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On Global Warming and Rhetoric. NMSU Teach-In – January 2008. Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell. In “Emperor Has No Clothes,” citizens praise a naked emperor for amazing, new attire In “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” citizens tire of responding to crises that don’t exist

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on global warming and rhetoric

On Global Warming and Rhetoric

NMSU Teach-In – January 2008

stories we hear stories we tell
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • In “Emperor Has No Clothes,” citizens praise a naked emperor for amazing, new attire
  • In “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” citizens tire of responding to crises that don’t exist
  • For more than a century, scientists have told us of connections between pollutants & emissions, industry, & our environment
stories we hear stories we tell1
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Today, we have another story, a story of global warming
  • Story told uniformly by scientists around the world long time
  • U.S. overall skeptical as those viewing the emperor or hearing wolf
stories we hear stories we tell2
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Why are we skeptical?
  • More to do with rhetorical issues than scientific ones?
  • Creation & presentation of science--and public reception to science--shaped by stories we hear and tell
stories we hear stories we tell3
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Rhetoric – effective use of language & persuasion/dissuasion, as field of study focuses on audience, purpose, context
  • Science is rhetorical – constructing knowledge, attempting to persuade us of knowledge
  • Scientific arguments constructed/shaped by what is said, how it is said, what is not said, to whom, in what context, and with what motivations
stories we hear stories we tell4
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Our country roughly accounts for
    • 4% of world population
    • 25% of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Our country, largest contributor to such emissions, not signing on to Kyoto efforts to reduce such emissions
  • Rhetoric can speak to this situation – offering analysis and call for action
stories we hear stories we tell5
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Focus today on work of several rhetoricians and philosophers to explain some reasons we are where we are in this story
  • Rhetoricians and scientists “engaged in the process of persuasion in all of their professional and intellectual activities” (Gross)
usa today 3 13 2005
USA Today - 3/13/2005
  • “Mercury from China, dust from Africa, smog from Mexico — all of it drifts freely across U.S. borders and contaminates the air millions of Americans breathe, according to recent research from Harvard University, the University of Washington and many other institutions where scientists are studying air pollution. There are no boundaries in the sky to stop such pollution, no Border Patrol agents to capture it.”
stories we hear stories we tell6
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Human desire for comfort
  • Oil, gas, coal, “development” of “land” provide comfort if not luxury
stories we hear stories we tell7
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • “Emperor” and “Wolf” stories instruct us not to trust
  • More likely to trust “science,” but only science that could give us Truth with Capital “T,” with no uncertainties
  • Science, though, is rhetorical, uncertain, “self-correcting”
stories we hear stories we tell8
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • We want science to convey Truth
  • Discomfort with concept of science as rhetorical
  • Rhetorical analysis looks at how science transforms into science policy and also how science itself is created
stories we hear stories we tell9
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Democracy invites all to table, to discussion, to forum
  • But peer reviewed publications different from published results from think-tanks, especially those that may be affiliated with sponsors with vested interests
  • Most don’t know distinction between peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed publications
stories we hear stories we tell10
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • “What counts as a fact depends not on science, but on the trust the public bestows on science; what counts as a Fact’s significance is not the significance science bestows, but the significance the public bestows on scientific knowledge” (Gross)
stories we hear stories we tell11
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • “Our access to the facts is mediated by experts” (Gross) and by who “counts” as experts
stories we hear stories we tell12
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Our society likes concept of consensus
  • Parties with vested interests may produce and promote “cultivated uncertainty” (Banning)
stories we hear stories we tell13
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Our society likes majority rule
  • Experts and lay people as equals in exploration of concept such as global warming can place expert voices far in margin
stories we hear stories we tell14
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell

Professional journalists taught to present both or alternative sides of story

Equal press to expert reports and skeptics

stories we hear stories we tell15
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • We are taught to think critically, to question
  • With what journalist Elizabeth Kolbert reports as the “basic physics . . . [that] have been understood for more than a century,” we still question
stories we hear stories we tell16
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • Government/business/media can point finger at individual and our individual guilt
  • Rhetorical devices – metonymy & synecdoche – involve using a part to represent whole
  • Automobile accidents
    • Cultural consensus is that individual driver is to blame
    • Even more, the Drunk Driver (part for whole argument)
    • No fingers then need to point to “automobile industry, distillers, brewers, bar and liquor store owners, government” (Gross)
stories we hear stories we tell17
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • There is consensus
  • Naomi Oreskes in Science
    • Tested 928 abstracts published in refereed scientific journals from ‘93 to ’03
    • None of the papers disagreed with consensus
stories we hear stories we tell18
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • As Jonathan Wolff states,

“In practice, what matters is not proof but good reasons for action, based on the assessment of all available evidence.”

stories we hear stories we tell19
Stories We Hear, Stories We Tell
  • We have the evidence. Let’s tell new stories so we aren’t left with Oreskes’ question: “There is scientific consensus? Why don’t we know that or believe it?”
  • Current stories haven’t worked.
  • Will take all of us - rhetoricians, journalists, scientists, activists - take into account what may be more likely to work.
  • Let’s make new stories.