SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

A science communicator recently asked the Q whether "Post Truth" is a science communication failure. 

And this is my reply ...

Post truth relates to  circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Post-truth refers to blatant lies being routine across society, and it means that politicians can lie without condemnation. 

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post -truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of "secondary" importance. It is thought to be responsible for Brexit vote and recent US election outcomes.

When  public tolerance of inaccurate and undefended allegations, non sequiturs in response to hard questions and outright denials of facts is shockingly high, in an echo-chamber effect of digital media, where facts are optional, and online rhetoric increasingly influences public opinion, how can science communication deal with 'post-truth' scenarios?  

Science communication is different from other forms of communication. Science cannot get emotional, reduced to half or quarter truths in a diplomatic way to give ground to make people accept it. Facts are facts and numbers are numbers even if they are ugly truths. You cannot manipulate them to make them look more attractive to people.

Then how can science communication become effective and appealing like emotion, diplomacy and attractiveness to the human mind?

Can scientific truths or facts differ from context  to context and place to place? No, they don't! 

Can truth be made relative in science?

Can science be bent in any way you want? No, you can't! 

But, aren't we more smarter than people playing in the field? Instead of science changing, we should try to change how people process things scientific in their minds. How do you deal with listeners who are brain-washed with these words: 'The concept of Global warming was created by and for Chinese in order to make U.S. Manufacturing non-competitive'.

Playing with  climate-change deniers' mind processing is a game every science communicator should learn because it is fun. There is no fact deficit as far as science is concerned. Only things that count now are how frequently you can make the facts appear before his mind's eye and how you can make it stick forever dislodging the 'post-truth' gimmicks.

In studies of the public understanding of science, the information deficit model (or simply deficit model) attributes public scepticism or hostility to science and technology to a lack of understanding, resulting from a lack of information. It is associated with a division between experts who have the information and non-experts who do not. The model implies that communication should focus on improving the transfer of information from experts to non-experts. So we want to educate people.

Emotions, however, count whether we in our field like it or not and effect the understanding of public too even when you provide full facts with clarity. Facts don’t persuade people as much as emotions conditioned by religion, ideology, politics and culture do. And when trying to correct the situation in our way makes things more dificult? This is the bitter and most difficult part of the game. So, can't we play the game in the way other people taking advantage of? 

Isn't saying this emotional manipulation  too?...

Short term ideas are appealing but marathon manifestos are more important in human existence. If you think about your job now and consider that climate change effects are  distant mountains you can ignore without  your conscience pricking you, you are highly mistaken.

You say you need your job, even if it is in a highly pollution-causing industry/arena, to feed your family -especially your children.  This thinking of yours is short-sighted. Because you are making your children breathe toxic gases that not only shorten their lives  but also make them lead unproductive lives. So you are feeding your child through his mouth and making him choke to death through his lungs at the same time. Stupidity at its peak. Just because you can see your child's emotions of hunger and cannot see his lungs getting black and degrading slowly inside, or his gut getting eroded because of the consumption of polluted water or toxin-laden food you are putting on his plate, don't think you are doing things right. This  partial  picture paralysis of yours can ultimately kill him even before he can reach his middle age. What type of parent are you? This foolishness of yours will ultimately become the cause of human extinction. Human intelligence cannot make room for such gray-cell-degradation.

Then show him how pollution is damaging  the lungs of his children...

Image result for lung damage due to pollution/pics

Related image

And ask the Q whether he wants this to happen to his children because of his job?

Pictures speak louder than words. I am sure no good parent would say 'yes' to the above Q. 

Didn't we appeal to his emotion here? And with the help of science and technology based facts?

And now give him numbers. How many people are dying in the world every year because of  pollution?

Polluted air causes 5.5 million deaths a year new research says. More than 5.5 million people worldwide are dying prematurely every year as a result of air pollution, according to recent research. Most of these deaths are occurring in the rapidly developing economies of China and India.

Provide naked facts like these.

And ask the denier, 'Do you want your children and family members' names added to the list?"

If he says 'yes', he is not a good human being with high grade emotions at all.  If he can succumb to post truth, he can as well do that to our pictures and numbers hitting the bull's eye of his mind from all sides relentlessly.

Saying it once behind closed doors once or twice will not have much effect on deniers. Bombard the deniers day and night with facts, emotionally charged pictures and scenes and questions that can enhance the speed and move them like a ball  kicked by a powerful football player's leg on the field. This time they are going to get booted into the goal of reality.    

Do this before they can form an ill-informed opinion. Do this to shake them from their condtioned perceptions. Large-scale plectonic shifting  can cause severe earthquakes. Make facts and numbers plus their right emotional appeals your plates of  shaping and shaking public perceptions.

Scientists must also make huge efforts to make the public realize that they cannot give free licenses to politicians to mislead them about scientific facts and that they cannot just ignore the lies spread by public figures and leave them unpunished.

Then see who can win the game. Post truth, move on. Truth is what is going to come in and win.

Science communicators, ready for this challenge?

                                                             **************

And if people ask how pollution and climate change are connected ( several people ask me this Q), you can tell them this...

Air pollution includes greenhouse gases. One of these is carbon dioxide, a common part of the exhaust from cars and trucks. Greenhouse gases cause global warming by trapping heat from the Sun in the Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are a natural part of Earth’s atmosphere, but in the last 150 years or so, the amount in our atmosphere has increased. The increase comes from car exhaust and pollutants released from smokestacks at factories and power plants. The increase in greenhouses gases is the cause of most of the global warming that happened over the past century. 

Urban air pollution and climate are closely connected due to shared generating processes (e.g., combustion) for emissions of the driving gases and aerosols. They are also connected because the atmospheric life cycles of common air pollutants such as CO, NOx and VOCs, and of the climatically important methane gas (CH4) and sulfate aerosols, both involve the fast photochemistry of the hydroxyl free radical (OH). Thus policies designed to address air pollution may impact climate and vice versa. Researchers present calculations using a model coupling economics, atmospheric chemistry, climate and ecosystems to illustrate some effects of air pollution policy alone on global warming. They consider caps on emissions of NOx, CO, volatile organic carbon, and SOx both individually and combined in two ways. These caps can lower ozone causing less warming, lower sulfate aerosols yielding more warming, lower OH and thus increase CH4 giving more warming, and finally, allow more carbon uptake by ecosystems leading to less warming. Overall, these effects significantly offset each other suggesting that air pollution policy has a relatively small net effect on the global mean surface temperature and sea level rise. Caps on aerosols in general could also yield impacts on other important aspects of climate beyond those addressed here, such as the regional patterns of cloudiness and precipitation(1).

In summertime across the globe, emissions from large seasonal fires, metropolitan areas and vegetation are moved upward by thunderstorms and the monsoon.  When these chemicals get into the stratosphere, they can affect the whole Earth. They also may influence how thunderstorms behave. (The stratosphere is the second layer of the Earth's atmosphere, above the troposphere, where breathable air is found and whether weather occurs. The stratosphere is where the protective ozone layer is found.)(2)

Citations:

1. http://globalchange.mit.edu/research/publications/690

2. http://www.livescience.com/39233-air-pollution-climate-nasa-mission...

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