Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Science and Journalism

Both science and journalism have standards of objective evidence that require adopting a critical stance and exploring alternative explanations for observed events. But objectivity in science is not achieved by exactly the same methods as objectivity in journalism. And in both cases, there is a limit to critical doubt--scientists must trust their observations, even when these are unexpected, and journalists must extend some trust to their sources. Doubting and trusting are both essential elements for countering bias.

Adventures in Science and Ethics reflects on what is happening when journalists question scientific sources excessively
. For one thing, there can be a psychological dance that inhibits trust, in that each party could have an advocacy agenda. That is, scientists--in some cases--may be misconstruing results, intentionally or not. And for their part, journalists--sometimes--may be hoping for a particular angle that would serve their own views or add drama to a story. As Stamwedel points out, discomfort with the uncertainty that is inherent in science may also complicate communication.

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