Science / Tech, Top Stories

Communicating Science in an Era of Post-Truth

A resurgent populist politics has galvanized public skepticism of the scientific community by portraying academics as a remote elite, distinct from the American populace. This delineation leverages our innate tribal instincts to breed distrust of expertise, providing fertile ground for bad actors to sow seeds of doubt about what we know to be true of the world. Naturally, an army of professional scientists have stood up to this rhetoric, amplifying their voices on social media and assembling political action committees (such as 314 Action) to help fight the onslaught against truth. But too often, scientists and science advocates fail to connect with their audiences. And with social divisions exacerbated since the election of Donald Trump, efforts to reach the lay public have only grown more difficult.

So how can we have meaningful conversations about science during a postmodern age in which both populist Left and Right insist that expertise is suspect and truth is relative?

For decades, it was assumed that a lack of scientific literacy contributed to the public’s adversarial attitudes towards politically polarizing—yet empirically incontrovertible—science. In other words, it was thought that the public did not value science because they did not understand science, and that ignorance was to blame for controversies surrounding science and science-based policy. This is what is known as the deficit model of science communication. The solution seemed to be clear: educate the public and they will accept the science.

Yet the deficit model cuts against a mounting body of evidence that suggests literacy is not the primary contributor to the public’s attitude towards science. For instance, a group of researchers led by Yale Professor Dan Kahan conducted a survey of over 1,500 U.S. adults to assess the relationship between the public’s understanding of climate change and their assessment of the risk it poses to our society.1 They discovered that participants with an extensive understanding of the science were actually less concerned about the potential devastations of climate change, a finding that directly conflicted with the predictions of the deficit model. In its place, Kahan offered what he called the cultural cognition thesis. This holds that an individual’s perception of science—and, in turn, assessment of risk—is primarily influenced by perception of social identity.

Kahan’s theory is supported by a recent study conducted at the Philipp University of Marburg in Germany, where researchers demonstrated that a participant’s interpretation of science—as well as their opinion of scientists—is significantly influenced by their perceived membership of a social community.2 When presented with evidence that conflicts with their predisposed worldview, participants were more likely to doubt the integrity of the science and the credibility of the scientist. The implication here is that when our deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, we tend to dismiss the science and cling to our beliefs with even greater vehemence—a phenomenon known as the backfire effect.

These studies suggest that the implementation of the deficit model and its associated attempts at ‘educating’ the public only exacerbate the divide between experts and lay citizens. Such attempts antagonize the very people with whom professional scientists need to connect, reinforcing the perception of an ivory tower and further isolating academics from the general populace. The deficit model approach, then, cannot be the solution to the polarization we see today. As Will Storr succinctly put it in his 2014 book The Unpersuadables: “Reason is no magic bullet.”

However, these studies do reveal something rather profound about us. Our opinions on science are not governed by how much we know. They are governed by how we see ourselves.

Our perception of reality is influenced by the values we hold, and our values are shaped—to an appreciable degree—by our identity. One need not go beyond politically contentious issues such as climate change, evolution, or embryonic stem cell research to see this. But the influence our values hold over our interpretation of science goes beyond political affiliation; it extends into the realm of racial, ethnic, and cultural identity as well.3 For example, Kahan’s climate change survey uncovered differences in the perception of science between people who hold hierarchical (traditionally Eastern) and individualistic (traditionally Western) worldviews.1 20 years of U.S. survey data has also shown a burgeoning racial and ethnic gap on opinions regarding climate change—now almost comparable in size to the ideological divide.4

This should not come as a surprise to us. We have evolved to be a tribal species. Our associations with different communities inform our worldviews, and we cement them into our psyche without much critical thought. Our beliefs are cherished because they inform our sense of identity and make us into who we are. Will Storr put it best:

Belief is the heart of who we are and how we live our lives. And yet it is not what we think it is: not a product of intelligence or education or logic. There are invisible forces at play here.

These forces frequently overpower our critical faculties and pull our intuitions from one conviction to the next. On its face, this seems like a hopeless message for scientists eager to galvanize the public on issues that require immediate action such as climate change. But, as strong as our innate biases are, there are bugs in our evolutionary programming that we can exploit to counteract them. It is true that our social identity defines how we interpret scientific information. However, our interpretation of that information can be manipulated by the way in which the information is framed.5 By leveraging cultural values, scientists are able to emphasize some points over others and customize information so that it is more palatable to a particular audience. And the science is clear: we are more receptive to information we can relate to.6

It follows, then, that in order to effectively communicate science in our modern, socially-compartmentalized society, scientists must tailor their messages to meet the concerns, priorities, and values of those they wish to reach. By reframing the science to meet the needs of the general public, communicators are able to transcend our faulty evolutionary design—tribalism, belief, our affinity for emotionally-laden thinking—by leveraging their influence over our information processing, much like a Trojan Horse that allows facts to clear the mental barriers we erect against uncomfortable truths. I call this the adaptive model of science communication.

A few recent examples illustrate the method’s utility and success.7 In an effort to connect with evangelicals about the importance of environmental conservation, the entomologist and author E. O. Wilson argued in his book The Creation that, as the species granted dominion over this world by god, we have a moral duty to act as responsible stewards of the environment. Using this moral framework, Dr. Wilson was able to reach a new audience by carefully linking the urgency of ecological preservation to the values enshrined in the Bible.

In a similar attempt to reach the religious community, the National Academies and the Institute of Medicine framed their joint report on the teaching of evolution in science classrooms by moving away from the antagonistic ‘science vs. religion’ narrative, and suggesting that science and religious faith can be reconciled. By highlighting religious scientists (such as NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins) or religious figures who accept evolutionary science (such as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby) religious communities could be persuaded that they do not have to choose between empirical evidence and their religious identity. This is a controversial idea, but a useful tool nonetheless.

Framing can be utilized to ease the tensions in the debate over genetic engineering as well. Research has shown that emphasizing the market competitiveness and economic benefits of genetically modified food can help dispel doubts on the Right, while underscoring their resilience to climate change can help alleviate concerns on the Left.

Arguably, one of the greater benefits of the adaptive model is the potential for dialogue. Communication becomes possible in its truest sense. The insufficiency of the deficit model lay in its one-way transmission of information, or what American University Professor Matthew Nisbet called a “top-down persuasion campaign.”7 The two-way adaptive model allows the scientist and the layperson to engage in a conversation, and exchange ideas and values in an effort to reach a mutual understanding of and solution to some of society’s most challenging problems. It is not the job of the scientist to ‘sell’ the public on science. Instead, by engaging the public in an open way, scientists can learn about what motivates people to act. In turn, the public can learn how to act from those who understand the problem best.

