on the side of religion, and it’s automatically bad. I’ve posted numerous examples of people doing exactly that.
The Bushwell link is a perfect example of a literal reframe. The original post: “On religion, Dawkins doesn’t get the science right.” Pretty clear attempt of criticism of Dawkins: Scientist extrordinaire, prophet of reason, forgetting/missing/erroneously using scientific data.’ (I’ll stay away from whether the article or its contents are right or wrong, such an analysis would require reading the God Delusion and I haven’t had the pleasure.)
The response? ‘Misleading anti-Dawkins material from “framers”‘. The material’s ‘anti-Dawkins’ (not, say, well reasoned or argued.) It’s ‘Misleading’ (but the writer had a clear point, and it’s exactly what they said it was.) It’s from “framers”. (Scare quotes! Ding ding ding!)
It is, in fact, a reframe. It tries to put Nisbet’s post not in the way he put it, which is ‘Dawkins messed up his arguments from a scientific point of view’, but as ‘Nisbet (and maybe all “framers”) are anti-Dawkins and misleading you. That’s absolutely perfect.
The fact that Nisbet can pick it out _in one line_ and do something besides whine for an entire post ‘But you’re twisting my words’, as one would do if they did not know anything about social sciences or framing, is because of the social science theory. It gives him, and others, a skeleton to hang things on. And this allows greater analysis. (Also, because everyone’s against framing to the point of stretching their credibility, it is a built in attack. If he calls you a framer, he’s saying you’re on his side, because ‘framers’ have become a side! Now THAT is stupidity.)
Framing analysis especially shines when a _group_ of people do something. For one example, if every reference to women makes them out to be weak, or incompetent, or stupid, or frail, or emotional/crazy, or… that is a stereotype, but it is also a frame. How can you discuss women as strong, when every word that refers to them is weak? How can a woman be strong if you can always reduce her to ‘pussy?’ How can you think of a black person as equal if you always refer to them as lesser? It’s _hard_. The discourse helps controls the decisions.
For another example, the entire environment on Scienceblogs thinking that it’s ‘good’ to call religious people deluded and irrational, not because it’s effective, or because it will cause an effect they want, but because it’s telling the truth. And therefore there’s no PR problem. Not because it’s effective, or because it will cause an effect you want, because it’s telling the truth. Note how that _doesn’t actually answer the protest_. And yet everyone did it. ‘It’s not about PR! It’s about THE TRUTH. THE TRUTH demands that we NEVER LIE.’ (Except when people do, and framing does not require that people lie.) How can anyone argue against THE TRUTH? Even though the question isn’t about THE TRUTH. Nor does it require giving up THE TRUTH. Without the concept of ‘framing’, named or not, people would just be frustrated by this idiotic roadblock. Instead, they are capable of seeing it and trying to point at it and say, ‘You’re setting up a false dichotomy which causes an inherent conflict.’ And it’s supported by the environment, and the people. And I’ve provided examples of that too.
I’m tired of it as well. But I’m tired of it because, by supporting social scientists, I am inherently the enemy of ‘real science’. And that’s an incredibly stupid duality which is being forced upon me by the ridiculous attack environment. The attack environment that the Scientist/Atheists and Evangelical Religious are persisting together. But pointing that out is apparently no good.
Pointing out peoples’ hypocricies, in your view, is ‘no good’. Pointing out how people are not addressing the issues is ‘no good’. That’s what happens in framing discussions on scienceblogs: People spend all their time saying ‘NUH UH! NUH UH!’ You and others are _too busy attacking framing_, you don’t actually get to the discussing. Whose fault is that? Whose fault would it be if I replaced ‘framing’ with ‘evolution’? Someone were coming around and attacking evolution in an otherwise productive discussion about evolution? Troll? Off-topic? Yeah. That’s what you’d hear.
But because it’s ‘social science’, it’s okay to tell them that their entire field sucks balls in the middle of a ‘reasonable argument’. You figure out what the problem there is. The problem with how “scientists” who are as bad as religion are treated.
No no no!
Historical theories are falsifiable. I cook up an idea based on what I find in certain documents and on certain potsherds dug out of one place in the ground, and then I go dig in another place to see if the predictions of my idea hold up.
