Science journalists asked by their editors to write about alien visitations, homoeopathy, lost continents, parapsychology and witchcraft face a common predicament across the developed and developing worlds – people love to believe in pseudoscience, despite all the evidence against it.
One reason for this is that many pseudoscience ideas have their roots in actual science, says Kendrick Frazier, editor of the Skeptical Inquirer.
“Pseudoscience takes on the guise of science, pretends to be real science, it uses the same words and language, and emerges to the public at every opportunity it gets,” Frazier told a conference session.
Another reason why pseudoscience reaches more people than science does is an obsession with anecdotes and testimonials.
It is accessible, supports the conclusions that the public wants to hear and provides easy answers to difficult questions, said Hungarian television host István Vágó.
It is for these reasons that countering pseudoscience can be a rather trying process, and journalists have a role to play in correcting misconceptions.
In the fight against pseudoscience, Alexander Sergeev – science division editor of the Russian journal Vokrug Sveta – said, journalists should leave the fact-searching to the scientists and concentrate on being “experts about experts”.
“It is a scientist’s job to search for facts. A journalist has to learn how to differentiate between pseudoscientists and scientists.”
Rouwen Lin, SciDev.Net contributor