The Instigator
alexmiller887
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
vintinthethird
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points

THBT science is represented fairly in the media

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
vintinthethird
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/18/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 835 times Debate No: 52807
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)

 

alexmiller887

Con

My opponent will begin in the next round, and in the last round s/he will type 'No round as agreed upon'

Thank you.
vintinthethird

Pro

I accept this debate and am very interested to hear the opposing arguments.

I assume the "no round" applies to both sides?
Debate Round No. 1
alexmiller887

Con

I will be using the book and website Bad Science (www.badscience.net) a lot in this debate, so assume it as a source in every round.

To answer my opponent's question, the no round should have only applied to him, as he was meant to have an extra round, but now we will simply just continue debating in that round, both of us.
On to my points.

Science is important
Science pervades our culture. I'd be intrested to know how long it would take you to find someone who even knows how the touchscreen in his iPhone works from where you are standing now. No looking it up- get back to me next round.
I rest my case.

Mock Fairness

There is a very funny quote from Prof. Steve Jones, which I think sums it up nicely 'Mathematician discovers that 2+2=4, spokesman from Duodecimal League insist 2+2=5, presenter sums up that 2+2=4.5 but the debate goes on.'

This is in fact at the heart of many health scares, (which are caused by the media, but more on that next round). Let's just take MMR. Andrew Wakefield published a paper in the Lancet, it was immediately debunked by experts on biology and disease, and studies were published showing that Mr. Wakefield was wrong. Guess what happened. The vast expanse of scientists believing Wakefield was wrong were given less credence than him.
All great scientists were mavericks, but not all mavericks are great scientists.


'Dumbing down'
What do you see in a cream, health cream advert? You see mystifying pronouncements, like 'this is Peptidique Molecule Vegetal'. What is that? Mashed-up string of vegetable proteins. The adverts are trying to sell the idea that science is incomprehensible, full of molecular diagrams and sweeping statements by didactic authority figures. It's not like that. Science is asking what is around you, curiosity, rejecting the old paradigm. Science is awesome, and easy.



[1] Bad Science, Ben Goldacre 2009
[2] The geek manifesto, Mark Henderson, 2012
vintinthethird

Pro

I will start by replying to my opponents points.

"Science is important"

I must say I don't see the relevance of this point. Just because someone wouldn't be able to tell me how an iphone works doesn't mean science is portrayed unfairly in the media, it just means that people don't tend to look that up. Using the internet, a quick search reveals how this phenomenom works. Surely web articles are a form of media?

"Mock Fairness"

Once again, I feel that this is not the strongest of points. Media is not the judge of science. Many people who work in media are not experts in science. So when there are two differing points of view on a technical scientific point, the media cannot judge which is right or wrong. So even if there are many people on one side, the media must report impartially. In regards to the health scares caused by the media, I would say that it is the people reading of the news who create the panic. If there is a report saying that there is a possible outbreak, you are going to worry, even if the article presents both sides clearly.

"Dumbing down"

I think that the example above is unrepresentative of the entire media. The purpose of an advert is to try and sell a product, not to teach people about what goes into the product.

I think that throughout your argument you have been taking a few cases and then extrapolating to the conclusion. However, is my sources below, you can see examples of media being fair and "dumbing down"

None of these examples can be conclusive proof, as websites and news can be used in both sides.

1.http://www.imdb.com...
2.http://www.bbc.co.uk...

1. http://electronics.howstuffworks.com...
2.
Debate Round No. 2
alexmiller887

Con

I'll begin by rebutting my opponent's rebuttal, then move on to some more points.

'I must say I don't see the relevance of this point.'
The relevance of this point? Only the key to the entire debate! Science is vital, and it holds the key to our entire lifestyle. Why are you, in most probability alive today? Because of advances in medicine. Heck, why are you debating me on the internet- because of science.

' Media is not the judge of science. Many people who work in media are not experts in science.'
Right, but the media misrepresent science to the layman, in part because there are not enough experts in science- but that's a different rant.

' If there is a report saying that there is a possible outbreak, you are going to worry, even if the article presents both sides clearly.'
But that's the sin that I'm trying to highlight! I'll elaborate more on health scares later.

