We all have preferences about how society should be ordered, and whether we believe in hierarchy and individualism or are egalitarian and value community, those cultural values shape our reception to science and communication about science. “It isn’t that the other guys are anti-science. It isn’t that they’re stupid. It’s that we’ve come to a misadventure, a bad situation where diverse citizens, who rely on diverse systems of cultural certification, are in conflict. And that’s not inevitable,” says Yale’s Dan Kahan.
In the second half of this interview, Kahan explores what guidance the “cultural cognition” research that he and his colleagues conduct has for those trying to communicate successfully about climate change and other contentious issues. He discusses in some detail the 2010 paper, Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus, which confirms that people’s sense of what “scientists” believe is strongly influenced by their cultural values.
In a wide-ranging reconnaissance of the culture wars, he argues for a science communication based on narratives that are sensitive to underlying cultural values. Seems obvious? As Kahan jokes, “As my grandmother would say, ‘If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?’ We’ve not been doing this. We’ve been doing almost the opposite!” Apart from his grandmother, insights about Al Gore, Texas Gov. Perry, cholera, humility, and misdiagnosing problems further enrich Kahan’s remarks, which provide a good introduction to the important research of the Cultural Cognition Project.
Dan Kahan Interview, part 2
Transcript, part 2
As with some earlier podcasts, this stimulating conversation with Dr. Elinor Ostrom is also in two parts. Ostrom, the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, and Co-Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, brings a broad, system-based perspective to a discussion of responding to climate change. Having an appropriate, workable governance framework for such a response would certainly affect what was communicated about climate change.
The first part of the discussion moves from a review of systems thinking to focus on social-ecological systems and their resilience, to the challenge of managing these systems so they can be resilient: How will they best cope with change? In the second part of the conversation, Ostrom elaborates on the framework she’s been developing, which she describes as “a step toward building a strong interdisciplinary science of complex, multilevel systems that will enable future diagnosticians to match governance arrangements to specific problems embedded in a social–ecological context.” In wide-ranging observations, she also discusses how people self-organize successfully; the role of trust and reciprocity; and the preservation of ecological knowledge.
(Oct. 12, 2009 update: Dr. Ostrom is one of two 2009 winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the first woman to receive the economics prize.)
She refers at points to an article (and diagrams in it), which is also linked below.
Episode 9, part one. Elinor Ostrom
Table of Contents
Episode 9, part two. Elinor Ostrom
Table of Contents
“A Diagnostic Approach for Going Beyond Panaceas”
Dr. Ostrom’s vita with links to other online articles
[Note: the following news story highlights the podcasts to date; follow the link to the complete story]
Presidential hopefuls and policy-makers across the political spectrum seem to have absorbed the news that the changing global climate is a cause for serious concern and action. But communicating successfully with the American public about the issue is still very much a work in progress.
“People are convinced that climate change is here,” said Susanne Moser, of the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). But “people don’t know a lot about the solutions,” she added. “They feel quite disillusioned or pessimistic that their little action will address this global overwhelming problem.”