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2002-Jun-16, 01:23 AM
I discovered that our beloved http://www.badastronomy.com is actually mentioned in "Science and Engineering Indicators - 2002".

Itīs in Chapter 7, in the section called "Relationships Between Science and Pseudoscience":

http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/c7/c7s5.htm#c7s5l2

Some quotes:

"Is Belief in Pseudoscience Harmful?

Concerns have been raised, especially in the science community, about widespread belief in pseudoscientific phenomena.[52]
Scientists and others believe that the media, and in particular, the entertainment industry, may be at least partially responsible for the large numbers of people who believe in astrology, ESP, alien abductions, and other forms of pseudoscience.[53] Because not everyone who watches shows with pseudoscientific themes perceives such fare as merely entertaining fiction, there is concern that the unchallenged manner in which some mainstream media portray pseudoscientific phenomena is exacerbating the problem and contributing to the public's scientific illiteracy.[54] Belief in pseudoscience may indicate a lack of critical thinking skills (Maienschein et al., 1999)."

.... and then comes the part, when http://www.badastronomy.com is mentioned:

"How Are Policymakers and Scientists Confronting Public Belief in Pseudoscience?

Members of the science policymaking community concerned about scientific literacy among the general public tend to focus on improving the quality of formal science and mathematics education, usually at the precollege level, and the communication of science-related information to adults, for example, media coverage of topical issues such as biotechnology and global warming. Special committees at both the NSF and the National Academy of Sciences have been studying how to improve the latter. Several reports have been issued (National Science Board 2000). All of these endeavors seem to be directed at how to increase media coverage of science. However, none of the reports addresses the subject of miscommunication of science by the media. Most of this miscommunication involved the promotion of pseudoscience and the inaccurate portrayal of the scientific process.

A recent example of this miscommunication was the purported documentary, shown on the Fox Network, "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?"[56] Astronomers and other members of the scientific community were highly critical of the way science (and everything else) was portrayed on the show.[57] However, the program was so popular with the public it was repeated twice within a six-month period.[58]"

Note 56, 57 and 58 reads as follows:

"[56] The program first aired on February 15, 2001, and was repeated on March 21, 2001.

[57] A comprehensive critique of this program can be found at http://www.badastronomy.com

[58] A 1999 Gallup poll showed that about 6 percent of Americans have doubts about the moon landing; the Fox show claimed the number is 20 percent."

The URL for the above is, as previously mentioned:

http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/c7/c7s5.htm#c7s5l2


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Cyberspaced on 2002-06-15 21:41 ]</font>

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Jun-16, 12:03 PM
On 2002-06-15 21:23, Cyberspaced wrote:
Scientists and others believe that the media, and in particular, the entertainment industry, may be at least partially responsible for the large numbers of people who believe in astrology, ESP, alien abductions, and other forms of pseudoscience.

I would have to disagree with this--except they used the weasel word "partially" in front of "responsible". Could that partial part be 99%, or could it be .01%? Blaming the media for a problem is outrageous. Let's focus on individuals, and individual instances of error.

Footnote number 48 is interesting--the main text points out that "one study found a strong relationship between preference for science fiction novels and support for the space program," and the appended footnote said "The same study also found that students who read science fiction are much more likely than other students to believe that contacting extraterrestrial civilizations is both possible and desirable." I think they intended that to be a contrast--how science fiction can promote both good and bad attitudes, but I consider it all good.

beskeptical
2002-Jun-18, 07:34 AM
On 2002-06-16 08:03, GrapesOfWrath wrote:
Blaming the media for a problem is outrageous. Let's focus on individuals, and individual instances of error.


I think the problem is much deeper. If we don't address the underlying education in schools in the US, (I couldn't speak for schools in other countries), I doubt anything will change. Kids are not being taught how to interpret research, how to find and recognize valid information, nor how to tell the difference between coincidence, association, and cause and effect.

I think the media are truly just as misinformed as everyone else. Certainly the bottom line results in a lot of garbage TV, don't get me wrong. But when I hear the newscasters or read the reporters pieces, I see just as much pseudoscience and science errors straight from the sources' mouths. I used to wonder how many newscasters actually had high school diplomas. Now I see the diploma doesn't matter anyway.

Jim
2002-Jun-18, 12:48 PM
On 2002-06-16 08:03, GrapesOfWrath wrote:
Blaming the media for a problem is outrageous. Let's focus on individuals, and individual instances of error.



On 2002-06-18 03:34, beskeptical wrote:
I think the problem is much deeper. If we don't address the underlying education in schools ...

