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The Sorry State of Science Reporting

September 10, 2007

New technology drives out old technology. As often as not, its impact is not known until many years after its introduction. Meanwhile, we live our lives day to day.

This is what is happening to the business of publishing newspapers and magazines, places where, traditionally, writers have earned a living. In an article in the summer edition of the newsletter of The National Association of Science Writers, the headline read "Reporting withers while information explodes." The author, Stuart F. Brown, like easily 85% or more of the NASW membership, myself included, is a freelance writer.

"As the number of readers who turn to the Internet for their news has boomed, the business equation in publishing has pretty much collapsed," said Brown. "So we find ourselves in the curious situation of living in a society that increasingly runs on technology and information-while witnessing the withering of the original reporting that tells us what's going on."

It's worse than a "curious situation." A society dependent on technology and science really needs to understand it in some fashion and most Americans haven't a clue. This leaves them vulnerable to a lot of bad or "junk" science news. In the past, there were full-time science writers on the staffs of the nation's newspapers who made the phone calls, did the interviews, collected the data, and explained it to us.

In the same issue of the NASW newsletter, Charles Petit, a former NASW president, wrote "The Science Beat: Uh Oh, Another One Bites the Dust." After a 35-year career on the science beat for various media, Petit took a buyout from U.S. News & World Report in 2004 when it scrapped its science unit, but retained health and medicine writers. "Full-time, traditional-media science reporters covering breaking news are growing scarcer."

Among those traditional media retaining science reporters, Petit cited Reuters, the international newswire. That caught my eye because, along with the Associated Press, both of these dominant news services have served up a full plate of skewed science reporting. This has been particularly true in the way "global warming" has been reported.

Writing for the American Thinker.com on August 10, James Lewis provided an article, "Twisting Science to Fit the Global Warming Template", in which he meticulously dissected the way a Reuters story reversed the actual message of an article in Science magazine that "contained devastating information of flaws in the doomsters methodology and warned that the disaster (global warming) had been postponed." Lewis noted, "the Science article itself is an artful retreat from previous, over-confident global warming predictions." The article noted that "natural variations" in the planet's climate have been ignored for decades by the model-makers.

The public is only now beginning to understand that virtually all of the computer models used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other sources for predictions about global warming have been seriously in error, often by deliberate design and intention. Some of the models ignored the mini-Ice Age of 1300 to 1800. Others declared 1998 as the hottest year of the last century when it was actually 1934, during a time famed for its droughts and dustbowls.

Joining in this massive hoax have been the broad contingent of mainstream media that has breathlessly reported that virtually every natural climate event has been the result of global warming and that we are all doomed.

The most recent and egregious example was Newsweek magazine that attacked what it called global warming "deniers" in a cover story replete with errors. It was so bad that, a week later, one of its own editors, Robert J. Samuelson, took the magazine to task for claiming that a "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." Samuelson called it "a peripheral and highly contrived story."

Petit says that, "the fabric of mainstream reporting of breaking science news is frayed, not shredded."

From my point of view, however, after a steady diet of so-called science news telling us that everything we eat, drink and breath is going to kill us and, if that doesn't do it, the melting of the North and South Poles, the rise of oceans, the spread of deserts, and the death of just about every known species of animal, the credibility of science reporting in the mainstream media has suffered some serious body blows.

For our skepticism, those of us who have disputed the endless lies about global warming have been labeled "deniers" in much the same way as those who dispute the Holocaust. This is not by accident. The use of the word "deniers" has opened the door for Robert Kennedy, Jr. to accuse us of being "traitors" and for the Weather Channel's ordained expert on global warming to suggest that any meteorologist who disagrees should have their certification taken away. This is the stuff of despotism.

"What most people don't know is that real science is a giant debating society, filled with skeptics," says Lewis. "It is only mature science that is stable and agreed-upon. But mature science comes only after centuries of cumulative evidence, and constant, heated debate."

Declaring that a "consensus" exists among all the scientists of the world that global warming is occurring is a lie. Twisting the results of a Science magazine report to reflect the opposite of its findings is a lie. Producing a "documentary" called "An Inconvenient Truth" filled with distortions and lies deserves censure, not mandatory showings in all the schools of the nation.

The federal government has spent billions to determine if global warming exists. So far it has not found any credible evidence for this dubious theory. Worse yet is the writing of laws in Congress that are based on this flawed and false "science of global warming" that will drive up the cost of everything on which our economy depends. That is a criminal misuse of the powers allocated to elected representatives.

As for the "science" you read about in the mainstream media these days, the rule of thumb is caveat emptor, buyer beware.

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Copyright ©2007 Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.