Pop science media’s science fictions: Shock n’ awe? No, just shook n’ odd, really
|December 20, 2013||Posted by News under Cosmology|
Due to new rules. Let’s unpack these new rules.
I think it is unfair to bring together hypothesis and conjectures and thoughts of various physicists and present them as if there is a consensus among all scientists involved in research. I want to make it clear that lots of ideas gets traction in news media because of their ‘shock and awe’ value and are not accepted theories.
The point was not to claim a consensus for these ideas, just to show they are accepted as science, while ID theories are rejected out of hand.
And I responded:
Yes, Piltdown2, thanks, that is precisely the overdue question I am asking. What makes something “science”? Or more to the point, why is it regarded as science? The rules are definitely not about evidence, so what are they really about?
Here’s one thing they are about: The Big Bang can’t truly have happened and the universe can’t truly be fine-tuned. Anything and everything else can be true (true and untrue, true and not-true, true-not and not-true, it’s all okay really). But not the Big Bang and fine tuning.
There’s lots of similar stuff in the popular science media—dismally supported by evidence but strongly supported by ideology—on a number of related topics. I’ll unpack a lot of it in future installments. But let me clear away some underbrush first:
Most scientists reading outside their own disciplines rely as much as anyone else does on popular science media to make events intelligible. So if those media are purveying evidence-free assumptions in cosmology, they are purveying them where they expect to find ready ears among scientists and lay people alike. And in the series I am tracing the process by which all those ears become ready.
All my life, I have heard the refrain that media get things all wrong. If you listen carefully, you will notice that that refrain is sung by different choirs: By truck drivers whose addresses were mistakenly published as the addresses of dangerous criminals and, on just as fervent a note, by politicians caught in their underwear in unexpected places.
Media make all kinds of mistakes. But what they rarely get wrong are the accepted assumptions of their own readers. Their very survival depends on getting those assumptions right.* So media stories may be simplified, but their message is probably not wildly off the mark for accepted opinion in science.
Which leaves the question, how did so much evidence-free stuff become accepted opinion for people interested in science? Why exactly? Onward!
* Of course, suicidal miscalculations do sometimes get made. Something of the sort may have happened in Toronto (North America’s seventh largest city), where ailing mainstream media simply assumed that citizens would turn on their popular tax-cutting mayor over the crack episode (but Toronto largely didn’t). A&E assumes it can dump Duck Dynasty with impunity. Should neither guess pan out in the long run, that’s probably because the media in question happen to be dominated by unrepresentative editors, unskilled at reading their readers. I don’t know a reason to think that true of current popular science media generally. – O’Leary for News