Here’s something I wrote elsewhere which I want to shout as loudly as I can. Cherry-Picking the Science (scroll down to what is right now the third item, sorry, no permalinks to this blog so in a few days it’ll be off the bottom):
Reading the sometimes vociferous debate over the last couple weeks about global climate change in the comment sections of David Appell’s excellent blog has reminded me of the journalistic minefield presented by these sort of debates.
There are a number of topics like this – the evolotion/creation debate comes to mind, as well as the debate over the risks of low-dose radiation exposure and the safety of genetically modified foods. In each of these cases, there is a relatively well established scientific consensus about a particular view (a clearly unassailable consensus in the case of evolution). But in any interesting scientific debate, there are outliers – serious scientists who disagree with the consensus, or who pick at the questions that the consensus view cannot answer.
It is the same in relativity theory or quantum mechanics, too, those niggling little outliers swimming against the stream. But in relativity and quantum mechanics, there is no political question linked to the outcome of the scientific debate. And that’s where the cherry-picking comes in.