Anthony Leiserowitz, “Climate Change in the American Mind”

Wednesday, April 8th @ 7PM

Forum (272 Elaine Langone Center)
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Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz

Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz

The Production of Public Understanding of Science Project is pleased to announce that Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, research scientist at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, will present a public talk at Bucknell on April 8th. Dr. Leiserowitz is an expert on public opinion and engagement with the issues of climate change and the environment. His research investigates the psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence environmental beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. In his talk, Dr. Leiserowitz will report on recent trends in Americans’ climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy support, and behavior and discuss strategies for more effective public engagement.

We gratefully acknowledge support from the departments of Economics, Education, International Relations, Philosophy, Physics & Astronomy, Religious Studies, Sociology & Anthropology, in additional the Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment, the Program for Environmental Studies, the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, the University Lectureship Committee, the Deans of Arts & Sciences and Engineering, and the Office of the Provost.

Please join us for what promises to be a great event!

Themes from Mann’s Visit

We’ve had a very exciting week here at the PoPUS project. We had the good fortune to enjoy a full day and a half with Professor Michael Mann—prominent climate scientist, bigtime advocate for public understanding of climate change, and perennial target of the slings and arrows of outrageous denialism. Our indefatigable guest not only delivered an excellent public lecture to a capacity crowd—where he received an impassioned introduction from our own President John Bravman—he visited Matthew’s course on climate change (which Matthew co-teaches with Professor Duane Griffin), led a faculty-staff breakfast seminar, participated in a roundtable with STEM faculty, facilitated a breakfast conversation with students, and spent several hours with me, Matthew, and members of the PoPUS team discussing our project, including opportunities for future collaboration. All told, it was a tremendously inspiring and encouraging 36 hours. We’re grateful to Professor Mann for taking the time to visit, and we look forward to opportunities to work together in coming years.

Stay tuned for further posts from our research team with details from the events mentioned above. In the meantime, here are a few of the themes that emerged in our conversations with Professor Mann:

  • The idea that there’s a need for social scientific work that takes a more nuanced view of the cognitive goals science communicators have in trying to educate their audiences. While it’s widely acknowledged that we can’t achieve science communication goals simply by giving the public information about science, and while it’s also true that recognizing this has led to important reflection on how values and ideological commitments determine receptivity to messaging, the fact remains: there’s been very little work (empirical or otherwise) on the idea that the cognitive goal of science outreach should be to provoke understanding rather than to transmit information or knowledge.
  • The idea that understanding is more resilient than testimonially-based knowledge in the face of denialist challenges.
  • The importance of understanding not just the science, but how science works—in particular, the role (and compatibility) of uncertainty and consensus in science.
Professor Mann in the student breakfast discussion.

Professor Mann in the student breakfast discussion.

> More photos from the visit here.

Fall Semester Colloquia Update

We’re planning three exciting colloquia in the fall semester.

First, Catherine Elgin (Harvard) will speak on Thursday, Oct. 2. The title of her talk is “Making an Example of It” in Academic West 108. Here’s her abstract:

I will argue that thinking with things often involves taking them to exemplify some of their features. Rather than being mere things, as exemplars, they function as symbols that highlight features and afford epistemic access to them.

Second, Stephen Grimm (Fordham) will speak on Tuesday, Nov. 4 on “How Understanding Human Beings Differs from Understanding the Natural World” in the Willard–Smith Library (Vaughan Lit 125):

When we try to understand the natural world, we often appeal to things like causes or mechanisms or laws. But what happens when we try to understand other people? Do we need to appeal to something different—perhaps to notions like values or goods? I will consider a few ways in which philosophers have claimed that there is something distinctive when it comes to understanding human beings, and argue that these attempts have fallen short in various respects. I will then offer my own view about how understanding human beings differs from understanding the natural world.

Finally, Gary Hardcastle (Bloomsburg) will speak on Thursday, Nov. 20. on “(Really) Recovering Understanding: James B. Conant’s Theory of Understanding and Its Contemporary Relevance” in Academic West 108:

Focusing upon his 1947 On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach (the published form of his 1946 Terry Lectures), this talk recounts James B. Conant’s theory of understanding, as well as the social, political, and pedagogical projects Conant associated with it. In 1946 Conant had been the President of Harvard University for ten years; he had served as the Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee during WWII, overseeing the Manhattan Project; he had, with Vannevar Bush, laid the foundation for what would be America’s National Science Foundation; and he had brought into being a model of post-war university education, a vision distilled in 1945’s General Education in a Free Society, aka the Harvard “Red Book.” These achievements brought Conant to regard understanding as vitally important to human survival, and they brought him to articulate a theory of understanding and its transmission, a project he would continue for the rest of his life. Though Conant’s thinking about understanding was acutely tuned WWII and the ensuing Cold War, his questions are just those that have motivated a resurgence of interest in understanding in the (heretofore somewhat insulated) fields of epistemology and philosophy of science: “Why,” Conant asks, “should any but a relatively few experts need to understand science,” and what, for that matter, does it mean, to “understand science”? Moreover, Conant’s answers to these questions illuminate some contemporary debates (or so I’ll argue).

In the news…

Bucknell has posted a news item announcing and describing our project. Thanks to Matt Hughes for a fun interview and for his great work on the write-up!

PSA 2014

In addition to organizing a series of talks on understanding for the fall semester, we’re planning to travel to the 2014 meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, to be held November 6-8 in Chicago. Matthew will be giving a paper, and Jason will be soaking in the phil sci vibe, as this will be his first PSA. We’re especially hoping to connect and discuss our work with other members of the Joint Caucus of Socially Engaged Philosophers and Historians of Science, which put on a great session at the last PSA meeting.