Science Writers: They Made Their Choice

“Just take the money, and see what you’re supposed to see.”

From Why Are Science Reporters So Credulous? by David Klinghoffer

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The credulousness of science journalists is remarkable. Their reporting, almost as a rule, seems more like they are crafting a press release than objectively probing the claims of their subjects, namely scientists. Although mainstream journalism as a whole has come increasingly to resemble state propaganda, there is at least, sometimes, a semblance of skepticism. What is it, then, with science reporters?

Nicholas Wade is a former science editor for the New York Times, so he might well have some insights on that. Writing for City Journal, he asks, “Journalists, or PR Agents?” The context for his comments is reporting about the origins of the COVID-19 virus. (On that, see Cornelius Hunter, “COVID-19 Meets Intelligent Design,” who also cites Wade.) But what he says applies even more so to reporting on evolution.

“The Temple of Science”

Wade writes, “Unlike most journalists, science writers seldom consider the motives of their sources.” That’s true. But why?

Innocent of most journalists’ skepticism about human motives, science writers regard scientists, their authoritative sources, as too Olympian ever to be moved by trivial matters of self-interest. Their daily job is to relay claims of impressive new discoveries, such as advances toward curing cancer or making paralyzed rats walk. Most of these claims come to nothing — research is not an efficient process — but science writers and scientists alike benefit from creating a stream of pleasant illusions. The journalists get their stories, while media coverage helps researchers attract government grants.

Dulled by the advantages of this collusion, science writers pay little attention to in-house problems that seriously detract from the credibility of the scientific research enterprise, such as the astounding fact that less than half the high-profile findings in some fields can be replicated in other laboratories. Fraud and error in scientific papers are hard to detect, yet nonetheless some 32,000 papers have been retracted for various reasons. The reliability of scientific claims is a formidable problem but one of strangely little interest to many science writers.

If the Covid virus should be found to have indeed escaped from a lab in Wuhan, a tidal wave of public rage may shake the temple of science to its foundations. It’s in reflection of their sources’ interests — though political polarization is also involved — that science writers jump on any evidence favoring natural emergence and ignore everything that points toward a lab leak.

Science writers need to decide whether their duty lies to their readers or to their sources. One choice makes them real journalists, the other just unaccredited PR agents for the scientific community. [Emphasis added.]

They’ve Made Their Choice

Most science reporters who write about evolution appear to have made their choice to be flacks and toadies for the godlike biologists, who are “too Olympian ever to be moved by trivial matters of self-interest.” That an entire field in journalism should be underlain by a such a wild misjudgment about human nature is worthy of note. 

If, or when, design should overtake blind Darwinian processes as the favored explanation for biological complexity, what Nicholas Wade calls the “temple of science” would really and truly be rocked. Regarding the origins of that complexity, protecting “their sources’ interests” explains why reporting about evolutionary biology needs such intense scrutiny.

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It is best to assume that mainstream jurnos will never question Darwin.

What is substantially more likely to happen is that scientists (and the leading philosophers of the West) will decide that Darwin is no longer scientifically tenable… and the scribes will be left chasing after their wake.

Other Men, Same Choice

Note that this shift will have little or nothing to do with mainstream or even evangelical Christianity, which made its peace with Darwin, Atheism & Secularism long ago.

Atheists aren’t the only ones who detest the Law of God.

I bet Atheists weren’t the first to deeply desire a wholesale elimination of the Law from the public ethos of the West, either.

Even after Darwin is dumped, I don’t believe that the Western intelligentsia will hunger for Biblical righteousness and justice for the weak and the poor.

Hardly.

Instead, they will want to maintain their comfortable lifestyles… which they can’t do with a rapidly aging population and failing tax haul, or a disintegrating culture, or a delegitimized political class and it’s bankrupt welfare state.

So, it’s on to panentheism – the godhood of the sentient universe – maybe with a bit of Gaia worship, as well.

Some new intellectual/spiritual prop to get more people to breed and obey their Betters, as the welfare state, the god of the age, collapses around their ears.

With the mainline Christian clergy dutifully trotting behind, in obedience to whatever the secularist philosophers are saying today. Just as they did with Aristotle and Plato, or Kant and Darwin, or Hegel and Rawls.

As for actually believing Christians, working to expand the Kingdom of God, placing Divine definitions of Righteous and Justice above political and economic comforts of obeying Our Bettes?

We will have to walk a different, harder, better road than the Establishment go-fers — journalistic or religious — have chosen.

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