Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

November 16, 2004

Recommendations: "Blinded By Science", "The Optimism of

I have a couple of article recommendations for you all*: Blinded By Science: How 'Balanced' Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality; The Optimism of Uncertainty. Plus a few small comments…

The issue of "balance" in scientific reporting is one I've noticed for years, particularly with regard to climate change: while maybe 1 out of 100 (probably far fewer) reputable climate scientists think there's nothing to worry about, the reports tend to give equal credit to that 1 as they do to the 1 worried scientist they quote. Completely misleading, and a big reason why this country doesn't seem to understand the ramifications of climate change.

I originally noticed the Blinded By Science article over at WorldChanging, where I left the following comment:

It may be that the best way to counter this is for the scientists to actively call the media out when they give too much credit to scientists who have not passed the peer review muster, who exist on the fringes. So we who have a clue about science should be vigilant and ready to respond with letters to the editor in all times and places.

Conservation biologists in particular are learning that, when it comes to enacting real policies, science cannot ignore the human elements; "objective science" becomes useless without understanding the broader ramifications of scientific findings. Peer review helps keep science pointed in the right direction; expert review (of non peer journalists) should help steer reporting and policy in the right direction.

A friend sent me the second link, whose opening line grabbed me as a very familiar question:

In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy?

Let me add one more quote to assure you of the worthiness of this quick read:

Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.

* That's right, I'm from Texas and I don't say "y'all."