Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Public misunderstanding of science

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

This is interesting.   I got the following table from Callan Bentley's excellent Mountain Beltway blog and he got it from “Communicating the Science of Climate Change,” by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol (Physics Today, October 2011, p. 48).

The way scientists use terms when discussing climate change is different from the way the general public uses those same terms (we can say much the same thing about scientists discussing evolution and other "hot button" issues that people are skeptical about for ideological reasons).

I discuss global climate change in many of my geoscience courses and do try to explain the terminology used as well.  Sometimes those of us who read the scientific literature become so used to the jargon used that we simply repeat it when discussing the topic without thinking about how people hear and perceive the terms.  It's good to be reminded that we shouldn't take some things for granted.

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