Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Semantics and Science

 

“We seldom realise, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” -Alan W. Watts

Language is defined as a common body of words and linguistic systems that are shared between a people based on their geographical location or cultural similarities.

Words hold their own esteemed importance within our society. They enable the communication of meaning amongst one another, yet more so they allow us the ability to make sense of everything that we perceive as humans.

Language in itself is an extraordinary, evolutionary capability that which no other species can mimic.

However words can be more powerful than we would initially anticipate. We use them as often as we breathe. An automatic response; often leaving the body as easily as each exhale.

Yet we forget that these bits of breath have such great potential in shaping our views and opinions, as well as shaping those of somebody else’s.

In George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ Orwell states “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” (Orwell, 1946).

Much of the trouble with understanding climate change revolves around the way it is spoken about by the people who are supposed to care about fixing it. Misinformation, substitution of words, euphemistic phrases mean to “avoid panic” from the public.

It all comes down to fiddling with the semantics and filtering the truth so as to meld the public opinion in a favourable way.

A recent issue in Texas has arisen due to science textbooks providing false information to students. Not only have many historical events been “distorted through a conservative political and religious lens” but the issue of climate change has also been stated within the textbooks to be questionable in its existence by scientists (The Huffington Post Australia, 2016).

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought” (Orwell, 1946).

The way in which climate change is not only spoken about but also written about will affect the way it is perceived by the public. In the case of Texas, this could potentially be an entire generation of students holding incorrect views about one of the world’s most important issues.

Education is what will enable to world to offer up necessary but also innovative and helpful solutions to the issue of climate change. However, it must be an honest education pertaining factual information free from bias, bigotry and self-interest.

 

Sources:

The Huffington Post Australia. (2016). These Proposed Texas Textbooks Get Climate Change Wrong. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/texas-textbooks-climate-change_n_5824904.html?section=australia [Accessed 10 May 2016].

Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and The English Langauge. London: Horizon, p.152.

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This entry was posted on May 10, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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