Yellow Journalism Invades Science
James Kerian, a mechanical engineer, has a colorful term for science reporting these days: “yellow science.” Writing for the Wall Street Journal June 25, he accused scientists of the same kind of sensationalism that disgraced journalism in the days of William Randolph Hearst.
The occasion for Kerian’s criticism was reporting about man-made global warming, but the accusations apply in other areas where scientists make pronouncements beyond what is warranted by the evidence. “Just as it is far easier to publish stories without verifying the sources; so is it much more convenient to practice yellow science than the real thing,” he said. “It takes far more courage, perseverance, and perspiration to develop formulas, make predictions, and risk being proved wrong than to look at historical data and muse about observed similarities.” He rebuked those who say “the debate is over” and make appeals to scientific consensus.
The public needs to be aware of the flaws of yellow science. He advised, “one does not need an advanced degree in natural science to understand that whatever follows the phrase ‘most experts agree’ or ‘no one can measure the exact effect but’ is not real science. In fact, if there is no possible way that a statement can realistically be tested, it probably fails to meet the standards for any professional community and is of no real use to the public.”
Kerian has a simplistic view of science; he suggested that there is one scientific method, and that falsification is the criterion for testing. These standards have been analyzed and criticized by philosophers in the 20th century. Nevertheless, his label “yellow science” is apropos. Many have noted the same dogmatism and fear-mongering used by evolutionists as by propagandists of man-made global warming. The same spirit of absolute trust in “what scientists say” is a common flaw.