Sunday, March 6, 2011

Skeptical science: meteorite aliens (and Fox News) bring out the armchair experts

All up, P Z Myers (who in my opinion is very clever but, when it comes to politics and the like, can be a very nasty and petty piece of work), is quite right in the general points he makes about this latest episode of a gullible and scientifically illiterate media falling for a press release put out by an attention seeking scientist.

And the media generally has fallen for the recycled claims about supposed microfossils found in a meteorite; claims that came in the form of a press release little different to one issued by the same person back in 2004.

But in amongst this is the way Myers displays the typical liberal obsession with Fox News, an obsession that you'd have to start thinking is evidence of a psychological condition verging on the pathological.

He brings up near the end a very cogent argument on how science matriculates, and ideas are vetted:

While they’re at it, maybe they should try publishing it in a journal with some reputation for rigorous peer review and expectation that the data will meet certain minimal standards of evidence and professionalism.

I agree completely.  And, whenever the Union of Concerned Scientists or World Wildlife Fund marches to the podium with some obvious politically tinged research, I’ll expect the same level of skepticism from both sides of the proverbial aisle.  The hair trigger response to a “Fox News exclusive” has brought out the armchair experts, who have unloaded a salvo of rhetorical firepower at the listing Journal of Cosmology.  Unfortunately, in their zeal to score a partisan political point, most neglected to see the rest of the media reported the same exclusive story.  This is called “science by press release”, and it has to stop.

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