controversy

Creating creationists: The influence of ‘issues framing’ on our understanding of public perceptions of clash narratives between evolutionary science and belief

Fern Elsdon-Baker

Clash narratives relating to evolutionary science and personal belief are a recurrent theme in media or public space discourse. However, a 2009 British Council poll undertaken in 10 countries worldwide shows that the perception of a necessary clash between evolutionary worldviews and belief in a God is a minority viewpoint. How then does the popular conception that there is an ongoing conflict between evolution and belief in God arise? One contributing factor is the framing and categorization of creationism and evolutionism within large-scale surveys for use within media campaigns. This article examines the issue framing within four polls conducted in the United Kingdom and internationally between 2008 and 2013. It argues that by ignoring the complexity and range of perspectives individuals hold, or by framing evolutionary science as atheistic, we are potentially creating ‘creationists’ − including ‘Islamic creationists’ − both figuratively and literally.

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A Socioenvironmental Shale Gas Controversy: Scientists’ Public Communications, Social Responsibility and Collective Versus Individual Positions

Gregoire Molinatti, Lionel Simonneau

In this case study, we analyze the discourse, practices and representations of a group of scientists who issued public statements about the French shale gas controversy. The reasons they gave for engaging in this process of communication focused on their social responsibility, their collective ad hoc expertise and the neutrality of their position. We also investigated how these scientists actually produced their communications, despite the tensions between individual and collective positions. We discuss how this experience led them to reflect both individually and collectively on their representations of science in society.

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Popularizing dissent: A civil society perspective

Judy Motion, Shirley Leitch, C Kay Weaver

This article theorizes civil society groups’ attempts to popularize opposition to genetic modification in New Zealand as deliberative interventions that seek to open up public participation in science–society governance. In this case, the popularization strategies were designed to intensify concerns about social justice and democratic incursions, mobilize dissent and offer meaningful mechanisms for navigating and participating in public protest. Such civic popularization efforts, we argue, are more likely to succeed when popularity and politicization strategies are judiciously integrated to escalate controversy, re-negotiate power relations and provoke agency and action.

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“Dioxins are the easiest topic to mention”: Resident activists’ construction of knowledge about low-level exposure to toxic chemicals

Nina Blom Andersen

This article discusses how residents in a local area contributed to the construction of knowledge in regard to scientific assessments in relation to a fire in a storage dump of burnable waste. Building on analytical concepts primarily from Social Worlds theory as well as some concepts from Actor–Network Theory, the analysis shows how dissent and a number of scientific controversies were initiated by some residents living nearby the waste dump who proved to be excellent network builders and who built a number of alliances with media and independent scientists, thus questioning the authorities’ and their experts’ legitimacy. Furthermore, the situated analysis identifies how a few persons—not very organized—were able to create a debate about scientific matters using their combined resources and strong alliance-building abilities, thus proving that in some cases there is no need for a higher level of organization.

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