January 19, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Liberal Bias Detected in Science Media

Incredible as it sounds, the science news media seem to have a liberal bias.  This is astonishing, considering the vast majority of science professors in academia are Democrats (12,02/2004, 12/5/2010).  The following examples illustrate this trend that came to light around 1859.

Nature against abstinence:  Last month, the editors of Nature (480, 22 December 2011, p. 413, doi:10.1038/480413a), excoriated President Obama for backtracking on his promise to bring more “integrity” to science (meaning, acquiescing to the views of the scientific establishment).  What, in particular, were they complaining about?  They were appalled that he would cave in to pressure from conservatives to backtrack on plans to distribute the “morning after” pill to schoolgirls under 17.  “It certainly is inconvenient, on the cusp of an election year, in what is at heart a deeply conservative country, to acknowledge that young adolescents can and do have sex, and that they may not have thought out the potential consequences in advance,” they wrote.  “So inconvenient, apparently, that the work of the scientists, who spent long hours weighing risks and benefits for the public good, must be thrown under a bus.”  The views of many conservatives against the pill as a form of abortion without parental knowledge did not appear relevant to the editors.

D.O.D.O.NCSE goes climatic:  The news media uniformly supported the NCSE’s decision to add climate skeptics to their targets, along with evolution skeptics.  New Scientist portrayed Eugenie Scott’s organization that fights for Darwin-only education as “US science education advocates,” ignoring the fact that Scott has not only interfered with the voice of the people through their legislatures for years, but has also praised the institutions that have destroyed careers of evolution skeptics.  Nature News, naturally, gave Scott good press, noting her “reputation for doggedly defending the teaching of evolution in US classrooms,” and portraying the NCSE decision to “expand its mandate to include the politically charged issue of global warming.”  Where she got that “mandate” was not stated; the NCSE is a private organization whose agenda has never been voted on by the public affected by her actions (primarily conservatives and evolution skeptics).

Huffington Post:  What’s a science news site doing reporting a decision by the Huffington Post, the anti-conservative website, to go French?  PhysOrg did not warn its readers about the political bias of Arianna Huffington.  It only called her a “US socialite blogger” who has become an “Internet multimillionaire” for her “gossipy mix of celebrity, political and lifestyle stories”.  If anyone has an example of a science news site celebrating the success of a conservative enterprise in such glowing terms, it would be an interesting search.

Defending corruption:  Last month, PhysOrg told about a psychologist who wrote a paper about “Why do people defend unjust, inept, and corrupt systems?” The examples provided were about alleged failings during the Bush administration, with liberal slant evident on positions about government funding for education and fair salaries between the sexes.  Psychologist Aaron C. Kay of Duke University got a one-way megaphone to portray those not wanting “social change” as victims of irrational, psychological forces.

Sicko evolution skepticsPhysOrg gave its microphone to David Haury at Ohio State, who has a patronizing view of evolution skeptics as hapless pawns of gut feelings instead of rationality.  “Research in neuroscience has shown that when there’s a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins,” he opined, speaking of those who have not yet gained the enlightenment that leads to “acceptance of evolution.”  Strangely, he did not consider the power of gut feelings to influence his own beliefs about evolution.  Looking at students as his lab rats, he proposed ways to overcome their brutish beliefs with more nuanced methods that might trick their guts into accommodating the “greater knowledge of evolutionary facts” available.  This “researcher” was empowered to promote his views with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Sicko people of faith:  “Are religious people better adjusted psychologically?Medical Xpress asks, expecting a “no” answer.  Once again, “psychological research” was granted uncritical authority to weigh in on the question.  Some German researchers noted that many previous studies seemed to indicate that faith is good for one’s sense of well-being – but now, the but  – “On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity.” This according to their “new study” published in Psychological Science.  “In countries where most people aren’t religious, religious people didn’t have higher self-esteem.” This assumes that people embrace their faith only for what they can get out of it.  It also assumes their highest value is self-esteem.  If self-esteem happens to be low on the priority list among the millions of persecuted believers around the world, many who have been willing to die for their faith, these psychological experts did not seem to be aware of it or concerned about it.

