The challenge of doing science journalism in a polluted science communication environment
Friday, April 21, 2017 at 8:42AM
Dan Kahan


Boy, this is a tough one.

It's not hard to see how linking Zika to climate change risks infecting the former with the polarizing virus carried by the latter.  Not hard, either to model such an effect in the lab (Kahan, Jamieson, Landrum & Winneg 2017).

On the other hand, if this piece is conveying the truth about the health hazards being created or magnified by climate change, isn't such reporting essential?

I guess I have two reactions.

First, highlighting Gore is not a good idea.  He brands as a partisan issue anything he gets involved with.

Second, the most important thing is that science journalists engage in shared critical reflection on dilemmas of this kind. Such reflection attests to and helps inculcate a professional norm, one that assures journalists exercise their judgment in a manner sensitive to the impact of their craft on the science communication environment.

That sort of norm, and the quality of deliberation it promotes, were clearly on display in the science community's debate about the effect of their upcoming march on Washington.

The importance of having a collective discussion like that, on all the occasions that warrant it, might turn out to be the most valuable lesson of that event.

So what do you think?


Update on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 5:15AM by Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Maybe the article could have been written in voice that evoked curiosity rather than one that provoked culturally partisan resonances of climate change?

Article originally appeared on cultural cognition project (
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