Journalism, Science, and Climate Change

5academicsAlthough promotion of ideology is not the journalist’s tradition, few objective observers would question the liberal bias of most of today’s news media. The role of journalism, and why freedom of the press is enshrined in our Constitution, is to be skeptical. Journalists protect the public by holding politicians’ feet to the fire by questioning actions and reporting consequences. Journalists were the watchdogs of the public interest back in the day when journalism viewed itself as a safeguard rather than cheerleader. Where did journalism go wrong? Maybe it began with science.

I found an intriguing article on my Twitter feed from Creation Evolution Headlines (CEH). CEH writes, “When science journalism was advanced in the 1920s, it had a choice, says Michael Schulson in the Pacific Standard. Reporters were filled with the spirit of progress that was in the air. Scientists were viewed as pioneers moving into a new world.” The choice that journalism had was to be a watchdog or a cheerleader for science. They chose cheerleader. It wasn’t an obviously wrong or unethical choice. Science was becoming increasingly technical and specialized, and journalists could offer a valuable service by interpreting the scientific language and making it more accessible to the general public. It was a small step from explaining science theories to advocating them, sometimes beyond what they deserved.

Here is an example. I was watching the Science Channel as their journalists tried to explain the origin of water on earth. Since many scientists believe the earth started as a molten ball of rock, there was no way for liquid water to exist on the planet. Since establishment science refuses to acknowledge the possibility of creation or intelligent design, they discount the idea that the planet could have been designed to be inhabited with ample water. Therefore, the program’s writers spent twenty minutes explaining how all the water on earth came from comets dislodged from the Kuiper Belt. Finally, someone admitted that it would take millions of stray comets to deliver all the water in our oceans, but they stopped short of saying it was a ridiculous idea. They stopped short because the ridiculous idea was a fairly mainstream scientific one, and scientists are never to be questioned… and certainly not to be thought of as ridiculous.

When journalists report uncritically about the speculative ideas put out by scientists, they leave the public vulnerable to manipulation because many scientific ideas are loaded with philosophical baggage. Climate change is one such idea that is promoted largely by leftist ideology. Their philosophy is that government must control human activity, and their leverage is that the world will end through climate change unless we all give up our freedoms to central control. Instead of applying reasonable skepticism to the claims of climate change advocates, science journalists have become such proponents that they ruthlessly suppress the many climate scientists who present evidence refuting man-made climate influences. And so, the general public goes along with the global program of wealth redistribution and technological regulation because a fair hearing isn’t given to dissenting views.

The advocacy role of journalism had its earliest beginnings in the creation/evolution controversy decades ago when a few news reporters exploited the the conflict between evolution and creation and framed it as science versus religion. The journalism establishment then began promoting scientific speculation indiscriminately in every area of science without questioning the underlying assumptions of each new assertion. As a result, journalists have become advocates in every area of reporting, forcing individuals to pick and choose their favored bias for reporting. If you’re a conservative, watch Fox News. If you’re a progressive, watch MSNBC. The result is polarization rather than rational discussion and resolution, the direct result of journalism that editorializes rather than reporting events in an analytical way to encourages the public to evaluate and make informed decisions.

So the next time you watch the Science Channel, be your own skeptic asking yourself the questions that the journalists won’t ask. When you hear someone present a well-reasoned objection to climate change, don’t just dismiss the person as a “denier” or as paid off by the petroleum industry. Dig deeper yourself, because journalists seldom do.