Although our social and cultural identity shapes the way in which we view the world, it does not shape science. Truth is not relative. There will come a time when some communities will be confronted with empirical evidence that demands a revision of their worldview. But the benefit of the adaptive model is that scientists, by relating to the community the importance of the science to their local issues and concerns, can gently guide them to these provocative truths while still maintaining fidelity to the relevant facts. The ultimate success of this technique does, however, lean on one very important aspect of the relationship between scientist and layperson: trust.

Trust is the lynchpin that facilitates the smooth operation of the adaptive model. The process of relating to a community about their priorities and concerns cannot occur when the public views scientists as strangers to their community. Scientists must make it a priority in their conversations to dissolve the illusion of the ivory tower and remind their audiences that they are members of their community too. We are not a set of intellectual elites with priorities categorically opposed to the rest of populace. We are people. We care for our friends, cherish our families, and love our partners just as everyone else does. We all share a common goal: to solve the challenges of today to ensure the well-being of our species tomorrow. And it is these commonalities that will help to mend the tears in our social fabric.

 

Ryan Glaubke is a graduate student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. His research investigates the ocean’s role in regulating both past and future climate change. You can contact him at rglau001@odu.edu or follow him on Twitter @OcnOgrphr

References:

1 Kahan, Dan M., et al. “The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks.” Nature climate change (2012).
2 Nauroth, Peter, et al. “The effects of social identity threat and social identity affirmation on laypersons’ perception of scientists.” Public Understanding of Science (2017).
3 Pearson, Adam R., and Jonathon P. Schuldt. “Bridging climate communication divides: beyond the partisan gap.” Science Communication (2015).
4 Guber, Deborah Lynn. “A cooling climate for change? Party polarization and the politics of global warming.” American Behavioral Scientist (2013).
5 Nisbet, M. C. “Communicating climate change: Why frames matter for public engagement.” Environment: Science and policy for sustainable development (2009).
6 Rattan, A., K. Savani, and R. Romero-Canyas. “Motivating environmental behavior by framing carbon offset requests using culturally-relevant frames.” Paper presented at the Association for Psychological Science, New York, NY (2015).
7 Nisbet, Matthew C., and Dietram A. Scheufele. “What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions.” American journal of botany (2009).

 

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56 Comments

  1. It’s what I call “sovietization of science”. Science isn’t some kind of inquiry tool to reach the truth. It’s a weapon to brutalize your enemies with. The Left believes itself to be in full control of the truth, and anyone who disagrees must be (1) stupid, (2) insane, or (3) evil. Let’s address each one in turn.

    It is immensely emotionally gratifying to call people stupid. It punches all the correct Leftist buttons. It is a quick and easy insult in any situation. By being too low in intelligence to understand, you endanger the whole world with your moronic views. This one is highly popular for a reason.

    Insanity is another popular choice. The Soviet Union used to put people in mental asylums for disagreeing. They weren’t joking, they really thought that socialism was fully scientific and that to fail to come to the same conclusions meant that something was wrong with your brain. Like good socialists, they only wanted to help and by committing you to an institution against your will, they were helping you. Likewise today if you don’t agree with the Left, there is a good chance you have a brain tumor or other medical condition that must be the source of your disagreement.

    Evil is the choice when the first two have been disproved. If you can defend your positions adequately and remain unfazed after they’ve pelted you with their feces, the only explanation is that you desire harm to others for your own personal enjoyment. I’ve gotten this one more than once. It speaks volumes that they cannot possibly envision a world in which their own convictions might be in error. They are quick to ascribe motives that you never spoke of but that their brains offer up as reasons for your dissent. The idea that you just might be a reasonable person who disagrees is literally unthinkable.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      Here are a few points that people are missing:

      In economic terms, scientific communities have low barriers to entry. The cost of joining a scientific society, registering for a scientific conference or submitting a scientific manuscript or grant proposal is in the $100-$5000 range, approximately. Most posters at conferences are not reviewed or juried.

      Also, there is no credentialing system or accrediting agency for ‘science,’ and at universities where I have worked there were tenured scientists with a terminal MS degree, or an MD degree, but no PhD.

      Of course, to get hired, to get a grant or to get published, a person has to have a substantial body of original research, and here the barriers to entry are deliberately HIGH. That is, one typically has to work in [or direct] a laboratory that has annual equipment, salary and overhead budgets in the $100,000-$10,000,000 range, in order to be a successful scientist.

      In addition, scientists are often very competitive, ego-driven and hungry for recognition. The fastest way to achieve recognition is to overthrow an existing consensus. A recent example of this is the demonstration with DNA sequence data that humans carry traces of past interbreeding with Neandertals. Sure, novel findings occasionally get ignored [Mendel] or ridiculed [Wegener-continental drift], but the competitive, peer-review driven nature of science means that the process of making scientific discoveries is largely self-correcting.

      What about group think? Well, scientists form a global community with different cultural and educational backgrounds, etc. Given that high level of intellectual diversity [Ah!], group think isn’t much of a problem on an international scale in science, although group think can arise in small, geographically or academically isolated institutions.

      In these circumstances, it isn’t surprising that cranks or contrarians will occasionally pop up in a scientific field. What I find telling is that these cranks are usually unwilling to collaborate with mainstream scientists or even publish in the mainstream literature. That in itself is a form of self-censorship or at least self-limitation.

      • Jack B’s comment makes a number of contestable claims, but the general defence of science as such is fine, and given some of the anti-science attitudes expressed here, well-taken. Unfortunately, as with other such defences, it’s also largely beside the point of the article, which is about ways to leverage or manipulate the “group think” (as Jack calls it) of others who don’t simply fall in with whatever is claimed as the consensus of scientists of the time. Some of the problems with this are:

        first, that it misses the fact that scientists, as human beings, and like the rest of global humanity “with different cultural and educational backgrounds”, are also susceptible to group or tribal thinking;

        second, that this tribal tendency is strengthened and worsened when matters with serious political and even quasi-religious implications are involved, of which climate science is a paradigm case;

        and third, that attempts of one tribal group to manipulate the minds of another is not merely condescending, but usually transparent, insulting, and consequently counterproductive.