Undermining traditional values:  It is well known that conservatives support traditional marriage and abstinence from sex outside marriage.  They don’t get very good press among science reporters, who seem to be on a campaign to portray alternative lifestyles as blessed by science.  Some recent examples:

  • Same-sex marriage laws reduce doctor visits and health care costs for gay men,” reported Medical Xpress.  “Gay men are able to lead healthier, less stress-filled lives when states offer legal protections to same-sex couples, according to a new study,” the article continued, begging the question whether a stress-free life is the arbiter of morality.  An assumed expert from Columbia got this statement in: “These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men.”  What does “marriage equality” imply?
  • Study finds few well-being advantages to marriage over cohabitation,” reported PhysOrg this week.  Well; if a “study finds” this, that settles it; traditional marriage has no legs.  Again, a psychologist got to state a strong anti-conservative viewpoint without any conservative rebuttal, saying, “our research shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits.”  Readers were not warned that this amounts to pragmatism – the end justifies the means – a philosophy, not a science.  It also presumes that societal decisions about marriage are to be made entirely on the well-being of those choosing to engage in “other forms of romantic relationships,” while ignoring the well-being of children, family members and society as a whole – points conservatives would undoubtedly rush to express, had they the reporters’ ear.
  • Pushing cohabitationLive Science was even more militant in its coverage, calling the study on the blessings of cohabitation “extremely valuable.”  Experts were quoted describing those holding to traditional marriage as having “an extremely naïve view.”  Marriage was portrayed as passé.  With no hint of desire for balanced reporting (such as giving time to the Family Research Council or Focus on the Family), the article ended, incredibly, with blatant advocacy: “Pass it on: Cohabitation may be just as good as marriage in promoting happiness and well-being” (italics theirs).
  • Get thee to a nunnery:  Imagine the impact on traditional Catholics of this headline on Live Science: “Catholic Church Should Offer Nuns the Pill, Researchers Say.”  Well, if “researchers” say it, the Vatican should genuflect. With no attempt at getting the Church’s response to a “study” by two Australian “researchers” speaking with the imprimatur of science, the article ended with this promotion: “Pass it on: The pill may reduce the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer in nuns, researchers argue” (italics theirs).

Many scientists and science reporters, as these examples show, betray a liberal bias.  Let us count the ways: (1) never giving equal time or emphasis to conservatives, (2) portraying conservative viewpoints, if even acknowledged, as out of step with the times, (3) portraying conservatives (especially those of religious faith) as irrational pawns of psychological urges, (4) using loaded words, (5) employing unargued assumptions embedded in suggestive euphemisms (like “marriage equality”), (6) assuming that “researchers” are infallible, (7) assuming that any scientific “study” is authoritative, (8) rushing to sanctify the liberal viewpoint with the authority of “science,” (9) considering all sciences, including psychology, as equally authoritative, and (10) never dealing with thorny issues of philosophy of science – i.e., what science is capable of knowing, proving, or preaching.

We welcome readers to rebut this evidence of liberal bias among scientists and science reporters with counter-examples.  Good luck.

Exercise:  Choose one of the stories above and report it in a politically-neutral way as best you can.  Search for any verifiable, observational evidence; strip out any interpretational bias, then recast the story in a scientifically neutral way, allowing both liberal and conservative interpretations to be expressed without favoritism.   Follow-up discussion:  How would Darwinism and “climate change” fare if reporters did balanced reporting?

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  • mmartin says:

    May I suggest that “conservative” is a false category? What does a “conservative” conserve? Energy? A certain viewpoint? Which one? Those who are called “liberals” (whatever that is) are extremely conservative as far as conservation of darwinistic ideas goes. You might accuse me of rambling on semantics, but this really bugs me.
    I feel better now.
    Keep up the good fight.

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