Thanks to reader Jeff Brown of Nuremberg for contributing this info from the German language media:
Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine, organized an interview with three university professors last week: Dr. Ernst Peter Fischer, professor for the History of Science at the University of Heidelberg, Dr. Holger Wormer, professor for Journalism at the University of Dortmund (who also studied Chemistry), and Dr. Corinna Lüthje, professor for Communications at the Technical University of Dresden. Though not necessarily intended, the discussion gave a good counter, from scientists, to those people (atheist and otherwise), who have been asserting for years that science, not religion has the truth.
[Look, Jeff, if they meant pop science writers, just say so. Agreed! – ed.]
The three academicians were selected because their concentrations of study and teaching. The subject of the interview was about communicating science to the public through the media. It is a struggle, particularly since science is about research and theory, not about action and personalities. So far, the professors are not highly impressed with how the media have been doing, and that includes not only television, but science blogs as well.
And the media are altogether too credulous. In one particular instance, Dr. Lüthje tells us, one Austrian science journalist said to her, “Please understand me, I just can’t criticize a professor.”
One problem, they find, is that scientists are too infrequently questioned about the substance of their claims and research. Because of increased pressure to justify research, Dr. Wormer noted, we now have scientific advertising. And the media are altogether too credulous. In one particular instance, Dr. Lüthje tells us, one Austrian science journalist said to her, “Please understand me, I just can’t criticize a professor.” Dr. Fischer added that there is an unnecessary hierarchy in the scientific field. “We need more journalists who will pose critical questions to Nobel Prize winners,” he said.
Der Spiegel protested all of this discussion with the statement, that what they hear is that “journalists want to earn money, whereas scientists are only seeking the truth.” This brought loud guffaws from all three. “Scientists,” answered Dr. Fischer, “want success; they want a wife, a hotel room, an invitation, or perhaps a car! Let’s leave the truth where it is: with the theologians, or with God himself.”
One cannot help appreciating the unusual candor. It is downright refreshing. Here are people in the scientific world, specializing in communication of science to the public, who are urgently calling for more critical thinking and questioning in their area of endeavor. No one in the interview would say that there is no truth to science. But these people also tell us that truth is not the domain of science, it is the domain of God. The assertion is so unexpected in this kind of interview, that it is almost breathtaking. Well done professors!
“Wissenschaft in den Medien” Spiegel Online , February 15, 2015.
Note 1: Jeff Brown has also provided us with a review of James Davies’Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm than Good. Worth a read too.
Note 2: Your editor, O’Leary for News, is surprised to hear that journalists are in it for the money. Never heard where they were paid good (except for legacy US TV celebs, whose ratings plummet faster than their salaries rise, and DON’T ask about their truth-o-meter [some of them have seen more action than the Navy Seals – if you will believe them]).
The worse sort of journalist is usually more motivated by a desire to drink with and talk up (or down) Important Folk. Sure, his shoes are full of holes and his liver is shot to blazes—but the Big Bug and the Fat Cat still take his calls. One day he may get to interview Selfie himself. So that hack is as close to heaven as he is going to get.
No, that is not what the field is supposed to be, but too often where it is. Remember this when a local journo-pundit holds forth against design in nature, clearly revealing that he has an agenda but no further information. And has no curiosity and does not sense the need for any.
Note 3: “one Austrian science journalist said to her, “Please understand me, I just can’t criticize a professor.” Aw, come on! Those science journalists could be all over a professor – like thugs over a drunk pensioner – if he said that the most reasonable explanation of fine tuning in the universe is design rather than a multiverse. Or that Darwinism (or “the neo-Darwinian synthesis” or the”extended synthesis”) is basically a cultural phenomenon now, not science, so far as evolution is concerned.
But maybe the prof knows enough not to say that. He can be sure of one thing. The journos wouldn’t think of taking the evidence seriously.
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