        Scientists therefore should forego temptations to be political activists with endless “scary scenarios”, and stick to what they actually and honestly know, and what they don’t. Otherwise they discredit the whole enterprise, to everyone’s misfortune.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          Fair enough, @metamorf, but my main point is that modern science is international in scope. Does anyone really think that the politics, quasi-religious implications, financial incentives and institutional pressures are even REMOTELY the same for climate scientists working in the US, Mexico, China and South Africa, for example? Yet the research output of climate scientists in those and other countries is largely in agreement.

          Also, people in the US are often not aware that climate change is much less controversial in other countries. Just Google “United States opinion on climate change is an outlier among countries” for articles that discuss this in detail. The only reasonable explanation for this outlier status is cultural/religious/economic/political differences among countries, not the science itself.

          • The politics and quasi-religious implications of environmentalism generally, climate science in particular, are indeed international, and they foster a group-think that heavily influences institutional pressures and financial incentives globally. There are obviously cultural differences among populations around the world, and these will affect politics differently, but the idea that somehow the US is alone among all the world’s nations in perpetuating controversy around climate issues and policies is hardly credible.

  2. Michael Reed says

    The premise here is that All Scientists & All Science are morally, ethically, and intellectually pure as the disappearing snowfall, and possess immutable, incontrovertible TRUTH! And that “Others” who are skeptical are ignorant troglodytes who’re guided by tribal myths and social constructs and do not possess the intellectual capability or will to be taught or reasoned with. And who must be tricked, manipulated, deceived, and coddled to make them take their science medicine. Bwahahaha! While there is a bit of truth to this for a portion of the population, that does not at all fully explain the modern worlds “problems” with Science & Scientists. The arrogance and sanctimony flowing in this attempt to show “how to fix these idiots” and make them accept the “truths” bestowed upon them, is in itself an example of why science has lost out. And as to the education component, really, has anyone carefully reviewed what primary education has done to “science education?” It certainly is Not what it once was, and it’s “product” are some of the most poorly educated I’ve seen when it comes to Basic Scientific Principles and Factual Knowledge. Now, back to Science & Scientists flaws that have brought us here … Politicization, Grants, Fame, & Sponsorships. Oh, and lying, falsifying, petty infighting, arrogance, pomposity & jealousy. Scientists are people too, with their own “tribes,” ambitions, faults, weaknesses, and other human failings. They’re not super-people who stand above the masses, morally & intellectually. Science/Scientists have Lost the Trust of populations by being wrong and refusing to admit it. Being right, and too arrogant to explain why. Too involved with Politicians & Political Activists to be trusted. All this under the bright lights of 24/7/365 media coverage … and media misrepresentations. Your own field of Climate Science has been rife with Scandals regarding “data massaging,” model failures & cover-ups, rescinded studies, financial corruption, coordinated attacks on “deniers” and calls for them to be imprisoned, defamation lawsuits, suppression of alternative theories, etc. All this while claiming to have definitive answers, and that all that matters is that there’s some kind of consensus about some things … which Demands that all of civilization cease to operate as it has … or we’ll ALL DIE BY 2030, or 2050, or, or, or We’re ALL Going To DIE!!! Then there’s vaccines, then there’s nutrition, then there’s glyphosates, then there’s bees & neonicotinoids, then there’s etc. Science has done more damage to itself than “evangelicals” ever could in recent times, and your idea about manipulatively using peoples’ beliefs & belief systems to Make them accept the science you certify is malevolently cynical … and will eventually come back to bite you. Your explanation of how this would be accomplished simply drips with contempt for the ignorant masses you obviously view as inherently inferior, and that’s not an attitude to take if you want success. Try instead, actually being honest and forthcoming about what science can & can’t be certain of, where & when it’s been wrong or has failed, what probability is and how it’s compared to certainty. Who’s paying you and for your work, and what ulterior motives or intentions might influence the work. Clear the logs from your own eyes before pointing to the mote in the little peoples’. Other than those items, this is quite acceptable and a nice try for starters.

    • Michael Reed, please use paragraphs. Moreover stop using Random Capital Letters in the middle of sentences for no reason, it makes you look like a crazy man. Thanks!

      • stephen buhner says

        This is the old “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it” argument. It’s foolish. You would do better to simply focus on what is being said.

    • Alex Russell says

      While I agree that the article did boil down “scientists have to learn how to coddle and cajole the little people into accepting the truth” I also think you are overstating the problems that science has and is having.

      First, science and religion can NOT be fully reconciled. Most religions do make claims about the world that have been shown to be false. I do not think pandering to these false beliefs is a good long term tactic for helping people learn the truth.

      Second, it is a very patronizing tactic. You are basically saying that certain people lack the intelligence to learn new things and use this knowledge to change their world view. Maybe this is true for some people, but trying to trick them into accepting some facts while retaining a core set of beliefs that are false seems a bit dodgy ethically to me.

      I cannot recall any actual scientific consensus screaming “we are all going to die!!!”, but there has certainly been books and articles written by scientists that are gloomy. In general, science has done a very good job at getting to empirical truths. Vaccines work, Climate Change is real and caused mainly by people (the arguments on the fringes are mainly healthy scientific skepticism at work, while the deniers are just that – deniers for who no evidence will change their mind).

      Science changing its mind on nutrition is also a sign of how science does actually admit there is always room to more know. Newton wasn’t wrong, Einstein was just more right. Sometimes politicians are too fast to ban things, sometimes too slow to act. Politics and science are odd partners, but when politics ignores science it generally leads to poor outcomes.

      PS
      Your reply would be easier to read it used paragraphs and standard punctuation.

      • OtherWay says

        The issue with climate change and now science in general, is that public policy has zero relation to science. Even if scientists believe “the world is coming to an end”, that does NOT mean a thing to policy. Maybe I want the world to end. Leftists uses science to avoid talking about the deficiencies in their policy. Climate change policy again being a wonderful example of such massive policy deficiencies.

      • Lumping a massive group into one category called ‘deniers’ is feeble. Climate change is real – no kidding – but to claim it is mainly caused by people is absurd. There is so much that is unknown about what ultimately affects global climate that arrogantly calling those who disagree derogatory names says more about you than them. Science is never settled, Einstein included.

        [paragraph break]

        Scientists can and sometimes do act in their own interests and publish garbage – while others who buck the standard orthodoxy are treated as charlatans or fools instead of healthy skeptics. Mr Reed is not entirely wrong, just a lousy formatter.