I think the media are truly just as misinformed as everyone else. ... I used to wonder how many newscasters actually had high school diplomas. Now I see the diploma doesn't matter anyway.


True, we can't place all the blame on the media, BUT...

The media serve a very important function in any society. They provide a window on the world (I just came up with that!). It is incumbent on them to make sure the window is clean and distortion free when presenting "facts."

To do this in the area of science and technology reporting, it would help if the reporters actually had a basic understanding of the topics. But that is not always a requirement. Look at all the former jocks reporting sports. Now look at all the trained scientists and engineers reporting science and engineering.

Add to this the desperate need of any reporter to get published or broadcast, to claim inches in print or minutes on the air. That leads them to using sound bytes and catch (and catchy) phrases and spectacular (and often misleading) headlines or lead ins. (Remember the discussion on "Was Einstein wrong?")

So, what can we do about it?

1. Make sure our local school boards know we want our children educated in the sciences and - most importantly - in the ability to think critically and for themselves.

2. Correct the media every time they go astray. (Reporters in any medium love having a knowledgable source willing to share that knowledge. Contact them often enough and politely enough and they may start coming to you first.)

3. Use forums (fora?) like this to correct/rebut bad science. Go on bad science forums and correct them. You may not change the source of that bad science, but you will present its audience with a better alternative.

I'm through. Who wants the soapbox?

pvtpylot
2002-Jun-18, 02:58 PM
On 2002-06-18 08:48, Jim wrote:
The media serve a very important function in any society. They provide a window on the world (I just came up with that!). It is incumbent on them to make sure the window is clean and distortion free when presenting "facts."

To do this in the area of science and technology reporting, it would help if the reporters actually had a basic understanding of the topics. But that is not always a requirement. Look at all the former jocks reporting sports. Now look at all the trained scientists and engineers reporting science and engineering.

Thing is, though, is that in the US the only thing truly incumbant on the media outlets is to produce ratings that allow for profitable advertising rates so they can satisfy their shareholders. If a little social responsibility can get thrown in the mix so much the better, but the rules of capitalism still apply above all else. Since the majority of the US public seems totally uninterested in supporting any form of publicly funded media we're stuck with the moral problems inherent in a for-profit system. Of course, one of the advantages of such a system is that the public as a whole is ultimately responsible for what gets shown. If the Fox moon hoax special had been a ratings disaster you can bet that would have been the last we'd have seen of that subject on the networks. Unfortunately, it wasn't, so now programming execs at all the networks are doing what good business people anywhere do; trying to make more money off of a proven success.

JayUtah
2002-Jun-18, 03:29 PM
One look at daytime television will confirm that controversy and conflict are more entertaining than reason and fact. The entertainment industry knows where its bread is buttered. They give crackpots like Bart Sibrel air time because people will tune in to see people express far-out opinions, regardless of whether those opinions are real or sufficiently supported.

Modern journalism has introduced the "news feature" -- an essay which purports to report a fact or raise an issue that is not necessarily time-critical. This is because a lot of news today exists in a regular, fixed format. Your local television station is committed to producing a certain fixed number of hours of news programming every day, even on slow news days. While that format expands on days like Sept. 11, 2001, it never contracts. And so you have a four-minute feature on Fluffy, the back-flipping dog or the Antarctican Civil Liberties Union.

And these news features provide other advantages. Because news must compete with entertainment in many media, news must be made more entertaining in order to retain its market share. So "scare" headlines like, "Was Einstein Wrong?" and "Did We Really Land on the Moon?" ensure that the viewer will remain tuned in through the impending commercials and see just what's behind that headline.

The problem is not so much that the mainstream media in the United States has become a cesspool of sensationalism. The problem is that the mental acuity of the average media consumer has been dulled to the point where he can be told practically anything over the airwaves with almost complete assurance that he will believe it.

Our population simply lacks appropriate critical thinking skills.

pvtpylot
2002-Jun-18, 04:00 PM
On 2002-06-18 11:29, JayUtah wrote:
The problem is not so much that the mainstream media in the United States has become a cesspool of sensationalism. The problem is that the mental acuity of the average media consumer has been dulled to the point where he can be told practically anything over the airwaves with almost complete assurance that he will believe it.

Our population simply lacks appropriate critical thinking skills.


Of course, this is by no means a new phenomenon. At the beginning of the last century we faught a war in large part due to public outcry stirred up by sensationlist and a mostly incorrect reporting of events in Cuba.

Our population not only lacks critical thinking skills, but seems to almost take pride in their gullibility. How many times do you hear the term "skeptic" used with derision in the general populace, or hear someone proudly boasting of having an "open mind"?