Having thrashed around quite about over the last year in the issues raised by Dan Sarewitz’s scientization paper, I’m at a bit of a loss on something. Perhaps y’all can help.
There have been a couple of discussions this week on RealClimate (here and here) about the “false balance” problem – the allegation that journalists seeking to balance their coverage of science controversies create bias by quoting outliers and mainstream scientists, leaving the public with a false impression by giving the outliers greating standing than they deserve in contrast to the mainstream consensus on the issue at hand.
There’s an underlying premise to all this that has been unexamined: that what we in the press write does, in fact, matter. Does it? If so, how do we know? This is not a rhetorical question. Bob, in the comments to a previous post of mine, cited some interesting-looking literature.
In order to figure out how to function as a journalist in this scientized world, I need to figure out how to deal better with these questions. This is a lazyweb request. I know there are some very smart people who occasionally stop by here. Please cite more literature.