  3. Rex Randy says

    So, perhaps it was a mistake for climate scientists to sit back and let Al Gore take the lead as the primary public proponent of their ideas?

    • Bill says

      No, it was a mistake for them to brand as Heretics anyone that challenged the validity of their conclusions. When even questioning a conclusion or bias results in one being branded with a scarlet D and banished you are no longer a scientist. You are a religious crusader.

  4. I suppose it was predictable that it would be someone involved in the now highly politicized issues around climate science that would write the sort of condescending advice re: communication we get from Ryan Glaubke here. And, sadly, just as predictable that it would inspire the sort of barely contained rage we see in Michael Reed’s response above. Neither really gets at, or seems to understand the real nature of the problem — it isn’t with science as such, it’s with science made into an ersatz religion, and then becoming just another participant in the culture wars of our time.

    It’s interesting, for example, but a bit pathetic and comical at the same time, that Glaubke on the one hand feels he has to remind his readers that “We [scientists] are people. We care for our friends, cherish our families, and love our partners just as everyone else does.” But this only after he’s earlier separated scientists (and/or “communicators”) from the “lay citizens” who are tribal creatures who “cherish” their mistaken beliefs “because they inform [their] sense of identity and make [them] into who [they] are”. So there’s the problem — yes, Ryan, scientists are people too, and hence members of that same “tribal species” the lay citizens are. Particularly in areas and issues with consequential political policy implications, the beliefs of scientists too are heavily influenced by their cultural and political environment, their beliefs cherished too for their importance for their sense of identity. In other words, the very scientists and communicators that he advises to “leverage cultural values” in order to “manipulate” the interpretation of information for the “lay people” are themselves subject to the same sort of leveraging and manipulation of their own culturally and tribally determined values and interpretations.

    Of course, this is a distortion of genuine or ideal science, but that’s precisely the point. The real criticism to be made of the sort of routine climate alarmism that is now just a matter of dogma for the majority of the “climate science” tribe, isn’t about the science, it’s about the politics and the values the politics expresses.

    • David Norman says

      Yes, precisely. In portraying scientists as purveyors of truth and failing to acknowledge that they have the same weaknesses as the rest of us the article ends up trying to pull itself up by it’s own bootstraps. The consensus views of scientists have often been wrong in the past and we can be sure that they will also be wrong in the future. Forty years ago many scientists believed that the earth was cooling; now the consensus is that it is inexorably warming. Scientists are not purveyors of truth but humans striving to reach it and following quite a high proportion of false trails on the way.

      Against that background it is in idea of considerable hubris that they should make use of the reasoning frailties in the rest of us to convey their current ‘truth’.

      • Alex Russell says

        There was never a scientific consensus that the Earth was cooling. It was a media driven story for a short time.

        Science has been wrong, but I would not say it has been wrong “often”. It is much more common for the scientific consensus to be refined and improved than to be over thrown. Yes, scientists are people with egos and all the other frailties, but in general science has been right once a broad consensus has been reached.

        • “… in general science has been right once a broad consensus has been reached” — not true in the first place, but not relevant in the second place. Science is an approach to knowledge that doesn’t rely on “consensus”, but rather on evidence and reason — it’s whole ethos is antagonistic to the sort of antiquated appeal to authority that the “consensus”-mongers still fall back on. And what makes this sort of bland apologetics worse is that it ignores the politicization of science that has so infected the climate issue particularly, despite the fact that it’s just that politicization, and its association with eco-religiosity, that makes the difference between something like string theory, say, and something like climate change.Science is one thing, and a good thing in general, but its ideological perversions are quite another.

  5. itsastickup says

    The more educated a person, them more they come to know that science does not deal in incontrovertible truth and faces substantial hurdles to reaching even an approximation of reality.

    For instance, many studies are based on stats and the result is what could be called ‘soft science’. Not just because stats rarely prove anything, but because they are subject to all kinds of issues, such as biases (political, financial, ideological, blackmail), vested interests (including academics’ own vested interest in the continuance of their own specialisation; as we saw with the Heliobactor scandal), and then unknown biases/uncontrolled factors, methodological errors etc etc etc.

    Even the common man has been ‘educated’ by the public reversals and confusion in the medical world and nutrition. Now margarine is unhealthy, now eggs are healthy, now animal fat can help you lose weight, now the sunbathing is good for you (if you don’t get burned). Studies show drinkers live longer, studies show any amount of alcohol increases cancer. Even cigarettes are not clear cut, as there is a strong link between veg oil and lung cancer.

    In the philosophy of science, we have Karl Popper teeling us that all science is based ultimately on ‘common sense’. What?!?!?! And maths is based on unprovable axioms. Physics, for instance, is approximation and theory. Physics laws are mostly not laws at all.

    In the face of such, it’s ignorance on the part of scientists to talk of “empirically incontrovertible science” when the numbers by themselves appear to be not enough. It’s also guaranteed to cause the thinking man to reject strong scientific assertions of fact. As he should.

    But it goes further when scientists make unscientific declarations of dogma: “Homosexuality is normal”. And with a seeming ignorance of the concept of “the Norm”. Homosexuality is not a human norm nor ever could be. Further, the actual causes of homosexuality are not established. As a speculation, it could be avoidable chemical effects on the embryo in the womb, effects that may have come about with the adoption of a plant-based diet instead of our original meat based diet of 1.2 million years. Perhaps the phenomena of “morning sickness” is partly explained by this, as one theory of it is the avoidance of plant toxins, and they are surprisingly toxic, in the vulnerable embryo.

    Conventional nutrition dogma appears to contradict our anthropological origins. If I come across a study purporting to support these older doctrines, I personally routinely reject such. Why, because every time I have scrutinsed the study, it has become clear that it is off the mark. Recently, low-carbing (an approximation of a hunter-gatherer study) was said to be no more effective than low-calorie dieting. On scrutiny, the low-carb regime was with 135g of carbs per a day, which is laughable. Sure, that’s less than the average carb intake of a modern diet, but it’s in no way low-carb, failing to get near to inducing the light state of ketosis metabolism common to many hunter-gatherers.

    “Will Storr succinctly put it in his 2014 book The Unpersuadables: “Reason is no magic bullet.””

    No thinking man should ever be persuaded by scientists’ attempts to reason. It’s one thing to be circumspect about the “incontrovertible empirical data”, but it’s quite another to then read some of the decidedly ‘flavoured’ conclusions in many modern studies. Most scientists, to my knowledge, do not study critical thinking, and are as susceptible to politically correct pressure as the rest of humanity.

