Thursday, November 11, 2010

How *Not* to Advocate for Your Science

Great. Chris Mooney thinks climate scientists are supposed to make their case by... not being scientific:
So any scientist walking into this context had better be ready for one obvious trap: Being lured into talking about uncertainty to the detriment of what we actually know. It’s easy to ask a scientist a question that will invite a large volume of caveats and doubt-generating statements without leaving much time to discuss what’s firm, what we can rely on. A question like, “what are the limitations of existing climate models?” You get the picture.

Hey, you know what? Uncertainty is part of science. A big part. An inevitable part. Acknowledging the uncertainty of scientific conclusions is important. It's crucial. A scientist who doesn't talk about the limitations of his conclusions isn't a scientist, but just a pundit.

And God knows we have too many pundits out there already.

Anything else is, in fact, is a kind of lying. Is Mooney really suggesting that scientists should lie (i.e. not present the whole truth) for the sake of an agenda?

That would be exactly the wrong approach. You don't bow down to the audience. You elevate them and teach them what science is really all about.

These public relations people and English majors are going to ruin everything.

1 comment:

ScruffyDan said...

I think they key part of the quote is "without leaving much time to discuss what’s firm, what we can rely on"

So yes mention uncertainty, but don't get bogged down by it when the uncertainty is minimal.