Garrett (garote) wrote,

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Some notes

This piece, Don't dumb me down, postulates that science is consistently misrepresented in the media. The two main ways this is accomplished are by deferring unjustifiably to the off-hand remarks of an authority figure, or by intentionally dumbing down the scientific content to the point where the information it conveys is no longer useful, even though it provokes a response. Journalists are compelled to do this in pursuit of the all important "interesting story".

A key paragraph in the editorial describes the media's portrait of science like so:
science is about groundless, incomprehensible, didactic truth statements from scientists, who themselves are socially powerful, arbitrary, unelected authority figures. They are detached from reality: they do work that is either wacky, or dangerous, but either way, everything in science is tenuous, contradictory and, most ridiculously, "hard to understand".
Now, I dunno about you, but to me, that sounds like a perfect description of organized religion.

When I first noticed this, I thought to myself, "Ah hah, this says something interesting about our cultural tension between religion and science."
But then I thought: "Wait a second. Maybe what I'm seeing here isn't about religion versus science. Maybe it's about journalism versus anything."

Maybe, in the pursuit of that "interesting story", journalists make everything look inane.

Can I blame journalism for my opinion of religion? How much of my opinion is based on what the media has presented to me: The over-hyped ravings of vocal fringe dwellers, cranky zealots, and loudmouthed busybodies? When's the last time I read an article about a gentle, polite, open-minded fellow who just happens to sit in church every Sunday with his family? Only about as often as I see mainstream science articles that aren't inane parodies of science. Just about never.

Of course, I still maintain that there are fundamental, obvious differences between the scientific community versus any organized religion. Huge differences in priority, structure, and intent. But these entities also claim to speak for a huge middle ground of people, vastly under-represented, their voices mostly unheard. Temperate, thoughtful citizens almost never make for an "interesting story".
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