  6. itsastickup says

    …and to conclude.

    The problem is not the ‘unpersuadables’, who are in fact being quite sensible, but the hubris of scientists coupled to the pressure of the politically correct.

  7. If scientists would stop portraying themselves as guardians of the truth, and admit they are searchers, then people might listen to what they have to say. The idea that a PhD in some small sliver of science makes us authorities on all reality is hard to swallow.

  8. I’d just want to point out to Ryan Blaubke that the sort of anti-science reaction of a number of the replies to his unfortunate condescension — speaking of “leveraging” and “manipulating” people, for example, like any common propagandist — is ironically the very opposite of what he and his fellow scientists wanted to achieve. The reactions here are wrong about science as such, and we can certainly hope they are still in a minority of lay people, but the disgust with the way in which scientists (like Michael Mann for example) have politicized themselves, pronouncing on all kinds of matters outside their particular expertise, has a deeply corrosive effect on the perception and reputation of scientists and science across the culture. It’s not good in general and it will damage us all, but the people who happen to be scientists who have let their political inclinations override their professional humility and caution have themselves to blame.

  9. Charles White says

    An interesting article, however the tenor of the article was given in the first paragraph by the quote,

    “And with social divisions exacerbated since the election of Donald Trump, efforts to reach the lay public have only grown more difficult.”,

    suggesting a political article about science.

    Consequently, I probably started with a biased opinion of the article.

    However, the theme certainly seemed to be that the elite experts know the settled truth and must guide the ignorant masses to that truth. There was no allusion to skeptical scientists who question the settled truth. For example, scientists like Lomborg, Ball, Moore, Robinson who question the climate change theory are not discussed.

    The quote,

    “They discovered that participants with an extensive understanding of the science were actually less concerned about the potential devastations of climate change, a finding that directly conflicted with the predictions of the deficit model.”,

    maybe should be examined in the light that science/math trained folk are skeptics and do not accept science as settled. Maybe science trained people would like to see an open scientific debate.

    Finally, the quote,

    “But the benefit of the adaptive model is that scientists, by relating to the community the importance of the science to their local issues and concerns, can gently guide them to these provocative truths while still maintaining fidelity to the relevant facts.”,

    suggests the experts already know the ultimate truth and will promote it to the masses. It is for them to know and us to accept, just like the priestly class of the early Jewish religion.

    I look forward to Dirks’s analysis, because I think he is an applied scientist.

  10. stephen buhner says

    The many responses here, the majority making similar points, are all articulating the growing sense among people that there is something awry among scientists and their relation to the cultures in which they reside. I have a great love of what is commonly referred to as science, my problem, which has grown in intensity over the decades, is with scientists as a group. Scientists as a group, regrettably resemble a cult more than anything else. Attempting to discuss the problems with how scientists practice their craft, including the many limitations of their assumptions, is most often met with accusations of being anti-science or simply with a dismissal of the points because I don’t possess the proper credentials. They often assert the same point that identitarians do: I can’t understand their world because i am not part of their world.

    I have spent some four decades examining problems within the scientific communities, have read scores of thousands of peer review journals, and perhaps a thousand texts. Like many Americans I was raised to believe in the sanctity of science, to view it as a calling, that the people within it were abandoning self interest to serve something outside themselves. Unfortunately that picture is not accurate.

    I have come to understand that science is merely a tool, like a hammer, and that like every tool it is only as good as its user is adept. I believe that what we as a species are beginning to see is a long overdue recognition of that fact. Like all integral aspects of human life, science needs to be reintegrated as simply one tool that the human species uses to understand itself and the world around it.

    Because it is a tool used by humans, with all the limitations that implies, some of its users will be very poor, some will be marginally good, some merely good, some pretty good, some very good, some excellent indeed.

    The tendency of many scientists to assert that their tool allows them to understand the truth of our humanness and of the scenario in which we are embedded and out of which we have been expressed more fully than any other humans reveals just how little they understand their own field — or their fellow human beings. The claim to possess a truth that no other people possess is a religious assertion and like all religious assertions, after awhile, people just get tired of the hubris involved in it, especially when enough time passes that they are able to easily perceive the damage that that hubris has caused to life on this planet.

    The passion that emerges in these many comments is a sign of the discomfort that many people, including those of high intelligence and with a commitment to reason, have with the problems they sense within the scientific community. It is part of the general movement that is necessary to correct the excesses and hubris of scientists. Over time i believe it will lead to a much better form of science, one with better outcomes, one that does not possess so many unexpected side effects, one that is based on humility, in full knowledge that the great mystery that we approach through the use of our tool is far older and more complex than our minds will ever completely apprehend.

    • Peter Wilson says

      Good, balanced comment. Just to say, The mystery we approach seems to be far greater than science will ever be able to encompass. At the margins of understanding, we may have to return to seeking a deeper understanding of creation than science can provide; and what better tool than the mysterious consciousness of the individual.

      • Alex Russell says

        This is a fine example of magical thinking, a class of thought that really wants some things to be true, but wants to skip that all important step of checking if the thought is actually true.

        The mysterious consciousness of the individual is very good at finding out if the individual likes chocolate, or prefers socialism to capitalism, but it is not very good at actually finding out the truth of questions like were does consciousness in the higher animals come from? The best tool for answering these types of question is currently the scientific method.

        Are there questions that science cannot answer? Questions dealing with things that happened in the distant past and the evidence has been erased by the passing of time are often difficult or impossible to answer. Has science been widening the class of questions it can answer decade after decade as knowledge and technology improve? Most certainly.

        Who wants a “God” of the gaps?

    • Archibald Buttle says

      Very good comment.

      I think the core mistake was giving authority to scientists. Milgram’s experiment showed that it can be devastating.

      Back in the days, science worked in a pull model. You published some research, offered it to the world and, if it was any good, it would attract other scientists, engineers would apply your theories and build working stuff. Your theory was constantly tested, challenged. Your authority as a scientist was a consequence of good science.

      Now, it’s the other way around. It’s a push model. Scientists have authority and laypeople should be lectured and enlightened.

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the replication crisis is more severe in sciences with immediate political applications : psychology, sociology, economics…

      (By the way, the original article is about science credibility but doesn’t even mention the replication crisis)

      We need a separation of science and state.