So? How, exactly, does that imply that I should keep my mouth shut instead of pointing out that some well-established discoveries of science really do conflict with particular religious beliefs?
Point number 1: Dawkins got the science right. That is to say, his primary objective was to demonstrate that no evidence in the material world points to the existence of anything like Zeus, Elyon, Jehovah or any of their buddies. After that, he spent some time going over scientific theories for the origin of religious beliefs and behaviors. That’s a secondary goal, as it should be.
David Sloan Wilson was upset that Dawkins had not written the book which Wilson expected him to write. So what? Dawkins had a point to make, and he (wisely) chose to make it using the well-established scientific discoveries in the realms of biology and physics, instead of anthropological notions which are still speculative and in debate. I can’t exactly fault the man for that.
Point number 2: you tell me, “Moony [sic] and Nisbet are literally having to _justify their entire well backed field of study_ to you, a non-expert, before youâ€™ll give them the light of day”. Well, the whole point of this babble is to learn how to justify well-backed fields of study to non-experts, isn’t it? If they can’t make “framing” sound good to me, a person with an open mind, leisure time to surf the Internet, and both interest and experience in science education, why should I feel confident in their ability to sell evolution to people far more hostile than I?
Furthermore, if I can’t discuss “framing” without having read a whole mass of literature on it, then I’m not sure why I should pay attention to a person who gets upset over Dawkins without having read a small fraction of his verbal output.
Point number 3: if I claimed that a scientist made a mistake in a scientific argument, but when pressed I could only show that she had not argued in the fashion I had anticipated, my original claim would have been misleading. It is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor to designate a misleading claim as such.
By the way, I put quotation marks around “framing” to indicate that it is being used as a technical term with some specialized meaning. Maybe there’s a better way to do this; I’m not sure, and I don’t particularly care.
The TRUTH, as far as I can make out, is that our species has acquired potent knowledge about its place in the Cosmos, and this knowledge is fatally incompatible with certain beliefs we had formed in an earlier stage of our history.
If “the question” isn’t about this, I must be in the wrong meeting.
By the way, saying that Dawkins “got the science wrong” is — see above — a lie. He may have erred in describing the sociology of a particular sub-field of modern physics, and he might have been a trifle loose with grammatical terminology, but hey, he’s neither a physicist nor a linguist, and these points do not affect the substance of his argument.
How can we discuss skepticism when all skeptics are “rabid”? Or atheism when all atheists are “fundamentalist”?
All right, some atheists are merely “angry.” Fair enough.
Idea A has undesirable feature X. We know that X is a bad apple because of (insert long, scholarly argument here). Idea B also has feature X, which we know is bad from long experience with idea A. Now, we’re sure that idea B has its good points (like Pliny the Elder said, no book so bad to be entirely worthless), but the presence of aspect X naturally makes us go, “Oh no, not again!”
What you call a “rhetorical trick,” I call a “deduction.” Is this an example of “framing”?
No, comparisons to Hitler and the Nazi Party are considered bad or unfair because they are almost invariably overblown. You have to be a very bad person to be as bad as Hitler.
But some comparisons to Hitler are perfectly reasonable. We can compare Hitler and Napoleon for trying to invade Russia during the winter, for example. We can also compare Nazism to Fascist movements in other countries; Jorge Luis Borges, Bertrand Russell and many others have compared Nazi ideologies to belief systems of the past — the writings of Thomas Carlyle, say — in order to understand Nazism and where it came from.
Godwin’s Law was a good idea for keeping USENET discussions from getting out of hand, but let’s face it, it can be a real pain too.
It’s clear that neither of us will make an impression upon the other, which is regrettable. I have no further desire to discuss “framing,” and I will not do so unless and until I notice another person in the debate making a factual error. I write about science because I want people to care about the truth, and I cannot advocate for truth unless I myself care about it first.
Okay, staying away from framing. Mostly. (My responses are slow because it allows me to not be overwhelmingly angry at the sheer disconnect here.)
