Evolution in the News - March 2017
by Do-While Jones

Fake Science Journalism

The American Council on Science and Health says science journalism is worse than journalism as a whole.

If you think we were too hard on fake science in the previous article, please listen to what the respected journal, Nature, has to say.

There has been much gnashing of teeth in the science-journalism community this week, with the release of an infographic that claims to rate the best and worst sites for scientific news. According to the American Council on Science and Health, which helped to prepare the ranking, the field is in a shoddy state. “If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is),” says the council, “science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism”.

News aggregator RealClearScience, which also worked on the analysis, goes further: “Much of science reporting is a morass of ideologically driven junk science, hyped research, or thick, technical jargon that almost no one can understand”. 1

They published this “infographic” which has “good” science sources in the upper left and the “bad” ones in the lower right corner.

Modesty (almost) prevents us from naming the publication graded highest on both (okay, it’s Nature), but some names are lower than they would like. Big hitters including The New York TimesThe Washington Post and The Guardian score relatively poorly. …

Mainstream science reporters have typically taken peer review as an official stamp of approval from the research community that a published finding is sufficiently robust to share with their readers. Yet this kind of evidence-based reporting is only as reliable as the evidence it reports on. And many scientists would complain (even if only among themselves) that some published studies, especially those that draw press attention, are themselves vulnerable to bias and sensationalism. 2

Fake science journalism is a problem recognized by professional scientists.

We believe the main problems with fake science (bias and sensationalism) are especially bad when it comes to reporting on the theory of evolution.

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Footnotes:

1 http://www.nature.com/news/science-journalism-can-be-evidence-based-compelling-and-wrong-1.21591
2 ibid.