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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Science and media: It helps not to be an arrogant bastard

From the recent Pew Report, we learn:

Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media
Scientific Achievements Less Prominent Than a Decade Ago (July 9, 2009)

While the public holds scientists in high regard, many scientists offer unfavorable, if not critical, assessments of the public’s knowledge and expectations. Fully 85% see the public’s lack of scientific knowledge as a major problem for science, and nearly half (49%) fault the public for having unrealistic expectations about the speed of scientific achievements.

A substantial percentage of scientists also say that the news media have done a poor job educating the public. About three-quarters (76%) say a major problem for science is that news reports fail to distinguish between findings that are well-founded and those that are not. And 48% say media oversimplification of scientific findings is a major problem. The scientists are particularly critical of television news coverage of science. Just 15% of scientists rate TV coverage as excellent or good, while 83% say it is only fair or poor. Newspaper coverage of science is rated somewhat better; still, barely a third (36%) of the scientists say it is excellent or good, while 63% rate it as only fair or poor.
Well, if it's not their job to educate the public, it's not the news media's either. Story of my life: There is only so much you can do in 750 words.

By the way, if news reports distinguished between findings that are well founded and findings that are not, all but 5% of everything written on evolutionary psychology could hit the recycler, bypassing the press.

It would suit me fine. There might be space for something more educational than "The gene that makes you want to shop" and "The brain module that makes you tip more." But is that what the U.S. scientists really want? I've yet to get a straight answer out of many of them.

Overall, the American scientists come off as legends in their own minds, believing they are much better than anyone else worldwide - we heard it from them first, remember?

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Darwinis and popular culture: Archbishop attacks UK exam question on ID

SEATTLE—Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph reported attacks on the inclusion of intelligent design in a British science exam, provoking a sharp response from the intelligent design research community, led by Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University-trained philosopher of science whose just-released book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne) is already drawing praise from leading U.K. scientists.

Lecturer James Williams of Sussex University complained to The Telegraph, “This gives an unwarranted high profile to creationism and intelligent design as ideas of equal status with tested scientific theories.”

“Mr. Williams apparently knows very little about the scientific case for intelligent design," said Dr. Meyer, who also directs the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in the United States. "The exam board should be commended, not attacked, for exposing students to competing ideas about the origin and development of life."

Go here for more.

[The question asked students to "One question asked students to compare Darwinian evolutionary theories with Lamarckian evolutionary theory, the theory of intelligent design and Biblical creationism." It would only be useful if the students actually knew what all these positions were - distinctively - about. If they did, it would be an excellent way of distinguishing "Darwinism" from "evolution."

I'm told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also chimed in. He was last heard claiming that sharia law might be a good idea. You'd think he would, at some point, get round to his own collapsing church - but only so many hours in a day, after all.]

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New at ARN: David Tyler looks at grousing about science media

On the interplay between science and journalism

by David Tyler

Apparently, journalism faces something of an identity crisis, not least science journalism. The 6th World Conference of Science Journalists was held in London last week. Before it started, it was said that many attendees will be "wondering if this is journalism's swan song". An Editorial in Nature asked whether the role of science journalists is that of cheerleader ("to explain new scientific findings to the masses" and "for making the case for a thriving research enterprise to public and politicians alike") or a watchdog ("to cast a fair but sceptical eye over everything in the public sphere - science included").

[ ... ]

The one question not being asked is: are science journalists letting us down?

[ ... ]

Go here for more. (Tyler kindly quotes me.)

New at ARN: The Intelligent Design Of Animal Behaviors

[Robert Deyes looks at the interesting new Hindu-sponsored ID book, which focuses on the sources of intelligence in nature.]

Synopsis Of The First Chapter Of Nature's IQ By Balazs Hornyansky and Istvan Tasi
ISBN 978-0-9817273-0-1
By Robert Deyes
ARN Correspondent

Ethology, the field of biology that attempts to explain the origins of animal behavioral patterns, has traditionally focused on two possible sources for such patterns- those that are inherited and those that are environmentally induced. For the former of these two, the Darwinian mechanism is that which is most commonly advanced. The underlying axiom barely needs repeating- inherited behaviors have been acquired through gradual changes as a result of environmental selective pressures. In his 1973 Nobel lecture entitled Analogy As A Source Of Knowledge, Konrad Lorenz made his case in favor of the link between Darwinian gradualism and animal behavior. And yet in Nature's IQ, authors Balazs Hornyansky and Istvan Tasi blast such a gradualistic inference and re-interpret the evidence in favor of the intelligent design alternative.

For many key anatomical features found in nature, a necessary behavioral pattern must be present if a desired function is to be fulfilled. The prominent bioluminescent bulb of the anglerfish for example must exhibit a slow waving motion if it is to lure its prey. As Hornyansky and Tasi so vividly illustrate, any intermediate behavior on the way to becoming the fully-fledged comportment we see today, would have been inappropriate and insufficient for catching unsuspecting fry. In effect, anglerfish are endowed with an IQ that must have appeared at once and in parallel with its predatory anatomy if it were to provide any selective advantage.

For more go here.

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Disappearing information

Archived here, as well as in many other places ... A friend writes to say:




Scary! The CRTC is trying to erase the past. They published today a new version of their June 4th decision on the New Media hearing. The only diference between the original decision of June 4th (herewith attached) and the revised one of today, is the deletion of the following paragraph from Timothy Denton's concurring opinion:

"The history of the regulation of speech in this country does not engender confidence that such powers will be used wisely. Canada has experienced several instances in recent times where regulatory commissions of another type and armed with a different mission have challenged the right to say controversial things. The struggles of Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and others have served as important warnings that regulatory authorities charged with combating racism, hatred, and other evils have consistently expanded their mandates, have abused their powers and eroded fundamental liberties. Wherever there is official orthodoxy, disagreement is heresy, and where there is heresy, there is usually an inquisition to root it out. After centuries ridding ourselves of thought control agencies, 20th century Canada re-invented them"

Broadcasting regulatory policy: The Commission replaces the concurring opinion appended to Review of broadcasting in new media, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-329.


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