Some historical theories are falsifiable. Some aren’t. Some data is lost, unobtainable. The best you can do is choose something which is consistent with the data. You know what would be consistent with the data on god? The existence of a god that does nothing measurable. Would that be a dumb god? I think so. How about a god that believes in a moral system you do, that doesn’t conflict with general morality of the world, but also does nothing measurable? Who’d care? But you and the other whatever atheists (I really don’t care about the label. Ornery, angry, I don’t. Atheists that have linked themselves to science absolutely and say that all religions and religious are bad for society and deluded ignorant oppressed fools, and in the vast majority out to get them? Whatever.) espouse the belief that anyone who believes in such a god is inherently delusional and bad and anti-science. And that does not follow. Remember. Strong Atheism (There Is No God Of Any Sort) is as untested and unsubstantiated a hypothesis as a Strong Theism (There is a Specific God (or set therof)) that does not involve any falsifiable or otherwise stupid claims. Why don’t you go out criticizing strong atheists? Well, we’ll get there.
“How can we discuss skepticism when all skeptics are â€œrabidâ€? Or atheism when all atheists are â€œfundamentalistâ€?
All right, some atheists are merely â€œangry.â€ Fair enough.”
That’s a straw person. That situation _does not exist_ in this argument (there are others who hold that stupidity, but with careful examination, such irrationality is ignored.) You are trying to consign both me and others to the position of thinking that skepticism and atheism are inherently bad, when that is not held nor implied. (They’re not even necessarily the same thing!) I mean, if that were the case, then I’d be calling myself bad. I may be as self hating as the nest person, but I’m not quite that self hating.
On the other hand, all religion and religious being bad _has_ been stated _and_ implied. They are inherently the lesser. And why? You indicate why you might think this above, but you also illustrate how it’s a logical fallacy:
“So? How, exactly, does that imply that I should keep my mouth shut instead of pointing out that some well-established discoveries of science really do conflict with particular religious beliefs?” and “The TRUTH, as far as I can make out, is that our species has acquired potent knowledge about its place in the Cosmos, and this knowledge is fatally incompatible with certain beliefs we had formed in an earlier stage of our history.”
Which is not only another strawperson in the first quote (Who said you had to _keep your mouth shut_? Only you, PZ, and others who assume that better speech can only mean no speech. Repeated purposeful misinterpretation. Ed Brayton and numerous others show the falseness of this assumption, but the us vs them mindset specifically disallows such considerations on your side), but shows exactly why disliking all religion is not what you should be aiming at. ‘this knowledge is fatally incompatible with certain beliefs we had formed in an earlier stage of our history.’ Is that what you really think? Well… what does that mean about your beliefs, and how they should be stated?
Yes, if you are a bible literalist, you are incorrect when you think that god made the universe in 7 days, 6000 years ago. You believe things which are disproved. This is not now, nor has it ever been the issue that Nisbet and I and Ed and others bring up, even though you and PZ and others try to _make_ it that. Ed criticizes such beliefs when they conflict with science! I have argued against them as well.
But PZ, among others, specifically makes _all religions and religious_ out to be deluded, lies, anti-science, false, bad, evil, oppressed, etc, etc, etc. Those two arguments are two VERY different things. And they require a huge assumption, which is ‘all religions and religious people hold claims which are antithetical to science, and desire to decrease scientific power/influence/progress.’ And that assumption.
Rob Knop? Is he against science? Newton, was he against science? Pick half a dozen scientists who believe in some sort of religion, weak, strong, doesn’t matter. Are they inherently all against science? Is every person in middle America against science, because they have a religious belief? Can you prove that? No. No you can’t. And the evidence does not support you. What the evidence does support is that certain religious subsets of the populace are rabidly anti-science/freedom, as well as their associated power structures, and others are fine. Note the power structures thing, because that is _important_ to why you can criticize groups and tendencies. But it does not mean that all religious are bad.
And this is also why you shouldn’t go out criticizing strong atheists if you’re science/atheist. Not because they’re any more right/logical (they’re not! Assumptions required all around!), but because they don’t have a power structure, and they’re ON YOUR SIDE. And, strangely enough, most ornery atheists get that, in some fashion or another. But if it’s a religious person, of any religion… evil! Deluded! Wrong! And fallacy. This illustrates how it’s not about reason. It’s about us vs them.
