Babel fish slideshare

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Slideshow from public lecture for the Irish Skeptics Society, 20 April 2011

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  • Knowledge-ignorance paradox
  • Knowledge-ignorance paradox
  • Babel fish slideshare

    1. 1. The Babel Fish Dilemma Talking Science with Non-Scientists Dr Brian Hughes National University of Ireland, Galway
    2. 3. The language of science “ Penguinone”
    3. 4. “ Traumatic acid” “ Moronic acid” “ Erotic acid” The language of science
    4. 5. “ diethyl azodicarboxylate” “ tripentafluorophenylborane ” “ 2'-deoxyuridine-5'-monophosphate ” or “ DEAD ” or “ BArF ” or “ dUMP ” The language of science
    5. 6. “ Arsole” “ poly-L-ornithine ” or “ PORN ” “ Dickite” “ Fornacite” “ Cummingtonite” The language of science
    6. 7. “ Fukalite” “ Fucitol” “ Fucol” “ Fuchsite” Escherichia coli K-12 substr. MG1655 Gene: “fucU” The language of science
    7. 8. <ul><li>http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/sillymolecules/sillymols.htm </li></ul>The language of science
    8. 9. Turdus migratorius The language of science
    9. 10. Agra vation The language of science
    10. 11. Aha ha The language of science
    11. 12. Enema pan The language of science
    12. 13. Burgeranus The language of science
    13. 14. Top: Winder (2006). UNAIDS/06.25E Bottom: Mills et al. (2004). American Journal of Psychiatry , 161(2), 278-285. The language of science
    14. 15. The language of science
    15. 16. The language of science “ American scientific companies are cross- breeding humans and with fully functioning human brains…” animals, and coming up with mice –
    16. 17. <ul><li>Audiences </li></ul>
    17. 18. Science in the Media From: Zimmerman et al. (2001). Public Understanding of Science , 10 , 37-58.
    18. 19. Media Frames Nanotech Social consequences GM food Safety Archaeology Empiricism vs. Custom
    19. 20. Media Frames Nanotech Social consequences Benefits outweigh Risks Risks outweigh Benefits Concern about Risk-Benefit balance From: Stephens (2005). Scientific Communication , 27 , 175-199.
    20. 21. Media Metaphors From: Ungar (2000). Public Understanding of Science , 9 , 297-312.
    21. 22. Media Triggers Shanahan & Good (2000). Public Understanding of Science , 9 , 285-295.
    22. 23. Scientists
    23. 24. Scientists
    24. 25. Scientists
    25. 26. Scientists http:// ed.fnal.gov/projects/scientists/index.html
    26. 27. Portrayal of Scientists <ul><li>Seven primary stereotypes: </li></ul><ul><li>The evil alchemist </li></ul><ul><li>The noble scientist as hero </li></ul><ul><li>The foolish scientist </li></ul><ul><li>The inhuman researcher </li></ul><ul><li>The scientist as adventurer </li></ul><ul><li>The mad, bad, dangerous scientist </li></ul><ul><li>The helpless scientist , unable to control the outcomes of his/her work </li></ul>Haynes (2003). Public Understanding of Science , 12 , 243-253.
    27. 28. Portrayal of Scientists <ul><li>“ Throughout Western culture, despite the existence of other figures and stereotypes, the master </li></ul><ul><li>narrative of the scientist is of an evil maniac and a dangerous man .” </li></ul>Haynes (2003). Public Understanding of Science , 12 , 243-253.
    28. 29. News Logic: Restrictions on the Messengers <ul><li>Limited space/airtime </li></ul><ul><li>Preference for “ hard ” news </li></ul><ul><li>Tight deadlines/budgets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Press releases/Churnalism </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Competitive market </li></ul>
    29. 30. Interim Summary: Audience Context <ul><li>Audiences and scientists see science differently </li></ul><ul><li>Media reporting employs narrative frames </li></ul><ul><li>Media translations rely on metaphors </li></ul><ul><li>Public interest in science responds to cultural triggers </li></ul><ul><li>Views of scientists are stereotyped </li></ul><ul><li>Journalists work in very restrictive environments </li></ul>
    30. 31. <ul><li>Science </li></ul>
    31. 32. What is “science”? <ul><li>“ the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding…” ( Merriam-Webster Dictionary ) </li></ul><ul><li>“ any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation” ( Encyclopaedia Britannica ) </li></ul>SCIENCE PRODUCT PROCESS
    32. 33. “ Processes” of science <ul><li>Some philosophical assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Determinism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Empiricism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skepticism </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some methodological principles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Observation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Measurement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimentation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some reasoning principles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Parsimony </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Falsification </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Objectivity </li></ul></ul>
    33. 34. “ Processes” of science
    34. 35. <ul><li>Science in Public </li></ul>
    35. 37. Loss of scientific context Consumption of fish oil “will reduce your risk of a cognitive decline”  LINK
    36. 38. Loss of scientific context Homeopathy “effective in treating general childhood conditions such as colic, ‘sticky eye’, tummy upset, ear infections and croup”  LINK
    37. 39. Loss of scientific context THE IRISH TIMES
    38. 40. Loss of research methods LINK
    39. 41. Loss of research methods LINK
    40. 42. Loss of research methods LINK
    41. 43. Loss of research methods LINK
    42. 44. Loss of caveats <ul><li>Taiwanese apartment residents exposed to radiation had lower cancer rate than the general Taiwanese population, other things being equal </li></ul>“ Radiation is good for you”  LINK
