Europe

Science journalists’ perceptions and attitudes to pseudoscience in Spain

Sergi Cortiñas-Rovira, Felipe Alonso-Marcos, Carles Pont-Sorribes, Eudald Escribà-Sales

Using interviews and questionnaires, we explored the perceptions and attitudes of 49 Spanish science journalists regarding pseudoscience. Pseudoscience, understood as false knowledge that endeavours to pass as science, is a controversial and complex matter that potentially poses a risk to society. Given that concern over this issue has grown in recent years in Spain, our aim was to evaluate how pseudoscience operates in journalistic practice in Spanish media. Our data reveal not only a lack of editorial policies in regard to pseudoscience, but also the existence of a significant number of science journalists who make light of the potential threat implied by the pseudosciences in the media. Some journalists point to the lack of scientific training of editors and media managers as one of the reasons for the proliferation of the pseudosciences.

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Contesting epistemic authority: Conspiracy theories on the boundaries of science

Jaron Harambam, Stef Aupers

Conspiracy theories are immensely popular today, yet in the social sciences they are often dismissed as “irrational,” “bad science,” or “religious belief.” In this study, we take a cultural sociological approach and argue that this persistent disqualification is a form of “boundary work” that obscures rather than clarifies how and why conspiracy theorists challenge the epistemic authority of science. Based on a qualitative study of the Dutch conspiracy milieu, we distinguish three critiques that are motivated by encounters with scientific experts in everyday life: the alleged dogmatism of modern science, the intimate relation of scientific knowledge production with vested interests, and the exclusion of lay knowledge by scientific experts forming a global “power elite.” Given their critique that resonates with social scientific understandings of science, it is concluded that conspiracy theorists compete with (social) scientists in complex battles for epistemic authority in a broader field of knowledge contestation.

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Making sense of Islamic creationism in Europe

Salman Hameed

Islamic creationism has been noted as a serious concern in Europe. There have been reports of boycotts of university evolution lectures and, in one extreme case, even a threat of violence. While religious objections are indeed at play in some cases, our understanding of the rise of Islamic creationism should also take into account socioeconomic disparities and its impact on education for Muslim minorities in Europe. Furthermore, the broader narrative of rejection of evolution in Europe, for some Muslims, may be bound up in reactions to the secular culture and in the formation of their own minority religious identity. On the other hand, the stories of Muslim rejection of evolution in media end up reinforcing the stereotype of Muslims as “outsiders” and a threat to the European education system. A nuanced understanding of this dynamic may benefit those who support both the propagation of good science and favor cultural pluralism.

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Medialization of Research Policy: Anticipation of and Adaptation to Journalistic Logic

Andreas M. Scheu, Anna-Maria Volpers, Annika Summ, Bernd Blöbaum

This article researches the medialization of research policy in Germany. The concept of medialization focuses on adaptation processes by the micro (individuals), meso (organizations), and macro levels (social systems) of society to the logic of (mostly journalistic) mass media. Below, the focus lies on how decision makers in the field of research policy perceive the journalistic logic as well as adaptation processes to this logic in their fields of expertise and their organizations. The study is based on 35 semistandardized interviews with stakeholders in organizations from politics, science, and research funding.

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