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Explaining science won’t fix information illiteracy (slate.com)
33 points by ColinWright 185 days ago | hide | past | web | 15 comments | favorite



I see a comment here that was dead within minutes of posting. While I and others might disagree with its message I feel it would be more useful to confront uncomfortable ideas. To allow that and other discussion to occur I am including the content of that comment here

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User: BuuQu9hu

I am not happy to hear this idea. If you convince people that science is true or real not by logic, but by rhetorical tricks, then you are no longer peddling truth; you are blindly proclaiming that science is the only correct epistemology.


There are some users on the site which have been banned. Their posts still show up if you have showdead on. This appears to be the case with BuuQu9hu given the comment is [dead] and not [flagged][dead]. If you feel a dead comment (flagged or not) is worth reviving (and you have enough karma), you can click the vouch link to make it visible.


I guess I don't have enough karma, as I did not see that link, although I did look for it.


That may be. I don't recall the karma required for vouching. Similar to the flag link, it's visible in the individual comment view which is accessed when clicking the comment timestamp.

In the meantime, it looks like the comment you referenced has since been vouched.


“He then assessed each person’s scientific literacy with questions such as “True or False: Electrons are smaller than atoms.”

This is not a scientific literacy. It does not require to understand what science is and how it differs from a belief. Not much difference from asking "What is heavier: air or water?"

Edit: What people really lack is the understanding what science is. Why this method of exploring the world works better than the others. Only after that they can understand why it is worth to pay attention to it.


This is a difference in cognition types. Concrete thinkers think facts are knowledge, abstract thinkers model systems in their mind so they can predict facts.

Almost all of our teaching and testing is for concrete thinkers, but the gulf between the two is enormous.

As an abstract thinker, I can't remember facts. I have to know why something works the way it does.

Interviews are very difficult for me. I either hit an abstract t thinker and look like a genius, or a concrete and look like an idiot.


How are you going to know what science is if you don't even understand the most basic of scientific facts? The only way someone goes around not knowing the answer to that question is if they've never even seriously discussed science in an educational manner.

>What people really lack is the understanding what science is. Why this method of exploring the world works better than the others. Only after that they can understand why it is worth to pay attention to it.

Absolutely not. You don't have to know how money works to know it is worth having. You don't have to know how language works to know that you have to speak. And you can certainly understand the value of science without having any knowledge of how to personally do it. You just need some respect for those that do.

And I would bet that most people who care enough about the scientific method already understood that it is valuable before they ever bothered to study it. You can't ask for this to be done the other way around. Nobody is going to develop scientific literacy so that you can later show them that it is valuable.


> How are you going to know what science is if you don't even understand the most basic of scientific facts? The only way someone goes around not knowing the answer to that question is if they've never even seriously discussed science in an educational manner.

I don't know the answer to that question but I understand the scientific method.

Memorizing facts about natural phenomena has nothing to do with understanding the concept of science.


it's certainly less mass-ive by a factor of a 1000 or so but then it's smeared across a volume, because quantum physics. in some sense, the concept of an atom and the electron 'space' are interchangeable if you think of those cute STM images of atoms spelling out words. this is one of those funny questions that go through a local maximum somewhere between ignorance and grad school. it's obvious right up until someone points out it's all really @#$@#$@ confusing.


Thanks for sharing this. I specially like this part:

> They may have more luck communicating if, in addition to presenting facts and figures, they appeal to emotions. This could mean not simply explaining the science of how something works but spending time on why it matters to the author and why it ought to matter to the reader.

I'll try to apply it.

As for "changing the frame, instead of repeating what you're trying to refute", I noticed that's something that Trump applied effectively. E.g. when he came up with the wall idea, people started pointing out the many reasons why it was a bad idea. One of those reasons was cost, and he came up with "Mexico's gonna pay for it", which is even more egregious than the wall itself. So people changed the focus to that, and whether the wall itself was immoral, or ineffective, wasn't discussed further. "Who's going to pay for the wall?" was a good frame for Trump, because it takes for granted that the wall's desirable.


"Selling past the close."


Dan Kahan, who is one of the people mentioned in this article, has a blog (http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/), which goes into more depth on this.


"They may have more luck communicating if, in addition to presenting facts and figures, they appeal to emotions..."

In other words, you need to relate to your audience. Be a bit vulnerable, and show that you are a real person, not just a brain on a stick.


I am not happy to hear this idea.

If you convince people that science is true or real not by logic, but by rhetorical tricks, then you are no longer peddling truth; you are blindly proclaiming that science is the only correct epistemology.


I hate to be mean but the reason argumentation isn't always about facts is because there's the written (most formal) and the spoken (most informal). Along that spectrum you can be as rigorous as a mathematical proof to being fast and loose with emotive appeals with your arguments. But what's important to take home with this idea is that you construct a logically valid and sound argument that's easy to digest but also emotionally comprehensible. Otherwise, you're going to lose your audience. For example, Vox ran a video on renewable energy from a person who is a conservative (part of the Tea Party movement and supported/advocated-for Donald Trump). She pointed out that to get conservatives on the side of mitigating climate change with adopting renewable energy we have to ditch the climate change rhetoric. We have to go for what drives conservatives: competition, cheaper energy, and energy independence. Oddly enough, this holds true back in my home state with Governor Brownback (who I despise) because he's gone against the Kochs with respect to adopting/advocating wind power. Now the wind farms are growing and making a profit for Westar and other power companies in the state. Basically, when trying to convince to an audience you have to know that audience.




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