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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Media watch: Statements from scientists as beyond question? Why?

In a recent column on a new book by Tom Bethell, THe Politically incorrect Guide to Science, columnist William Rusher notes:
As Bethell points out in an introduction, science is forever being used, like everything else, to reinforce political viewpoints. Normally, an advocate using something to support his point of view is promptly countered, more or less effectively, by an opponent citing something else that contradicts it. The rest of us can listen, with the help of the media, and decide for ourselves which viewpoint is better supported and therefore deserves to be believed.

But, Bethell notes, "Scientists seem to enjoy a measure of immunity." If a statement is made by a scientist in his professional capacity, non-scientists are afraid to contradict him. Even the media, whom we can usually count on to report opposing points of view, seldom look for information contradicting what a seemingly impartial scientist has declared to be the case.

Yes, that in particular struck me as most intriguing, when I was working on By Design or by Chance? and The Spiritual Brain. Essentially, even if a statement was complete nonsense and/or easily refuted by common observation, few journalists would question it if it came from a scientist. Some of the examples in The Spiritual Brain are downright hilarious.

The best explanation I ever heard is that media pros tend to behave as though it is our job to promote materialism and we ar taught to view science as applied materialism. So we bolster our own status by submissive belief.

But ... "the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said ... "

That said, at least some media pros are starting to ask some serious questions.
If you want to understand why the intelligent design controversy cannot go away, read By Design or by Chance?.

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