Many policy makers in the U.S. and elsewhere are already too ignorant about important scientific issues today, even about such essential ideas as how petroleum forms, the reality of evolution, or the usefulness of paying for basic research. Bait-and-switch tactics with scientific announcements surely don’t help.

Here’s a great post by Derek Miller, sparked by NASA’s framing of a pretty nifty discovery – bacteria that can substitute arsenic for phosphorus in their DNA – as an “astrobiology discovery”.

Science isn’t the only field where the lack of knowledge among many reporters – combined with editors’ appetite for black-and-white certainty – can leave the news vulnerable to misleading hype. Economics and public policy strike me as two others.

But it’s probably the one where Derek’s concluding paragraph (the one I’ve cited here) strikes home the hardest.

Posted via email from Rob Cottingham’s posterous

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