    • ‘is most often met with accusations of being anti-science or simply with a dismissal of the points because I don’t possess the proper credentials.” This is so true!

      And not everyone who did not go to four-year college is a country bumpkin.

  11. Sylv says

    These techniques for sneaking Trojan Horse ideas into people’s brains are generally known and have been refined over the last century in the parallel fields of advertising, PR, and propaganda. They can be used to package any ideas, but the nature of the beast is that the truth is a tougher sell because it’s constrained in ways that pleasing nonsense is not.

    Millions of otherwise sensible people didn’t just spontaneously decide one day that the entire field of Climate Science was nothing more than a shadowy conspiracy of killjoy poindexters bent on taking their trucks away. Many interested parties have spent a lot of time and money creating, disseminating, and reinforcing that narrative.

    And who wants to hear bad news? Especially if its unclear that there is anything you can do about it? So that’s what you’re up against. Good luck.

  12. markbul says

    The field of human nutrition science has been a disaster for decades, carried on by grossly incompetent faddists, and trumpeted by clueless journalists. The problem has not been that the people haven’t trusted the ‘experts.’ The problem is that they have. The previous war on fat – which was probably a leading cause of today’s obesity levels – has been recently replaced by a war on refined sugar. Without ever admitting that the previous regime was wrong.

  13. X. Citoyen says

    Metamorf has provided you with invaluable counterpoints. I would add, first, that you ought to be mindful the pernicious effect of what is sometimes called the intellectual’s conceit: the erroneous assumption that expertise in one area confers expertise in others. The comments here should suggest that you may well have fallen into this conceit in assuming that your knowledge of climate science has transferred to communicating science.

    Second, your chosen experts in scientific communication have not served you well. You’ve conflated two very different and very basic things, scientific literacy and trust (or confidence) in scientific institutions. The first may correlate with the second insofar as scientists generally have more trust in scientific institutions than non-scientists, but the relation is social and therefore an incidental. The average zoologist is no more scientifically literate about theoretical physics or climate change than anyone else. So the zoologist’s higher likelihood of trusting climate scientists and theoretical physicists is not evidence for the literacy-trust connection; it’s a mere matter of social identity or familiarity with the institution. And let’s not forget that familiarity also breeds contempt. It’s not as if every scientist is uncritical or their or others’ fields.

    The number of other important distinctions you gloss over in your generalizations about tribes, silos, worldviews, and scientific literacy show more of that problem of the intellectual’s conceit. Environmentalists are against GM foods and Christians against embryonic research on principle; their objections aren’t matters of ignorance or tribalism and won’t be overcome by an “adaptive model.” Much the same goes for climate change, which is hardly a dichotomous issue. Scientists have a horrible tendency of conflating the rejection of massive government intervention with the rejection of the science, as if policy options were so tightly connected to scientific findings that their rejection entailed a rejection of the science. One can either know the science or trust the science, for example, without being persuaded that anything can or should be done about climate change (or done about it now).

    The case of Freeman Dyson on climate models illustrates how much is lost in the social science abstractions you’re operating with. Dyson has stated that he’s skeptical of climate science because he’s skeptical of the models used in predicting climate change. Few people could be characterized as more scientifically literate than Dyson. Yet he doesn’t trust the science for scientific reasons. How does he fit into any of the gross generalizations about worldviews, tribalism, and ideological divides? Nor is Dyson unique. Economists who’ve weighed in with cost-benefits analysis don’t fit in any of these cardboard boxes either. Put another way, you can’t understand the problem through a false dichotomy where there are scientists and non-scientists, and no one in between.

    As Ronald Webb points out above, the first step toward a better communication plan is dropping the paternalism. Accept that you are as ignorant as anyone else outside your area expertise, and it wouldn’t hurt to show a little humility with respect to what you think you know. If you persist in believing you can “leverage” others’ cultural values the way you leverage a piece of software, I predict your ignorance of those cultural values will get you a whole lot more of that “backfire effect” you’re seeing here.

  14. Designer says

    I think this proposal of an adaptive model of science communication is part of the problem and not the solution. Today the number of scientists and fields of research is so huge that some are seduced to use means of marketing and PR to get ahead of the competition. Additionally journalists and activist reinforce these trends for their own interests. One strategy to get attention is to produce contradictory “results” or opinions. Science has to sort out this intellectual corruption. It is the genuine task of science to refute irrationality and tribal instincts. Diluting scientific findings to make them more palatable to ideologies will result in schizophrenia like the creationist accepting evolution.

    • Just please be aware as well that the people who try to do the framing are also “people” whose views are also strongly influenced by their tribe. In the case of Vox and the climate alarmists, the tribe that keeps exerting its pull is the liberal one — which needs to be borne in mind when applying labels like a “good discussion”.

  15. derek says

    I will ask an unfortunate question. How many miles have you flown over the last 5 years?

    The reason I ask is that I’m in the business of implementing ways of saving energy and decreasing carbon footprints. The challenge I deal with every day are fraudulent (I call it that) claims. The hard reality is that my customers have to invest substantial sums for marginal improvements, and are competing with government for the dollars that consumers have to spend. I deal with regulators who have extraordinary power of discretion enforcing ridiculous regulations, but in conversation planning their next holiday where they fly across the country.

    I just implemented something where the energy savings were marginal and won’t cover the costs of implementation, but were done because of subsidies; where the inspections and travel added to the manufacture and shipping of the devices will make the project probably net carbon consuming.

    This is a very very difficult technical challenge. To make houses in Canada ( we need to heat them for some reason ) energy efficient has taken about 4 iterations, each finding serious problems that had to be fixed at great expense by the homeowners. It takes a rich society to be able to afford do the necessary experimentation to come up with a solution.

    When this issue hit the ground running, I saw FRAUD in bright lit up letters. Opportunity for graft and corruption, the making of monopolies and government enforced replacement of entire installed base across multiple industries. The opportunity for profit is extraordinary.

    Fine, if it solves the problem, and the predictions stand up. I see no evidence of either so far.

    I would suggest the writer get out a bit more.

  16. What passes for “Science” in many cases these days is nothing more then politicized junk. 40-50 years from now if we are still lucky enough to be alive we wll see much of today’s politicized junk science proved totally or mostly untrue. Catastrophic global warming Im looking at you.

