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Friday, May 01, 2009

Media: Crisis in science media?

I received this press release from NOVA:
Please check your local listings as show times and dates may vary.

NOVA's Senior Science Editor speaks at symposium

In conjunction with the Cambridge Science Festival, NOVA's Senior Science Editor Evan Hadingham spoke at the MIT museum on Tuesday night as part of a symposium on the future of science journalism. Evan joined New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, NYT Environmental Reporter Andrew Revkin, Scientific American Managing Editor Ivan Oransky, and Director of MIT's Knight Science Journalism Fellowships Phil Hilts. The panelists discussed the rapid growth of new media, the 24/7 news cycle, and how declining resources have provoked a crisis in the traditional print and electronic news media, raising questions about the future of high quality journalism. They also touched on the challenges and opportunities ahead in multimedia coverage and specialized reporting of science, health, the environment and technology.
All I can say is:

Hey, wakey, wakey. Freelancers have been soldiering through these problems for years.

There never was much "high quality journalism" on far too much of much of the science beat. Much of it was "[Darwinian] Evolution explains on Valentine's Day why you 'cheatie on your sweetie!'" - and a virtual Niagara Falls of similar nonsense.

Obviously, I grieve when people lose their jobs (what decent person wouldn't?), but if that stuff just disappeared, the world would not really be worse off.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Science: Another scientist harassed for "incorrect" views

A scientist friend writes to say,
I am a part of an email list of scientists—another is just beginning an "enquiry" because he committed the crime of loaning DVDs on ID to colleagues who wanted them. No one complained of being harassed, but the person’s views are "incorrect."
Well, that wouldn't be any news to a Canadian, believe me.

Pardon me a digression. If you are an American, you will need to learn to deal with this problem, because some people will want to ride out the recession by getting a government job bossing you around:

People you don't know can probably complain on your behalf, and get you in trouble just for wanting to know what is going on.

Think of all the Canadian Muslims who didn't really care much one way or the other about Mark Steyn's famous article in Maclean's Magazine. But the Canadian Islamic Congress (not to be confused with the much bigger and more representative Muslim Canadian Congress) went after him in three different jurisdictions for hate speech (and in an amazing display, lost out on all their cases, while costing the defendants vast sums of money. The defendants must pay but the CIC is funded by government.).

I don't happen to agree with Steyn's position on this subject (principally because I have heard the same sort of birth rate fears from Philip Longman about Christian and Mormon populations in North America - and we Christians and Mormons have been around long enough to know that it isn't true - but that's a story for another day). But the idea that Steyn would not be allowed to say it is an affront to civilization. Anyway, my friend goes on to say,
Someone else sent the following.

An item in the September 25/08 issue of Nature had an interesting item relevant to these events.

The item was part of an article entitled "Which science book should the next US president read?" (pp. 464-467)

Several prominent scientists recommended such books as The Blind Watchmaker.

Well known palaeontologist Kevin Padian recommended a book called Undermining Science by Seth Shulman.

In this context Padian remarked: "Democratic candidate Barack Obama might use Shulman's book to discover which recent science-agency appointees passed the test of right-wing fealty rather than of scientific objectivity.... the present administration [Bush] has sown loyalists of questionable competence into science bodies -- from NASA to the US Weights and Measures division -- that it will take a considerable effort to root them out." (p. 467)

It seems as if these events are all part of a very large agenda.
Well, yes, it is a large agenda, friend. It's an agenda to enshrine science as an updated form of nonsense, equivalent to mediaeval saint's legends. We are required to believe that

1. The history of life follows Darwin's beliefs, when it obviously doesn't Everyone who has studied the subject realizes that.

2. Human embryonic stem cells are absolutely necessary for research. But that is almost certainly not true. (These cells may be easy to acquire from fertility clinics, but that doesn't make them absolutely necessary - only easy to acquire, like cats at an animal shelter. No doubt the cosmetics industry is glad.)

3. Global warming is definitely happening. (Not if you got through this winter in Toronto, it wasn't.)

I don't always know what is going on, but I tend to know what isn't going on. And lots of pet "science" causes are just not going on.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Podcasts in the intelligent design controversy

The panda's thumb is a sesamoid bone - that is a bone that develops in a tendon subjected to much pressure - assumed by many sources to be evidence for Darwinian evolution.

Anyway, this anecdote from the evil Discos:

Is the Panda's Thumb Really Proof of Evolution?

Click here to listen.

On this episode of ID The Future we’re highlighting a short clip of senior fellow Dr. Paul Nelson describing his meeting with the late, famous defender of Darwinism, Stephen J. Gould, and whether or not the Panda's Thumb is obviously proof of evolution.

The whole thing reminds me of polydactyl cats.


Intellectual freedom in Canada: Roundup

The excellent Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee alerts me to this demo of the way in which London has become a Big Brother city. Shades of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, I guess, but somehow 25 years late.

He also draws my attention to CBC Radio's The Current, where Anna Maria Tremonti interviews Ezra Levant about free expression and human rights commissions, advising, "Click on the podcast in Part Two of the show to hear the interview. He warns, "You'll need speakers to hear this fast-paced interview. Length: 23 minutes." I bet.

Franklin also reminds me,
Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.

Mary McCarthy (1952)
But that (as McCarthy was surely trying to make clear) is exactly contrary to the traditional idea of what liberty is: Government does not confer liberty as a gift - it gains its legitimacy from recognizing liberty as a fact. Liberty is a starting point for discussions about laws.

He also advises me of Paul Koring's article in The Globe and Mail about the fact that Canada has been "placed on copyright blacklist":
For years, the powerful International Intellectual Property Alliance – a group that includes companies such as Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corp. – pressed the previous Bush administration to get tough with what it regarded as Canada's chronic failure to enforce intellectual property laws. But the Bush administration was content to leave Canada among the larger and less-serious group of offenders on the ordinary watch list.

The alliance cheered Canada's blacklisting Thursday. “We commend [the U.S. Trade Representative] for the decision to elevate Canada to the priority watch list,” it said. “Canada remains woefully behind the rest of the developed world (and many countries in the developing world as well) in adopting critical legislation that will facilitate the development of a healthy online marketplace for copyright materials,” said Eric Smith, an alliance spokesman.
I guess I have a different view of this issue from a lot of people, but that may be because it reminds me of something.

It reminds me of another issue that Americans have carried on a lot about: biosimilars? Biosimilars are molecules used as medicines that are the equivalent of a patented product, but available far cheaper. Some Canadian companies study the patented product and produce a slightly altered version more cheaply, and sell or export it to people who can't otherwise afford the medication (but, understandably, those people don't want to die either).

The reality is that in a global marketplace, markets tend to converge. Recently, I was with an elderly person at a pharmacy counter at a hospital. The pharmacist informed her that she could have a given medication for $X, but that an equivalent medication was available for (much cheaper) $Y. As this lady lives on a fixed income in an age of rising prices, I was hardly surprised by her choice. Nor was I in any doubt that the equivalent medication was a biosimilar. The pharmacist knew perfectly well that it would do just as well.

Perhaps something like this is happening in the news and entertainment industry, too? Time will tell. My point is, in a global world, we cannot continue to sustain a situation where some people pay $50 for the information and others can only pay 5 cents. Some levelling must happen.

Also, I am pleased to see that free speech dinners are being organized in Alberta on behalf of street pastor Stephen Boissoin and sad to learn that MLA Lindsay Blackett has been ordered by the premier of Alberta to backtrack on support for civil rights. Here's Rob Breakenridge on that point.

The thing to see, folks, is that there is a big industry out there that hopes to get through the recession by getting a job denying you freedom.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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