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Does the irrationality of religion make it an enemy of science?

FOR: Sunny Bains, outgoing Editor of The Science Reporter

There are two incompatible ways of looking at the world. One is the scientific way: you ask questions about how the world works, hypothesise, and then make observations/perform experiments to support, contradict and/or refine your ideas. The other is to accept a world-view imposed by a cleric or ancient book: religion. Of course, this is a massive over-simplification when applied to a world of complicated people...

AGAINST: Michael Hanlon, Science Editor of The Daily Mail

All anthropological evidence points to religion being hardwired into the human psyche. No truly atheist societies have ever emerged (when supernatural gods are absent, such as in North Korea, deified humans are called in as substitutes). Indeed, some scientists have argued that proto-religious behaviour can be glimpsed in chimpanzees and there is no reason to suppose that our extinct hominid cousins would not have possessed what we could call a ‘spiritual’ side...

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Should there be less science news?

FOR: John Rennie, science writer and former Editor in Chief of Scientific American.

Science news as we know it typically consists of formulaic stories on a handful of discoveries airing concurrently in top-tier journals or at conferences. Why the media would default to pack journalism based on that 'exciting paper of the week' model is obvious, but audiences and science reporting would both be better off with less of it.

AGAINST: Jenny Leonard, editor of Futurity, an online research magazine highlighting discoveries from leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Research discoveries and scientific breakthroughs are not on the decline, but news coverage of those discoveries is declining. Without that coverage we risk losing public engagement in science and public support of research.

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Is the mainstream media’s science coverage broken, misleading, dangerous, lazy, venal, and silly?

FOR: Ben Goldacre, doctor and author of the Bad Science column (in the Guardian) and book

AGAINST: Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independent

Read more: Is the mainstream media’s science coverage broken, misleading, dangerous, lazy, venal, and silly?

Should journalists accept travel expenses from organisations they are writing about?

FOR: Bill Goodwin, News Editor, Computer Weekly

Ideally, of course, journalists should not accept free flights, free lunches or free anything else from the organizations we are writing about. This is a sound principle, and one, at least in the USA, that is drummed into journalists from an early stage in their training...


AGAINST: Dan Clery, Deputy News Editor, Science

MPs have, I imagine, been spending a lot of time recently thinking about how the injudicious use of expenses can damage your public profile. It is perhaps time for us journalists to do the same...

 

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Do science journalists now rely too much on press releases to do their jobs?

FOR: Aisling Irwin, News Editor, SciDev.Net

It's not that the press releases are poor quality. In fact it’s quite the opposite: many of them are fine examples of their type...

AGAINST: Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science

No! Press releases remain an indispensable source of information for journalists, but there is no evidence that they rely to heavily on them, despite the increasing pressures on them...

Read more: Do science journalists now rely too much on press releases to do their jobs?

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