  17. Robert says

    “They discovered that participants with an extensive understanding of the science were actually less concerned about the potential devastations of climate change, a finding that directly conflicted with the predictions of the deficit model.” You really should consider the possibility that the skeptics are right on scientific grounds and it is the CAGW alarmists who are engaging in unscientific BS

  18. Fran says

    I have been in science all my working life. Many students are upset and angered by material that runs counter to their worldview – eg, opioid withdrawal is no worse than the flu and there is more to addiction than fear of withdrawal or a doctor giving you pain medication. You try your best to describe the evidence, and some do get thinking and reading. Universities base salary decisions on student evaluations! Mine were always bimodal and the best way to really get them up would have been to make the exams easier and select material that did not contradict any widely held beliefs (PC teaching) – I have seen it done by some of my colleagues. There are also some really great lecturers whose student evaluations reflect their genuine talent for communication – and some of these are even honest scientists rather then proselytisers for a politically correct message.

    In science, you have a tiny slice of what is currently known truth. The notion that I should wrap up climate science to convince ‘the masses’ is laughable. I also am sceptical, because my intention was to pursue nutrition in graduate school, but after a couple of years working as a technician, I was passed via the Old Boy network into behavioural neuroscience. (Yes it works for women the same as for men.) In the early 1980’s it was already obvious that trans fats were toxic. This was about the time all the cookies in the stores stopped using tropical oils (‘saturated and bad for you’) and substituted hydrogenated vegetable oils. I had to bake from then on for the kids lunches. It was more than obvious that corn, rape and soy producers had instigated the whole thing for profit – one of the best examples of ‘consensus science’ – as good as the Helicobacter story. As far as AGW is concerned, I am waiting for data as opposed to artificial variances based on different model outputs.

  19. A provocative article, so I’ll start with a provocative statement. Many academics are quite stupid people, and scientists are no exception. Success in academia stems largely from a good memory, extreme ambition for social status, being able to sound rational, and being able to sense what is acceptable thinking along with where the edges are if you want to be a little edgy and appear creative. That said, I’ve also met some very good thinkers, but they they don’t usually stand up well to the collectivist consensus. Einstein and Freeman Dyson come to mind – not that I’ve met either of them.

    Science has many failure modes. Arrogance and collective thinking aside, ignoring areas of ignorance is a big one, which is exemplified by the refusal to account for the role of stress in medical epidemiological studies. When it comes to scientists asserting that you are at risk if you know a passive smoker, warning bells should ring. Stress is contagious. But I have no expertise in that area.

    Where I do feel I can speak with some confidence is the issue of climate change, or the asserted anthropogenic aspect of it. The consensus theory is based on an assumption – an apparently reasonable one at first glance, and one I originally accepted. It’s the assumption that the (misnamed) greenhouse effect was the only mechanism by which our atmosphere could warm the Earth.

    This assumption went largely unchallenged for many years because no other mechanism was apparent. When one was found it was ignored. It should have lead to a quantitative comparison between the two effects to see which dominated. That has only been done in the sceptic sphere, and the results have been ignored by mainstream climate scientists – not what they want to see. See Radiative Heat Transfer in Context at my site for details.

    To end on a positive note, I’m pleased to see the author’s area of study is “the ocean’s role in regulating both past and future climate change”. Keep at it, mate. You’re on the right track. Try a cyclic analysis of ocean surface temperatures and compare that with global temperatures. The oceans, at seventy percent of the Earth’s surface, dominate dacadal to millennial variation in air temperatures. To get really edgy, compare that with sunspot numbers – a proxy for solar flares.

    dai

  20. Ruud says

    This deficit problem doesn’t just apply to science, but to any other area that requires a certain level of academic rigour and where the core knowledge is outside most people’s day-to-day experience. My field is strategic management in business, and I work in government – quite a challenge!

    I agree with the author that simply trying to “teach” the decision-makers doesn’t succeed, because they have no frame in which to hold what you’re giving them (and they interpret it as “preach”). These people don’t like being shown that there are areas of business management where they lack knowledge, they’re heavily invested in the School of Hard Knocks. Sure, there are some folks who get it straight off, but they seem to be a relative minority.

    The information and conceptual frameworks need to be relatable. You have to tie the ideas to problems they’re experiencing in order to get their interest. You also have to be a bit political in slowly building a common knowledge base over time and leveraging off parts of it that have already been accepted in other contexts. It’s a game of stealth. And you also occasionally need to let go of personal pride in the work and let them think it was all their own idea. Feed them a little, let them digest a little. Incredibly frustrating for a person that’s had exposure to the full knowledge base. Having trained in both business and the sciences, I can appreciate the challenge in both fields.

  21. I would like to thank everyone that has replied to this article. The comments presented here are many times better than the original article was.

    • Ruud says

      But let’s not forget that it was the original article that stimulated them…

  22. Peter says

    Ten years ago I had to replace the windows (now triple glazed, with low emission coatings) and decided to add 16 cm of insulation to the northern facade as well. The premium for triple glazed was small. The investment in insulation will probably take a decade or more to pay off. But the comfort improved so much, with more even temperatures and much better sound insulation, that I do not regret it even for a moment. Except today I could do it even better, since products and expertise have improved. Recently, I got a new efficient condensing gas boiler. Modern Science and Technology are really awesome.

    As for energy efficiency: particularly in Central and Northern Europe there is knowhow and a huge selection of quality products. Problems after such improvements seem to be rare. There are cases of badly designed heat recovery ventilation (a recent product), and/or ignorant tenants who do not know, that such systems require regular exchange of filters. The Grenfell Tower disaster is another example of incompetence, a catastrophic attempt to save some money, and poor regulation.

    If one is building a new house or building, there is the proven and ever more popular concept of Passivhaus, costing just a few percent more, but (in Central Europe) driving the energy requirements to a minimum. (They build such houses in Sweden, too, but it is somewhat costlier.) Even in Europe, there are regular vicious attacks on this design and similar improvements, sometimes openly by the Fossil Energy stakeholders and sellers of boilers, heat pumps, who fear losing the markets. Architects can be a problem; too: energy efficient design restricts their »creativity«. Some of the designers are technically savvy; others are uncomfortable with the laws of physics or simply arrogant, compromising the efficiency.

    But there were harmful moves in the energy policy as well, like biodiesel, introduced as »greenwashing«, to free German carmakers from cleaning the exhaust of diesel engines…

  23. Eric Dahlgren says

    There is another option that I never see mentioned.

