I just learned his book Signature in the Cell made the top ten list for Amazon science books of 2009. This reinforces a fact that I have long emphasized–conservatives support their authors, promote them on radio (as Michael Medved did yesterday), buy their books in droves, turn them into stars. Liberals and academic scholar and scientists, in general, don’t have the same drive to win the war of ideas. This is why Bjorn Lomborg is always such a big success, for instance, while authors of pro-science climate books regularly struggle to get noticed (unless they are Al Gore with preexisting celebrity).
Now, in the evolution arena, Meyer’s book is clearly drawing a lot of attention and is scarcely being refuted so far as I can see, despite containing some pretty obvious travesties (e.g., in Meyer’s own field, the history of science). So perhaps I had better dive in, as I did on the air yesterday, and describe some problems with Meyer’s arguments and approach. Alas, it is pretty hard to directly refute someone who looks at the currently unsolved question of the origins of life, throws up his hands, and says, it’s so improbable, God must have done it. That’s just not in the scientific spirit. Still, perhaps it is time to take on Meyer’s misinformation, as it is obviously starting to have significant influence…..
I would love to see you or Chris tackle this question – is media coverage where the science is inaccurate better than no media coverage? I fear that inflated claims like the ones in the NYT article may cause the public to discount the whole issue, once they find out that some of the facts are exaggerated or false.
The short answer is, of course, it depends. More science coverage is critically necessary if we’re to foster broader public understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of science, BUT hyperbole and inaccurate stories frequently undermine good intentions.
Before diving in, I’d like to hear from readers… Is inaccurate media coverage of science better than no coverage at all?
I hardly want to lend ammo to those on the other side of the political scientific debates that I so frequently cover. But the new data from Pew are pretty stark: Only 6 percent of scientists describe themselves as Republican. 55 percent describe themselves as Democrats, and 32 percent as independents; which means that scientists skew Dem by a considerable margin when compared to the general population (which claims to be 23 percent GOP, 35 percent DEM).
I think these figures are unsurprising and even justifiable, in that so much anti-science comes from Republicans. I had to deal with one just last night who was attacking both climate science and evolutionary science. And of course, it is not just that Republicans are often anti-science, but that they are often driven by religious motivations to be so. Scientists, by contrast, are a very, very strongly secular group.
Whatever else you may say about these figures, it is unfortunate that they play directly into the culture war. If conservative pundits want to wrongly dismiss science as a liberal atheist plot, I guess I know what they’ll be citing….