'The purpose of an advert is to try and sell a product, not to teach people about what goes into the product.'
Again, that's correct, but my problem is in fact the public misunderstanding of science.

'I think that throughout your argument you have been taking a few cases and then extrapolating to the conclusion. However, is my sources below, you can see examples of media being fair and "dumbing down"'
By your own admission though, this is not proof. The dumbing down tries to convey that science is incomprehensible.The imdb one was simply a video that was science related- I'd just like to clarify that I don't think that ALL media mistreats science.


On to my point for this round- health scares. I'll just take the MMR scare, as it is very representative of health scares- debunked right away and still rearing its ugly head today.

Let's just summarize it;Autism is becoming more common, and no one knows why.A man called Andrew Wakefield has done 'resarch' that shows MMR may have caused it.

It was debunked instantly. It started in 1998, and the peak of the media coverage was 2002. Shameful , emotional anecdotes from mothers were pitted against old duffers in courderoy talking data.
I hope you can see that it is, indeed the media who cause health scares. Thank you.

Vote Con.




















[1]http://en.wikipedia.org...
vintinthethird

Pro

I don't think that the media misrepresent science on the most part, and that most cases where it may be said they do, like health scares, is down to the interpretation of the consumers. As I said, the media are not able nor have the authority to discredit science on their own, especially as their opinion is likely to shape public opinion if they do. So when there are two convicting theories, the media must report these as impartially as possible. Any attempt to place a bias on these ideas is very hard for the media. You could say that they should go with the most favored by scientists. But there are many examples where it has been the minority opinion that has been right. It seems very unfair that media should have to be the judge between two competing theories, since they have no/little scientific knowledge themselves.

Therefore, if there is a report on a potential harm of MMR, all the media can do is report both sides without bias. This leads back to my point that people will panic even if both sides are represented fairly. Therefore it is not the media being unfair, it is people who have neglected to read the information fairly and jumped to conclusions.

As to your idea that media makes science incomprehensible, I think that the majority of reports do indeed dumb down information to level suitable for its readers. After all it doesn't make any sense for a media company to put out something that doesn't appeal to their target group. The only exception may be adverts, with complex chemical names, but I think even these are in the minority. In any case, these are the official names of the chemicals in the product, and one can hardly be expected to explain the intricacies of each chemical in a 30-second ad.

My sources were not meant to prove that science is represented fairly, only that naming specifics offers no proof either way, as media for both opinions can be found. It all depends which you think is in the majority, which is hard to conclusively prove.

To conclude, I think that the media generally tries to report science fairly to the best of its ability. However, in cases where two opposing scientific views are found, the media cannot be expected to judge between them. This means each theory must be reported fairly for the public to form an opinion. It should not be the medias fault that most people will focus on the possible health scare, rather than the other point of view which is also represented.
Debate Round No. 3
alexmiller887

Con

'. So when there are two convicting theories, the media must report these as impartially as possible. Any attempt to place a bias on these ideas is very hard for the media.'I think that is not true. Your notion of fairness is incorrect- the media must report science, and other topics as they are!

Regarding bias- you have no idea how easy it is.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk...
This is as far from'The Truth' as it is possible to get. MMR fears had been debunked far before this article. Bias- so so easy to place.

'But there are many examples where it has been the minority opinion that has been right.'
Oh yeah? Name one example that is comparatively modern.

' It seems very unfair that media should have to be the judge between two competing theories, since they have no/little scientific knowledge themselves.'
Remember, the debate is about the fairness of the portrayal, not the media judging science.

'As to your idea that media makes science incomprehensible, I think that the majority of reports do indeed dumb down information to level suitable for its readers.'
And that's A BAD THING. They are trying to sell the idea that science is incompremphensible. Do you know how easy it would be to explain even the most 'advanced' ideas that are presented in the media?

