Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Science Journalism

Scientists often enlist the help of journalists to communicate their exciting reasearch and discovery in popular media outlets. These journalists attempt to make difficult concepts accessible and fascinating to the layperson. More often than not, the journalists are not scientists. Even so, this arrangement has advantages for both the scientists and the public.

In a speech to the Association of Science Writers in Washington, D. C., John H. Marburger III, presidential adviser and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, acknowledged that "science writers are part of the machinery of science itself, and bear some responsibility, along with the scientists themselves, for getting it right." He reminded the journalists of the "serious problems" they face as they write on "a subject that is not well defined." The danger of exploitation "by many contending and overlapping factions within society" is a very real danger for science journalists.

Marburger counselled the science writers that the language of science is arcane. Since language carries with it a world view, objectivity is necessary as science is explained to the public. Confusion between theory and what is really happening leads to the temptation to inject one's own experience and prejudice into the communication medium. Advocacy power games are easy to play: vindicating the underdog, becoming overly sentimental, or magnifying perceived abuses, for example. Finally, science journalists are challenged more by explaining how science works than by science's actual content.

Several dozen writers of Holy Scripture may have faced similar challenges in conveying their messages. God-inspired scripture is the backbone of special revelation, the written revelation of God to humanity. This was achieved even though individual literary styles were manifest in their writings. Scripture authors reveal who God is and what He wants man to know about Himself.

The task of science journalists is not nearly so lofty. However, accuracy, precision, and conveyance of truth are paramount goals. When discovering the God-authored truth about the workings of nature's laws, scientists work within strict procedural guidelines. Gifted journalists who convey the truth and significance of scientific discoveries to the public must also strive for adherence to strict guidelines