Between Scientists & Citizens

Archive for the ‘discourse analysis’ Category

Who is “Jean Goodwin”?

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Pathos (emotion), logos (reasoning), and ethos (character)–for persuasion, these three;  but the greatest of these (according to Aristotle at least) is ethos.  Work across the sprawling contemporary discipline of communication agrees;  “source factors” like knowledgeability, credibility and likeability play a key role in getting a message across.

This raises the hope that some of our bitter public disputes over science might be resolved, if only we could find the right messenger;  a scientist whose conspicuous dignity, integrity and authority would make him (or her) trusted by all sides in the dispute.

Alas, even if we could locate such a scientist-saint, this communication strategy would be unlikely to work.  Read on to see how my own recent blogospheric experiences suggest why.

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Written by jeangoodwin

July 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

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Ink blot test for climate controversy

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All right–here’s another test.  Look at the image at the other end of the this link, and take note of what you see.

That diagram was “leaked” in an article on a progressive blog; apparently it’s some part of an study of the publicity surrounding the CRU emails. Beyond dividing the world of climate controversy evenly into two territories, however, it’s not at all clear (even after more explanation) what exactly it’s supposed to represent.  What do these sizes, locations, connections mean?

Because the diagram is so ambiguous, it can act like a kind of Rorschach test.  The observer can project her own views onto it, seeing them as confirmed or not.  So I’m going to examine the reactions to this climate controversy ink blot among the people commenting on it at the leading climate skeptic blog Watt’s Up With That (WUWT).  Here’s one comment:

What an enormous load of …
No mention of Greenpeace or WWF on the supporter’s network.
But, what’s even more absurd, listing the small skeptical network in such a way that it seems to be equivalent to the likes of the BBC, Nature, the World Bank, et al. And the IPCC seems to be set apart as neutral?!! The IPCC, with links to every government pushing the AGW agenda?
Give me a break already! The skeptical network is a miniscule David next to the supporter’s huge Goliath network.

Over the next few posts, I want to understand this view–the David/Goliath fallacy–by placing it within the broader range of views expressed by the WUWT community.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

Morano analysis #8: repeating oneself all over again

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Let’s return one last time to the Morano v. Maslin debate.  I’ve been saying some favorable things about Marc Morano’s skill as an advocate.  But what about the fact that he–and in fact this whole debate–is boring?  Haven’t we heard all these arguments before, over and over again?  Yes–and it’s a good thing, too.
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Written by jeangoodwin

March 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

Morano Analysis #7: Scientific consensus

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This mini-debate between  Maslin and Morano first caught my attention because of Morano’s “accusation” that Maslin was using an “appeal to authority,” and Maslin’s assertion of something like a scientific consensus in reply. Claims that the IPCC represents an authoritative “consensus” have been prominent in representations of the IPCC’s reports since the very beginning, and in one of my current projects I’m trying to figure out how consensus claims  work (or don’t).  The example here, though small, is worth examining closely.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Morano Analysis #6: The appeal to authority, by the numbers

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I have to feel sorry for Maslin. Once he’s accepted AGW as the central issue in this debate, he’s taken responsibility for presenting evidence of a centuries-long, world-wide, multi-system process. And he’s got about 60 seconds to get the job done. As we’ve seen, he can invite his audience to “look at” the evidence or he can remind them of some vivid event that they’ve already experienced. But the former isn’t going to help him meet his burden of proof now, and the latter is misleading and thus easy for Morano to knock down. The appeal to authority is a third option; can Maslin pull it off?

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Morano Analysis #5: The adverse witness

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As a second way in to assessing the arguments in this debate, let’s examine how the two debaters deal with one bit of testimonial evidence they actually share.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

Morano Analysis #4: Bringing the arguments home

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I’ve been looking at the verbal work that’s occurring in this small transaction–the work of construing the relationship between the speakers as a relationship of a certain type (for Maslin, attacker/victim), the work of framing the topic they will mutually address (anthropogenic global warming, AGW).  All this work is supposed to be aimed at allowing the two men to debate–that is, it’s supposed to make room for them to exchange arguments.  Now that’s they’ve gotten their debate well underway, can Maslin the scientist use his expertise to craft arguments that will stand up to Morano’s expected attacks?  No.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 11, 2010 at 11:12 pm