Darwin Day Lecture

How the big bang explains your sex life:
The disconnect between science and the media

Science is often inconvenient for journalists. Scientists insist on talking about background literature, replication, and the caveats and nuances of their findings in language peppered with ugly terms and impossible acronyms. Journalists then work black magic to turn years of research into bite-sized stories, sprinkled with puns and a dollop of mind-blowing principle. In the balancing act between scientists and their audience, journalists have to take care neither to overstate results, nor leave their consumers feeling nothing. This act is growing more treacherous as 24/7 news cycles and a limitless Web demand more and more information in a way that never quite satisfies the modern media’s appetite for new, heavy-hitting headlines.

In this year’s Darwin Day Lecture at McGill University (February 10th, 2013), Dr. Carpenter talked about the perils of pithiness in science writing, and discussed a handful of cases where science was misrepresented in the media because of pressure to make the information snappier. She also examined why journalists and their audiences are often seduced by scientism — the belief that science, and the scientific method, alone can explain everything about the world, and reviewed
the consequences of this seduction.

:: Link to full talk abstract and coverage ::