Quote of the Week: The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. –Daniel J. Boorstin
These words by University of Chicago historian and Congress Librarian Daniel Boorstin bring to mind the consistent rejection of science by the Republican Party, and the “debate” on science that takes place in the party divide. Republicans attacked former chemist and current Pope Francis, after issuing his Laudato Si’ encyclical on global ecology last year. They also lampooned President Obama during their most recent debates for his involvement with the Paris Climate conference. Yet Republicans do not merely deny science; they pretend to a knowledge of a “different” science. For example, Senator Cruz used satellite data to attempt to disprove global climate change. The scientist whose work Cruz was citing later distanced himself from Cruz’s argument, saying the senator had misunderstood his data and the conclusion. Cruz has also shown a fatal misunderstanding of science in general, fatal in particular because he is the chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. When Republicans complain about the inefficiency of the federal government, it is lamentable that they never think to include, as an argument, that the US Government should not have legislators untrained in science telling the scientists themselves what science is or is not. That is not merely ignorance; but the “illusion of knowledge.”
3 thoughts on “On Science and Ignorance”
I agree. The lengths to which some politicians go to refute science is frustrating, even maddening. But here’s something else to consider: how is it that what appears to make such good sense to some people is derided by others as nonsense?
The difference is based on the “frames” we all carry within us, those subconscious references that determine what we accept and what we reject. Intellect alone does not determine how we reach conclusions. Here’s my view at http://considerthisbyjd.com/what-makes-us-think/
Yes, I remember reading Lakoff’s book some years back. His concept of “framing” always comes to mind when I talk with my conservative family members. It doesn’t matter how many facts you throw at someone not prepared to receive data which doesn’t fit into their conception of reality. If the facts don’t fit, then they aren’t considered “facts” by the other side. In such a case, how do we have a real conversation? There has to be a medium of communication somewhere.
I think Lakeoff would say that to communicate in tough situations you have to design your message with your audience’s frames in mind. This requires attention beyond the facts at issue and to how you anticipate your message will be received. Use words and convey concepts that will resonate with your audience. Of course, in some cases, you might never succeed because the frames of your audience may be impervious, but your chances for success will improve overall.
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