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Why are popular science media so gullible?

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From Thomas Sheahen at American Thinker ,

For quite some time, science has been presented to the public in a distorted way. Reports of statements by scientists are often stated as absolutely certain truths, never mentioning any doubts or questions. Seldom do reporters inquire about how they became so certain, why they have such high confidence.

That image simply isn’t true. A major disconnect exists between what really happens and reported science. Real science is always subject to revision, never “absolutely final.” In everyday conversation, a person might say “I’m absolutely certain about that” but among responsible scientists, even the strongest affirmations always begin with “To the best of our scientific knowledge at this time …”

Maybe, given the history of corrections in science (which come slowly), it might be wiser to show a little humility and allow for the possibility of a revision. More.

I was thinking of adding “Why are popular science media so gullible?” to my list of questions about what methodological naturalism has done for science, but hesitate because the answer to that one may be sociological. They might have been gullible about whatever wind was blowing through town.

However, it’s possible we are entering a period when people sense that the canned version we get from the pop science media is not representative enough of science today to be a reliable guide. What happens then will make the pop science media part of the story themselves, just as the decline of general news media behemoths made them part of the story. Thoughts?

– O’Leary for News

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3 Responses to Why are popular science media so gullible?

  1. Impressive, to be able to move to “Why are popular science media so gullible?” withing 3 days of falling for the duons press release.

  2. Recommended reading: Trust Us, We’re Experts! by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. Science and, by extension, scientists, can be manipulated by the media and by politicians.

  3. This is a huge problem in my humble opinion!

    The reasons are many I suspect. First there is the implicit trust in science, as if it cannot lie, but the problem is not with science itself, but with the fallible interpretations of the evidence.

    Another problem is the desire to be seen as supportive of the paradigm. It is a matter of one’s reputation and maybe even their job.

    Others probably have an inherent bias against or a dislike of religion that influences them to exaggerate the truth a bit.

    Others feel they lack the expertise to challenge the conclusions of “scientists”. They see their job not to hold scientists accountable for their claims, but rather to explain them so that the general public can understand them. They feel they have to dumb things down for us ignorant non-scientists.

    Then of course they do not understand the difference between every day science that uses the scientific method and historical science that cannot be repeated, observed, or tested. This is huge! How many times have you heard them ridicule believers for their unwillingness to accept the opinion and conclusions of the experts? They say we are anti-science hypocrites who use computers(products of (every day) science) while rejecting scientific theories like evolution. But it is they who are making a mistake by assuming that historical science is just as dependable as every day science.

    There are lots of reasons for this phenomenon, but it is still a shame. More accuracy is necessary to build trust. The media simply wants to sell magazines and attract web traffic. Sensational claims work well for this! It seems this is more important and exciting than accuracy.

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