    43. 45. Loss of caveats LINK
    44. 46. Loss of complexity “ Atheists die first” <ul><li>“ Babies born to strict Muslim families in poverty have higher survival rates than upper caste Hindus with less religion” </li></ul>LINK
    45. 47. Loss of accuracy <ul><li>Breast cancer rate among women who had received excessive radiation from chest x-rays “ was lower than [in] the general population ” </li></ul>“ Radiation is good for you” LINK  HIGHER
    46. 48. <ul><li>Damage </li></ul>
    47. 49. Inaccuracies can lead to myths
    48. 50. Vaccination scares
    49. 51. Anti-vaccination arguments from the 19 th century Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. 1878, The National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter Argument “ insults every human being…despotism, injustice and tyranny…” “ State promotion of vaccination is totalitarian” “ Friends, this medical despotism is a hard, materialistic, infidel thing…” “ Vaccines are promulgated solely for (others’) profit” “ ...saturating the small-pox [vaccine] with carbolic acid, which is a virulent poison [that] enters the blood” “ Vaccines contain toxic additives” “… a substitute…for faithful obedience to the sacred laws of health…” “ A healthy lifestyle is better than any vaccine” “ The duration of protection be limited…can the short-lived protection be expected to guard us?” “ Vaccine immunity is temporary” “ Epidemics still continue to break out…” . “ Vaccines are ineffective” “… diptheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently abscesses...diarrhoae, bronchitis, convultions…” “ Vaccines cause illnesses”
    50. 52. Anti-vaccination arguments from the 21 st century Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432. 2002, various websites cited by Wolfe & Sharp Argument “ The Orwellian spectable of monopolistic and oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers…” “ State promotion of vaccination is totalitarian” “… manufacturers use the government to say ‘you must buy my product and inject it into your body…’” “ Vaccines are promulgated solely for (others’) profit” “ ...very significant amounts of highly toxic substances such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde.” “ Vaccines contain toxic additives” “… personal hygiene and diet stop diseases, folks, not injecting virulent genetic material into your veins…” “ A healthy lifestyle is better than any vaccine” “ The vaccine requires multiple boosters throughout life…” “ Vaccine immunity is temporary” “ Epidemiological studies have shown that vaccination has been unreliable as a means of preventing disease” “ Vaccines are ineffective” “… autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, allergies, cancer, and other conditions…” “ Vaccines cause illnesses”
    51. 53. The Wakefield controversy February 28, 1998
    52. 54. British Medical Journal, January 2011
    53. 55. The Wakefield controversy
    54. 56. The Screening Dilemma In favour of ABA In favour of “Eclectic” models Example of a ‘funnel plot’
    55. 57. The Screening Dilemma Gøtzsche PC, Nielsen M. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001877. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001877.pub2 13-year mortality, women over 50  Good Bad 
    56. 58. The Screening Dilemma Number of mastectomies and lumpectomies  Good Bad  Gøtzsche PC, Nielsen M. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001877. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001877.pub2
    57. 59. Gøtzsche PC, Nielsen M. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001877. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001877.pub2
    58. 60. The Screening Dilemma
    59. 61. The Screening Dilemma
    60. 62. Interim Summary: The Problems <ul><li>Public presentations of science often involve: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of scientific context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of research methods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of caveats </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of complexity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of accuracy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Such distortions can lead to damaging consequences </li></ul>
    61. 63. <ul><li>Suggestions </li></ul>
    62. 64. Maximize gains <ul><li>Consider the public’s needs </li></ul><ul><li>Consider your audience’s prior knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Remember your audience’s investment </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on concrete concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Choose simpler language </li></ul>
    63. 65. Minimize losses <ul><li>Loss of research methods </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Address practical significance early </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on sample size </li></ul></ul>Based on: Stocking, H. S., & Sparks, J. V. (2007). In Handbook on Communicating and Disseminating Behavioral Science (pp. 73-92). Los Angeles: Sage. <ul><li>Loss of caveats </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does the research not say? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the next research question? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Loss of scientific context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify prevailing research view </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use ‘transformative’ explanations, where necessary </li></ul></ul>
    64. 66. Get trained Images: http://startswithabang.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/whats_science.jpg http://www.davidhenderson.com/2008/12/07/junk-words-muddy-communication/
    65. 67. Become an advocate Image: CC Mike Licht , NotionsCapital.com/Flickr
    66. 68. Become an advocate
    67. 69. Thank you! <ul><li>http://thesciencebit.net </li></ul>[email_address] @b_m_hughes

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