The sciences ...are not paragons of timeless perfection, but human institutions in perpetual dialogue with their past.
"Like a Top Hat," by Jonathan Rée, London Review of Books, 08 Feb 2024.

Replies to Cosmic Ancestry, 2024 and after

Do we need a new theory of evolution? | with Stephen Buranyi | 03 Apr 2024

Dear Stephen -- I noticed and linked to your article [linked below] when it was new, and now I have revisited it. I have a question / issue which puzzles me: why don't science writers behave more like political writers? Political writers are skeptical and do their own investigating. They do not simply report as fact whatever the politicians say. Science needs the same skeptical reporting, especially for the theory of evolution.

Half of educated adults don't accept the basic theory, and neither do many very well-informed biologists. Most of them don't want to discuss it because the conversations are usually unproductive and uncivil. I wish skeptical reporters would show up.

The theory of evolution is in crisis, and the crisis is bigger than they are willing to face. None of the various alternatives you mention meets the most basic criterion of science -- proof in the lab. I have had lengthy conversations with some of them -- Jim Shapiro for example. When I make this point, they clam up.

I read Thomas Kuhn and am influenced by his observation: theories never simply go away until a replacement - perceived to be better - is available. I have latched onto an alternative, panspermia (it's about evolution, too.) But nevermind panspermia.

I wish science reporters would demand proof from the scientists. If the theory is completely wrong, that does not mean we have to abandon science. That false dilemma is equally supported by evolutionists and creationists.

I'll stop here. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Best regards, Brig

from Buranyi: Hi Brig, Thanks for the email. My answer to the main question is to basically both agree with you, but push back on your comparison a little. Politics writers are indeed often quick to push on their sources and ask critical questions. However, in my estimation they are just as likely to let egregious falsehoods pass, write uncritical stories, etc, when they have political reason to go easy on a politician. Political reporters are often too political.

Now the idea that science writers are not often enough like political writers - in the sense of reporting hard and being critical - is true. I don't have a complete answer for you except to say that science is often covered like sports, simply reporting the play by play of what is going on, adding some colour, and pleasing both the sources and the audience. It's edutainment, for many. Part of it is simply because science writers often see themselves as translators of scientific work - something akin to a national geographic correspondent, but reporting from labs instead of the rainforest/tundra/etc. Of course, some of this kind of work is necessary. But there should be more of the the harder kind too. I think there are some good science journalists out there, but the ones who are truly adversarial (like Leonid Schneider, for instance) have trouble placing stories within a system that mostly wants edutainment.

Stephen | Guardian News & Media Limited, London
"Do we need a new theory of evolution?" by Stephen Buranyi,
The Guardian, 28 Jun 2022.

Brig, do you know of any searches for life on Mars that have been conducted in samples of ice from its polar caps? Apparently discovery of ancient viable microbes in Earth's ice is almost routine. Why has NASA nor pursued such a search?

12:30PM: Quick answer -- same reason they don't look anywhere else. They apparently don't want to know. It's very vexing. I like your suggestion!
Life on Mars! has history.

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