"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Journalistic Integrity 

May or may not be a Thing of The Past in mainstream media, but one area that seems to be extremely prone to sloppy reportage is scientific journalism. Every time some kook comes up with a theory, it gets on the news. This brilliant editorial examines how a relatively worthwhile journalistic standard, that of balanced reporting does great disservice to science.

The point is simple: science is not easily reduced to a binary situation of right or wrong. There are a million sides to everything, and there are well established rules that guide how research is judged. Most journalists (and virtually all readers, at least in the US) know very little about the Scientific Method, or Peer Review, etc., and audiences are often not too interested in complex ideas.

There are plenty of examples where the scientific consensus is wrong, and the rogues are right, but determining that is the work of scientists, not journalists. It may take a while for the old guard to change, but that's the beauty of the Scientific Method: change is the whole point! You can never fully "prove" anything, you can only not disprove it. It's this subtlety that drives many non-scientists crazy, and leads to widespread misunderstanding of words like "Theory" and "Law" in the scientific sense, as opposed to the common ones.

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