    “Yet the deficit model cuts against a mounting body of evidence that suggests literacy is not the primary contributor to the public’s attitude towards science. For instance, a group of researchers led by Yale Professor Dan Kahan conducted a survey of over 1,500 U.S. adults to assess the relationship between the public’s understanding of climate change and their assessment of the risk it poses to our society.1 They discovered that participants with an extensive understanding of the science were actually less concerned about the potential devastations of climate change, a finding that directly conflicted with the predictions of the deficit model. In its place, Kahan offered what he called the cultural cognition thesis. This holds that an individual’s perception of science—and, in turn, assessment of risk—is primarily influenced by perception of social identity.”

    The two options given are always #1. If you don’t believe climate change will be catastrophic it is because you are ignorant or #2. If you aren’t ignorant and don’t believe climate change will be catastrophic it is because that conflicts with your (irrational) social identity.

    A third option is never mentioned and it shows a clear bias. The third option being, of course, that one can understand the climate science and realize that it isn’t very good. It could be (and I know this is likely to blow some folks minds) that these people evaluated the science and found it wanting. The models are unreliable, the temp record is unreliable, not all factors that affect the environment are well known, etc. The list of issues with climate models and climate predictions is rather long. As a recent example, a study was done that found the climate models output varies wildly depending on the order of operations within the model. That is very, very bad.

    Of course, as soon as you mention any of the problems with climate science the standard retort is that you are a denier. Then ideas are floated as to why one would be a denier, like maybe your social identity. The ideas that climate science is not very mature, that the models aren’t complex enough to model the real world, that there are a bunch of known unknowns and also unknown unknowns in climate science are ignored.

    Another thing that is ignored is that many of the most visible people on the Catastrophic Climate Change bandwagon have a rather shitty record when it comes to predictions. For example, David Viner who was a climate scientist at Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia claimed in 2000 that snow in England will become “a very rare and exciting event” in a few years and “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is”. The IPCC also predicted in 2001 that snowfall would decrease. It increased. There are a bunch more failed predictions if one bothers to look.

    It would stand to reason that people who know more about climate science would also know more about the predictions made by climate scientists. They would also be more likely to know that the predictions, especially the dire predictions, never came to pass. And if they know that the past dire predictions never occured, then the science that produced those predictions probably isn’t valid.

    Yet that possibility is never raised. And the folks who dare not raise it run around trying to convince folks that they are right and anyone who disagrees with them is either stupid or ignoring evidence based on their social identity.

    • David Norman says

      Thank you. This is a superb exposition of the sensible reasons for being doubtful about AGW and the extent of the threat it may present.

  24. hamr says

    Interesting essay. Interesting comments. I was (unfortunately) terribly put-off by the general attitude of the essay author and the commenters.
    The premiss that someone must have a post-secondary education, to understand ‘science’ (and scientific conclusions) is nonsense.
    The sentence conclusion statement, “what we know to be true of the world”, is extremely presumptuous. Anyone with even a marginal understanding of the history of Science knows this.
    My career is in a hard science dicapline. Old ‘facts’ become new (current) ‘facts’.

    • True. The following essay excerpt illustrates how modern Science-as-Persuasion manages to ignore questions about the validity of specific scientific claims and instead introduces epistemologically irrelevant psychological manipulations masquerading as “scientific argumentation”. In other words, propaganda has invaded scientific practice.

      “Framing can be utilized to ease the tensions in the debate over genetic engineering as well. Research has shown that emphasizing the market competitiveness and economic benefits of genetically modified food can help dispel doubts on the Right, while underscoring their resilience to climate change can help alleviate concerns on the Left.”

      It is most unfortunate that this sort of overt reliance on propaganda comes at a time when large swathes of scientific practice are already plagued by a “Replication Crisis” of results published in scientific journals …

  25. markbul says

    Post-truth. Which suggests that until recently, we lived in an entirely truthy world. I’m in my early 60s, and somehow I don’t remember things that way. I do remember exaggerated enemy casualty numbers from Viet Nam, the fake MIA story line from the aftermath of the same war (and taken from the movie Rambo), the claims that millions would die of hunger and overpopulation (by the late 1970s), JFK being shot from a grassy knoll (that from people who didn’t know what a knoll was), the great alar/apple scare, the day care pedophile scare/moral panic, the recovered memory monstrosity … Post-truth is a crutch used by the dim to get themselves to the next chattering class convention.

    And don’t get me started on how Elvis died!

  26. Nick says

    I don’t think it’s fair to put suspicion of AGW completely in the ‘postmodern post-truth’ box. The people who contest AGW tend to focus on questions about the credibility of the diagnostic and prognostic tools offered.

    For example, why is it that actual global warming data tends to stick to the very bottom of the very best case scenario predictions? Aren’t the models calibrated to take actual historical reality into account? About wind turbines, why build them when they cost as much if not more in construction and maintenance than the energy they produce? If the ‘green lobby’ really wants solutions rather than a good long milking of the taxpayer, why is nuclear power generally out of the question, and when it isn’t, why is it often given low-priority botch-job treatment?

    Is suspicion of AGW consensus “post-truth”? I think people know there’s a lot of corruption revolving around the ‘green industry’, and are dubious – particularly when, in the back of many a mind, is an awareness of the fanatical ‘final solution’ for AGW… eliminating the “A”.

    • Peter says

      In 1986, after the Chernobyl disaster, my friend nuclear physicist told me, that the economics of nuclear power plants is problematic: they give back only some 70 % more energy than the amount put in mining, uranium separation, construction, maintenance. With increased safety requirements, the balance is now even more unfavorable. Which insurance company is going to insure a new nuclear plant? Add the unsolved problem of nuclear waste. Uranium mines are one of the most destructive and dirty operations.

      Without government backing and insurance, private capital is not going to invest in nuclear. The recent nuclear plant in UK was built upon the government agreeing to pay twice the current market price for its energy for 30 years. The new Finnish nuclear plant saw an enormous increase in cost during the construction.

      In contrast, a well designed hydroelectric plant will give back seven times as much energy as was put into it. But there are few good sites for such construction now.

      There are no easy solutions to cheap energy supply.

      Increasing energy efficiency is IMHO the way to go. I read a Danish report saying that the per capita use of energy in Copenhagen is the same now as was around 1600 – but people live a much better life now. There are smart ways to build super efficient buildings at a minimum premium.

      BTW: For most Europeans, the extremely low temperatures in many air-conditioned US buildings in summer are both uncomfortable and wasteful.

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