[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
RE: PALEONEWS:High-flying dinosaur's wings clipped
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote:
What damage it apparently caused is all surface. Indeed, the main take-home
lessons from this event (e.g., don't publicize a specimen before the
description makes it through peer review; don't trust specimens whose
provenance datum is "Tuscon Rock Show"; etc.) have been overshadow by the
anti-dinosaurian origins of birds folks crowing how this "Piltdown Dinosaur"
overturns all previous studies.
Undoubtedly true, though the science magazines I've seen have largely
gotten it right (even if we couldn't resist the "Piltdown bird"
headline). THe problem journalists have is that stories require
conflict, and that the conflict involves the birds-aren't dinosaurs
crowd, whose statements sometimes go beyond the evidence. It's the
general press that's screwed it up. The USA Today article was pretty
bad as well.
One subtle but important issue for journalists is when the rational
opposition becomes irrational crackpots and has to be cut out of the
debate. Journalists are supposed to be fair, you're not supposed to
stop one side of a debate. But in science the time comes when some
arguments are no longer credible and have to be abandoned. Some
editors will insist on quotes from the other side on an issue.
(That's why you see the same tired old sources lined up claiming
there's no such thing as global warming, for example.) I don't think
the birds-aren't dinosaurs crowd has reached that low level of
credibility yet, but they may wind up there if they try hard enough.
Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 USA
tel 617-965-3834 fax 617-332-4760 e-mail email@example.com
Press releases to: firstname.lastname@example.org
see New Scientist on the Web: http://www.newscientist.com/