And what you said, that the old literal beliefs are wrong, does not necessarily mean that you have to treat all religious people like crap. Like they’re deluded, ignorant, and worthless. Slavering to obliterate all atheists. These are the kind of things that are _said and supported_ on Scienceblogs. By PZ. By Science Avenger. By Dawkins in the titling of his book, and some people believe the body. Shrug on that from me. But allies, _allies_, are seeing it. But the us vs them mindset is making it impossible for that gap to be bridged.
That is what you refuse to get. And I do mean refuse. Nisbet never said STFU. Ed doesn’t say STFU. I don’t say STFU. But _because this is an us vs them mindset_, all you are allowing yourself to see is STFU. Framing = STFU. Valid criticism of your methods becomes evil criticism of your existence. Atheists should just be meek and let themselves get beat up, that’s what ‘framing’ says. That’s the absolute fucking SHIT that you and PZ are treating the other side as. That’s how you’re treating your ALLIES. That is the danger of the us vs them mindset, and it’s an us vs them mindset that you, and PZ, and Dawkins, _are supporting_. And it’s the mindset that is criticized. Validly. For people who value truth so much, and reason so much, this point just keeps escaping you all. The assumption that religious person = bad effects upon science and reality is unsupported. I can see why the mistake would be made, but we are ALL better than that, aren’t we? (Wow, hey, I got angry! That’d be hypocritical, if I didn’t think that angry was fine. So either you get to make another strawperson, or you realize that I think angry is fine. Which is it gonna fucking be?)
Some minor points:
A lie is inherently knowing/malicious. Calling it a lie means that the person who did it did it on purpose in general. Furthermore, your attempt to justify Bushwell’s words missed the point that it was a reframe. You just tried to say, ‘But this frame’s the rightest frame!’ Ah, damn. Framing came up again.
Also, you call it deduction because you think that something being a ‘rhetorical trick’ is bad. I don’t. It is what it is. Trying to subtly compare X to Y and thereby get all of the prejudices against Y in against X is a trick. If you do it strictly illustratively, it is better, but it is not used illustratively in any of the examples we discussed, including treating Nisbet like a “scientist”.
And on your point #2: You are inside an attack mindset. Framing is _easy to understand_. Blindingly so. But because someone used it against you, suddenly, it’s wrong. FFS, look at how PZ treats it every time it comes up. It has been explained to any reasonable person’s satisfaction, there are wikipedia articles explaining it, but instead of people taking that explanation and going, ‘Hmm. I wonder if I can use this,’ they scream, ‘LIES! EVIL! SPIN! FRAMING MEANS SHUTTING UP!’ Seriously. You, and I mean the group you, should know better. You already do on a myriad of topics. But framing? Evil.
And saying ‘I’m stubborn and refuse to listen, so framing sucks, and anyone who tries to use it is clearly wrong’ is hilarious. It really is. Argument via stubbornness is a fallacy, not a valid tactic. And you are being stubborn. The insistence that framing is evil, that framing means shutting up, that anyone who argues from this point of view means shutting up, shows it as clear as day. Not every criticism comes from a place of the power structures that mean to keep atheism and science down.
Also, putting quotes around framing is either to point out usage specifically, or more often a tactic to make it seem dumb or othered. Do you put quotes around evolution? No. Darwin? No. But the ID people do! And they make up words like ‘Darwinist’. Kinda like calling people who agree with Nisbet ‘Framers.’ That word doesn’t even make sense, but it gets the point: Call them names to identify that they are not allowed to speak! To make it seem stupid and distant and weird. Just like you and PZ and others are doing. If you didn’t realize it, I can understand. But that’s the tactic, and that’s exactly how it’s being used.
