Tim at New Anthropocene has a great post on anti-science communication – which is a great way to describe the strategy of the various anti-science movements out there (Creationist, anti-vaccination and climate change denial).
Well worth reading (see full post):
Regardless of the chosen subject, from climate to fluoride, the anti-science community pose themselves as a credible counter-weight in the public debate. In one regard, they are correct, but certainly not how they would like you to believe them to be.
There are obvious stepping stones between science and mainstream media, each having a valuable position in public discourse.
> The first stepping stone is clearly the peer-reviewed scientific method itself. This happens among experts on a given subject well trained to critique and re-evaluate methods and data to test their merits and thus the confidence that can be drawn to a given conclusion.
> The next stepping stone is a passive form of science communication. This form of communication demands some level of understanding of the science and the capacity to simply convert findings into a language that can be understood to a wider audience.
> The final stepping stone converts that information into answers responding to the question, “What does it mean to us?”This stepping stone in science communication is the least expert on the topic of science, but is valuable because such individuals are likely to have good understanding on related subjects, such as policies and politics and can place this understanding, drawn from the science into a much broader context.
Those of us who are engaged in countering the effects of such movements are motivated by a desire to share knowledge. Because so many of us are curious and genuinely moved by what we learn about the workings of the universe, “we” see the activities of various anti-science movements as the very antithesis knowledge sharing.
Put simply we are trying to tell the public two things:
a) you need to know these “facts” not merely because they are interesting (which they are), but from a policy perspective are kinda important
b) there are people out there willfully engaged in confusing, misrepresenting and lying about how the universe works.
Or as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
The truth about climate change – for it as true as the sun is at the centre of the solar system – has been ridiculed and violently opposed.
We are yet to see it universally accepted as self-evident.
But that will come. Our task is to ensure that compelling evidence is not a world of 4 degrees.