' The only exception may be adverts, with complex chemical names, but I think even these are in the minority. In any case, these are the official names of the chemicals in the product, and one can hardly be expected to explain the intricacies of each chemical in a 30-second ad.'
However, they could at least not try to blatantly lie about what goes into their products, and what they do.
vintinthethird

Pro

I would agree that that particular example does show a slight bias on the subject of MMR. However, as I have shown before, individual cases do not show that the media in general treats science unfairly. If you don't think that "all media mistreats science", it is just as valid to say that I don't think all media treats science fairly. With the whole MMR thing, your precursor is that it was debunked almost immediately by scientists. But how did they tell us it was rubbish? Through the media of course!!!

I cannot see at all how you can argue that media outlets shouldn't report the science in a way that their target audience would understand. Surely the best way of making science incomprehensible is to explain it as if to a room of qualified Doctors? I can't really tell which way you are arguing on this point, as a few rounds up, you were saying that the complex names in adverts were not good. But they use the real chemical terms, with no dumbing down, which you have just said is a bad thing? Some intense clarification is needed here in your argument.

"However, they could at least not try to blatantly lie about what goes into their products, and what they do"

They don't. There are laws against that. A company can't say that their product contains something it doesn't, and vice versa. I'd also like to point out that the majority of ads don't just spout scientific babble, and most don't even mention anything specific about the ingredients.
Debate Round No. 4
alexmiller887

Con

Scientists need to clean up their own mess. MMR was a niche paper, published in the Lancet, promptly debunked in that same journal.

The Daily Mail, and others whipped up a frenzy that was neither called-for or needed.

'But they use the real chemical terms, with no dumbing down, which you have just said is a bad thing? Some intense clarification is needed here in your argument.'

There, you said it. science is not about chemical names- that's what the media try to portray it as.

It's simple, fun and effective.

To summarize, the media makes science look incomprehensible and hard, whips up health scares and generally misuses it.

Thank you to my opponent for an excfellent debate. Vote Con!
vintinthethird

Pro

I'd like to thank con for this debate, and his fair arguments.

That being said, I still feel that the idea that the media dumbs down science needed a little more clarification. In round 1, con wrote that ads try to make science incomprehensible, which is a bad thing (for him). However, when I said that a large majority of media outlets would make the information digestible for their target audience, he wrote this

"And that's A BAD THING. They are trying to sell the idea that science is incomprehensible. Do you know how easy it would be to explain even the most 'advanced' ideas that are presented in the media?"

This seems to be a contradiction to what he said before, as the chemical names are the actual scientific terms. Therefore, dumbing down in this case would be describing what a chemical does, rather than spewing science at people (and I actually think most ads do in fact describe clearly the purpose") He also said that these adverts lie about what goes in them, which is patently false, as they must adhere to advertising law, which prohibits this.

To conclude, although there may be cases where some examples may be found where science has been misrepresented, that does not in anyway reflect on the whole of the media. This kind of decision needs to be based on the overall effect of the media. As my opponent concedes that not all media mistreats science (R3), but feels his point is still valid, so too can I say that not all media treats science fairly, but still claim that the overall effect is of fairness.

Overall, I have explained why making science digestible is a good thing and why health scares are not necessarily a ploy by the media, but a result of having to explain each experts view with equal merit, my opponents two main points, and submitted my own argument, that the news companies have to make each scientific view equally valid, as they are not in a position to judge the merits of two scientific ideas, especially given that their opinion will influence the public's perception the most.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
lol yeah give up two rounds...
Posted by Ragnar 2 years ago
Ragnar
They give up two rounds... interesting.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
alexmiller887vintinthethirdTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: "THBT science is represented fairly in the media." I never get a definition of any of the terms here, and that really forces me to determine what is "fair," what I should consider to be enough to encompass the term "media," and what falls under "science." In each case, I think Con is confused. He says science is important, and that the fact that we don't understand things we use every day on a scientific level means there's been unfair representation, but this is missing several key links and I just don't see it. He says that things like the MMR-autism link hoax are signs that media isn't treating it fairly, but a single example isn't enough to support his point that the majority of the media is against fair representation, and even in this case I'm missing some of the links (like the fact that there are still people denying the science who get screen time at all). He says that media's dumbing it down, but I buy Con's argument that presenting increased complexity reduces understanding.