Saturday, November 13, 2004

No equal time for science and superstition

Here's an article about the debate over whether the recently discovered Sedna should be described as "a planet." Does anyone consider this article to be "biased" because it doesn't include arguments from those who claim that the sun revolves around earth?

Then why does the media let itself get mau-maued into giving "equal time" to other similarly spurious anti-scientific viewpoints? This useful article shows how the media's well-intentioned efforts to achieve objectivity can get hijacked by the spurious notion that "balanced" means presenting all opinions on any given subject.

But science isn't about opinion. It's about truth. When it comes to science, only viewpoints that have been formed within the cognitive horizon of the scientific method deserve a hearing. As the article concludes:

As a general rule, journalists should treat fringe scientific claims with considerable skepticism, and find out what major peer-reviewed papers or assessments have to say about them. Moreover, they should adhere to the principle that the more outlandish or dramatic the claim, the more skepticism it warrants.
The litmus test case, of course, is media coverage of the "debate" about evolution. That evolution proceeds by natural selection garners at least as much scientific consensus as the claim that the earth revolves around the sun.

Let's be clear: there is no scientific debate about the legitimacy of the theory of evolution. On the one side stands truth, on the other side stands superstition. And any article that reports the so-called "debate" about evolution in any other way is not being objective, it's being either duped or intentionally misleading.

The same standard should be applied to any topic on which the scientific method can help shed light.

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