A suggestion for climate scientists…

Source: NSW Centre for Road Safety

Unleash your inner dummy (via Nature Jobs Column). Peter Fiske suggests that scientists are too hung up on being experts in their field, and this often limits their perspective in applying for jobs and their own view of their potential contribution to society.

Now I can think of a group of scientists for whom the sky’s the limit as far as their own view of their personal contribution to society is concerned, but I digress… Here’s a bit climate scientists should heed:

“Dummies ask questions that experts assume were answered long ago. Dummies explore subject areas in which they lack knowledge. Dummies listen more and talk less.

Becoming a dummy frees you from dogma. Developing expertise can often mean ingesting unquestioned assumptions and accepted facts. Such received beliefs can lead to unchallenged group decision-making and prevent a community from recognizing a path-breaking discovery — especially when it comes from someone outside the discipline.”

That sounds awfully like climate science…

Image Source: NASA

In fact, many exciting scientific discoveries have arisen from a non-expert asking a basic question — consider, for example, the connection between the extinction of the dinosaurs and a meteorite impact, which was the brainchild of an experimental physicist, not a palaeontologist. Not coincidentally, experts in a field often meet these basic questions with a fair degree of hostility.

No kidding! And some further great advice…

Embracing your inner dummy is also a powerful tool for communicating science. Many scientists assume that public hostility toward science stems from ignorance of the facts, and that science education is the remedy. But perhaps the answer is also more human engagement by scientists; sometimes they need to step out of the role of expert and seek to understand the audience’s cultural and ethical perspectives.

That understanding of “the audience’s cultural and ethical perspective”, still has climate idealists in a tizzy. With ‘fails’ like 10:10 No Pressure, and envirocharities-turned advocacy groups like WWF (cuddly no longer) and Greenpeace pushing in-your-face guilt, people have had enough.  The answer is they can see past the hyperbole and really do care where their money ends up.

I can think of plenty of skeptics who are experts in their own fields but embraced their inner dummy years ago.

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4 Responses to A suggestion for climate scientists…

  1. Pascvaks says:

    Dummies have eyes and ears, and broadly focused brains that take in everything around them, THAT is the problem. When they only see one small group of Chicken-Littles running around the World saying the ‘Sky is Falling!’, they tend to think that the real problem is inside that little group of Bird Brains. Now if every BS, MS, PhD in Science, on the entire planet were running around, tearing their clothes off and pulling their hair out by the roots, then, maybe, more dummies would listen and look up to see what all the hype was about. Dummies ain’t dumb! They’ve seen and heard all this before. And the sky hasn’t fallen yet. Not once.

    PS: Chicken-Littles always attract media types and politicians, college students, and strange little old ladies and men with nothing better to do. Dummies place no significance in such people. They’re like flies.

  2. Bloke down the pub says:

    There’s nothing wrong with asking a stupid question, only in believing a stupid answer.

  3. Verity Jones says:

    Working in a very multidisciplinary environment with people of many backgrounds and abilities, it can be frequently observed that those who are unafraid to ask what might be seen as a ‘stupid question’ are those who are most secure and content with their own level of knowledge. Often in my experience these are the people who also are most generous to others’ opinions and most willing to listen.

  4. Ideas For A Science Experiment says:

    Ola! Verity Jones,
    Along the same lines,, Over the years climate change skeptics have changed their line of attack many times over. In the early days the main thrust of their argument was that there was insufficient evidence to even say if the planet was warming. Then the arguments centred on the Sun as being the primary cause, then it became the case that the instrumental record was unreliable. Shortly after they changed their position and stated that it was a global conspiracy by politicians and in the last 3 weeks the cornerstone of their reasoning has been that climate scientists fabricated data then destroyed the evidence.

    Over the years there must have been at least a hundred other ‘proofs’ put forward by the skeptics. Everything from increased cosmic rays, changes in Earth’s magnetic field, the urban heat island effect, a conspiracy by the Illuminati, coming out of the last ice age etc etc.

    Given that their latest assault failed from the outset, I was wondering what they may turn to next. Any ideas or suggestions?
    Wishes

    [Hmm – I wonder who ‘they’ are. And ‘changed their line of attack’? – well there are so many holes in the AGW argument that it is a case of there being so much to say. As for failed assaults- we’ll see. V]

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