Posts Tagged ‘ethos’
Our science communication team here at Iowa State is having fun interviewing scientists about their communication challenges, as part of our NSF funded work to develop cases for teaching responsible communication of science.
Here’s one situation that’s come up a couple of times in our talks. A scientist is making a presentation to a public (non-specialist) audience. She’s asked a question relevant in a general way to her topic, but outside of her immediate research area. She remembers reading something about it, but isn’t quite sure of the answer. What should she say?
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.