Daily Archives: October 19, 2006

Bad science != bad reporting

Various science bloggers seem to be enraged by this BBC Science story, speculating on the future evolution of humans. The science is certainly flawed and the credentials of the researcher might be questionable, but I’d like people to take a moment before they launch into media bashing:

  • The claims in the story are not presented as fact or common consensus – the opening paragraph makes it clear that they are the views of one individual. Admittedly, he is described as an “expert” and later, an “evolutionary theorist”, but it’s clear that he works at the LSE, not in biological science.
  • The story concludes: “He carried out the report for men’s satellite TV channel Bravo.” This subtly suggests that the tone of the article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken too seriously. I think a few people have missed that subtlety.
  • There is a lot of bad science reporting but in general, BBC Science News is way ahead of other mainstream media outlets when it comes to content, accuracy, promptness and general interest. I wouldn’t use one slip-up as an argument that all popular science reporting is awful. I think on the whole, the BBC is far better than say, New Scientist.
  • In my experience, the BBC website is excellent at correcting errors and responding to feedback. I have occasionally pointed out errors that have been corrected the same day. By contrast, feedback from the ABC has taken 4-6 weeks*. So if you don’t like it, complain.

* Yes, I’m a pedantic nerd who occasionally submits comments to news websites.