17 December 2007
Science is losing the media war...
In the conflict over extremist ideology, the United States is still behind the power curve when it comes to matching information and propaganda. This is not a good thing as any struggle is almost always won or lost first in the minds of the contenders. The same battle is being fought in the political arena, with claim and counter-claim being launched in all avenues of the media world. Regrettably, the greatest battle is being fought in the realm of scientific education and information.
A recent survey, for example, conducted by the University of Toronto identified the number of YouTube videos on vaccination and immunization and categorized them as to their perceived slant. Disappointingly, the overwhelming view was negative. This on a topic of science which has proven its efficacy and safety to the human species for nearly a century.
Like the perpetual pleas for money from Nigeria and bogus internet virus alerts, anti-science luddites continue to dominate the media war with half-truths, cherry picked data and emotionally charged claims. Science, a methodical process can not keep up. And so the slight defense of "full disclosure" falls to a handful of dedicated scientists, journalists and skeptics who doggedly point out logical flaws, falsehoods and other inconsistencies in the scaremongers tactics. And for their efforts, they are labeled "obstructionists" and worse.
The problem is compounded by a public mistrust of authority - blossoming in the 1960s. And a desire for solutions to really challenging problems. We are a hopeful animal and will stake our tents in any camp which promises answers to questions which keep us up at night, even if those answers are wrong.
NOTE - The short article is here
UPDATE - Why is this important you ask? In our post-modern anything goes, relatavist world shouldn't alternate (even minority) views be considered? The answer simply is no. It is all well and good to consider and debate fringe ideas, but to act on them is foolhardy in the extreme. Sen. Diane Feinstein, from the uber-nanny state of California, proposes to ban a set of key chemicals essential to the manufacture of plastics. Why, you may ask? Because of a misplaced fear of possible harm which is unsupported by science! This possible national legislation will have far reaching and unintended consequences from toy makers to dialysis patients.
Holy crap - do some research!