So. The conclusion. Nobody, in this discussion, is telling you you have to let evangelicals and fundamentalists and whatever run roughshod over science. I think I’ve said this 3 times in 3 posts, in one way or another. Evangelicals and fundamentalists might, but I’m not either! So that’s good. But when you _specifically allow any mention of any religion or religious belief to be derided_, you are making an extension which is not actually supported. Just supposed. Supposed like people suppose that treating religious people like crap is like black/womens activism, and therefore will have the success of the civil rights movement. When religion is being used as the new Hitler (you point it out yourself, in ‘Blake’s Law.’ Except you weren’t general enough, and you missed the point. Using the word ‘religion’ or ‘fundamentalist’ in your environment is _poisonous_ language. The law just defends your point of view by making sure that your group isn’t allowed to be called the bad word. But Nisbet can be! It’s perfect debate silencing.) Etc. Etc. Etc. I know you are all capable of seeing this. But because of the attack frame, criticism is not allowed, and people who criticize are called ‘religious’, irrational, trolls, whatever it takes to shut them up. Even if they’re allies! That is a problem. And it’s a problem that’s been identified. But the only ones who can deal with it are you. We can just point it out again and again and again and again and again and…
I’m not sure how regrettable you think it is that I won’t make an impression on you is. You’ve made an impression on me, in that you showed me that there’s hope, because your beliefs clearly come from the power structure being bad, and specific religious beliefs and religious structures being bad for society and science, but that’s been _twisted_ by an attack mindset to ‘all religion must go.’ If you do care about the truth… please. Examine that ‘all religions and religious are inferior’ assumption. Remember that Strong Atheists have no more evidence than certain Strong Theists. Apply the reason universally. Live up to your own bloody ideals.
Either I’ve failed to communicate, or you’re putting words in my mouth. I have not said that all religious people are bad, or anti-scientific, or anything like that. If I believed that, would I say such nice things about Scott Hatfield, OM or Mark Chu-Carroll? What I have tried to make clear is (a) that their religious beliefs are significantly different than those of creationists, perhaps (b) more so than many “liberal” or “moderate” religious folk recognize. I worry that (c) the “moderate” religious folk who have been the allies of science education have a line which they won’t be able to cross, which we won’t discover until new scientific discoveries make it unavoidable. But I try not to worry about that too much.
Analogy: you’ve got a friend who is very smart, well-read, thoughtful and just generally nice to be around. Unfortunately, alcoholism runs in their family, and you’ve seen the violent screaming fits which their father throws when he’s deep in the Jose Cuervo. You and your friend go out for beer every once in a while, and in the back of your mind, you wonder if your friend is going to go too far. You feel guilty that you worry, but you can’t stop thinking about what might happen. . . .
You’re assuming that I hold an assumption which I do not, in fact, hold.
How else do I interpret the assertion, “If the defenders of evolution wanted to give their creationist adversaries a boost, it’s hard to see how they could do better than Richard Dawkins”?
Have I called Nisbet a “fundamentalist”? I don’t think so. I don’t even think a silly appellation like “fundamentalist framer” is applicable: to my knowledge, he doesn’t have a Holy Scripture of Framing, a set text in which he will brook no error.
Not that anybody’s been listening, but I have criticized the people who proudly put themselves “in the middle” for creating their own us-versus-them mindset. The “us” is the people who are willing to play nice — kind and quiet atheists, together with “moderate” religionists — and the “them” comprises the damned fundamentalists on both sides. Is this any better? No, it’s just another kind of group privileging, and I’m sick of it. My entire “Law” essay was an effort to stop the tyranny of the self-appointed “middle” and their own us-versus-them mentality.
I don’t have an “attack mindset,” whatever in the blazing circles of Hell that is. The varieties of religion which I think should “go” are those which — according to my best interpretation of the available evidence — have observable, deleterious effects.
Is that what I’ve been doing? (Or rather, is that what I did in a small part of what I’ve written on this increasingly incoherent subject?) I don’t think so.
I don’t know what else to call people who want scientists to “frame” — “wanters-of-framing”? In any case, I have never used “framer” as a signal that a person is “not allowed to speak,” and I’m not even sure how that would work. I have said, repeatedly, that one problem with the term “framing” is that it is not adequately distant. Because it is an everyday word used without qualifiers, it appears transparent, and everybody thinks they know exactly what it means. Therefore, in almost any discussion about it, what one person is attacking won’t be what the other person is defending.
I’m tired beyond measure of this entire procedure. So, I have an honest suggestion, which I put forth in good faith: instead of firing verbal volleys at me, in a comment thread which is attracting (according to my site statistics) vanishingly little attention otherwise, why not set forth your views on your own website? Blogspot blogs are cheap, after all, and you’d be able to develop your ideas following your own organizational plan, rather than responding to the random selection of points I choose to make.
I seem to be doing nothing beyond confirming the preconceptions you want to see confirmed, which I don’t think is a valuable use of either of our Internet connections.
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