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Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Fixed ideas and polarization

This all resonates well with an excellent pair of talks given by Charles
Kennel and Daniel Yankelovich at the Pugwash meeting last month
(http://www.pugwash.org/home/lajolla.htm).    (01)

Kennel's talk was about the progress in advancing the debate over climate
change (aka global warming) made by the IPCC (http://www.ipcc.ch/). He first
noted that for many years the debate was hopelessly polarized over whether
climate change was even occurring and whether climate change was "man-made"
or "natural". But he pointed out that this polarization had been dependent
upon the lack of decided concensus among scientists, and that such
polarization wasn't maintainable once the scientists took a stance--even
George W. has now conceded the reality of the problem and retreated from
challenging whether there is a problem to simply obstructing the currently
proposed solution, which is a much more politically precarious position.    (02)

Furthermore, he explained that such concensus had been unattainable in the
venue of scholarly publication, which is structured to facilitate debate
rather than concensus. It was only by convening the IPCC that the scientists
were able to get beyond arguments about methodology and uncertainty to
instead start synthesizing results and reaching cautious but nonetheless
clear and unanimous conclusions like: "The balance of evidence suggests a
discernible human influence on global climate."    (03)

Yankelovich expanded on this point, elaborating on the difference between
debate--which typically increases polarization--and dialogue (yes, as in
Socratic)--which when successful builds understanding, trust, and respect.
He has a nice summary table of contrasting characteristics on the web at
<http://www.viewpointlearning.com/dialoguefs.html>.    (04)

He thus calls activities such as those of the IPCC a "pre-negotiation
dialogue", whose aim is to frame a subsequent debate over prospective
options, with understandable pros and cons, rather than an unproductive one
over questions of (scientific) truth.
Kevin Keck
keck@kecklabs.com    (05)