Appearance on PRI/BBC The World Discussing Denialism
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
I taped an interview yesterday with PRI/BBC The World discussing the unfortunate use by science advocates of the term "denier" in debates over climate change, evolution, and other issues involving scientific expertise. I'm told the segment may appear as early as today or tomorrow. Archived audio will be found here.
The frame device "denier" should be laid to rest in the same rhetorical grave as other terms such as "anti-science." They serve little purpose other than to feed polarization while also frequently backfiring, turning the debate into a discussion of the alleged underhanded or sensational tactics of science defenders rather than a focus on the substance of the issues themselves.
Worse, these terms are also often inaccurate. Few if any people in modern society are actually "anti-scientific," just like on few issues are the facts or evidence as clear as the Holocaust, the comparison called to mind in any use of "denier" in political discourse.
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