Tom Gilson

“Myth is truth (p < .05)"

Here’s today’s Language Log’s explanation for why science journalism is often so weak, as they have noted several times there (and I’ve mentioned more than once).

…Science journalism is generally simpler, since the scientific equivalents of political parties are usually too diffuse and too weak to call a publication effectively to account for unfairness. In fact, most of the time there aren’t any powerful voices at all to call you to account if you write something wrong or foolish about a scientific topic, just a lot of scientifically-educated readers cursing into their oatmeal.

So you’re pretty much free to write what you want, based on a popular book, a lecture you’ve heard, a press release or another story in the popular press. Your editor will like it if you figure out how to add a local or topical angle. If you’re at a high-end publication, you might slot in a comment from an expert source — though in general, you don’t want that source to confuse everyone by casting doubt on the main story line, or at least on your interpretation of it.

Overall their take on this is different take than what I’ve written on this blog, but they agree you can’t always trust what the papers say about science.

For the record, this topic has appeared on Thinking Christian in these posts, and perhaps others I can’t track down at the moment:

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