I was going to post something about the recent BBC Horizon episode “Science Under Attack” but I held off as I needed to calm down after witnessing, in my humble opinion, the bizarre behaviour of Daily Telegraph journalist James Delingpole. Well, I’ve calmed down now and have seen that richarddawkins.net has some commentary on this so I’d recommend people to go there and contribute to a very interesting discussion.
I would just like to add that, after slagging off the general state of Horizon a while ago, I was most impressed with this week’s episode “Science Under Attack”. It looks as if someone at the BBC has been putting some hard work into making Horizon a premier science documentary again. Well done BBC.
The main point about “Science Under Attack” is that the scientific community needs to become a bit more media-savvy. This is especially important when cranks and kooks, with their siren songs of unreason, get equal or more air-time than true science. And, as Ben Goldacre so wonderfully explains in his book Bad Science, the public have a warped idea of what a scientist is and this is reinforced by the behaviour of the media such as when a newspaper reports “scientists have come up with an equation that indicates that your best chance to meet your most compatible partner is on the first Friday after a public holiday” or other such nonsense. Science is not decided by journalists; there are established processes, the scientific method, presentation of evidence, peer review, etc. It isn’t done in the headlines of a newspaper. But at the same time, science needs to be more inclusive of the general populace. And that’s a real challenge.
The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
- Carl Sagan