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Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change: A Response to Legates, Soon and Briggs

Abstract

Agnotology is a term that has been used to describe the study of ignorance and its cultural production (Proctor in Agnotology: the making and unmaking of ignorance. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2008). For issues that are contentious in the societal realm, though largely not in the scientific realm, such as human evolution or the broad basics of human-induced climate change, it has been suggested that explicit study of relevant misinformation might be a useful teaching approach (Bedford in J Geogr 109(4):159–165, 2010). Recently, Legates et al. (Sci Educ. doi:10.1007/s11191-013-9588-3, 2013) published an aggressive critique of Bedford’s (J Geogr 109(4):159–165, 2010) proposals. However, the critique is based on a comprehensive misinterpretation of Bedford’s (J Geogr 109(4):159–165, 2010) paper. Consequently, Legates et al. (Sci Educ. doi:10.1007/s11191-013-9588-3, 2013) address arguments not actually made by Bedford (J Geogr 109(4):159–165, 2010). This article is a response to Legates et al. (Sci Educ. doi:10.1007/s11191-013-9588-3, 2013), and demonstrates their errors of interpretation of Bedford (J Geogr 109(4):159–165, 2010) in several key areas: the scientific consensus on climate change; misinformation and the public perception of the scientific consensus on climate change; and agnotology as a teaching tool. We conclude by arguing that, although no single peer-reviewed publication on climate change, or any other scientific issue, should be accepted without due scrutiny, the existence of a scientific consensus—especially one as overwhelming as exists for human-induced climate change—raises the level of confidence that the overall findings of that consensus are correct.

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Bedford, D., Cook, J. Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change: A Response to Legates, Soon and Briggs. Sci & Educ 22, 2019–2030 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9608-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9608-3

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Global Warming
  • Content Knowledge
  • Public Perception
  • Scientific Consensus