By Jennifer Carpenter (Freelance science journalist)
Sunday, February 10 at 4 pm
Science is often inconvenient for journalists. Scientists insist on talking about background literature, replication, and the caveats and nuances of their findings in language peppered with ugly terms and impossible acronyms. Journalists then work black magic to turn years of research into bite-sized stories, sprinkled with puns and a dollop of mind-blowing principle. In the balancing act between scientists and their audience, journalists have to take care neither to overstate results, nor leave their consumers feeling nothing. This act is growing more treacherous as 24/7 news cycles and a limitless Web demand more and more information in a way that never quite satisfies the modern media’s appetite for new, heavy-hitting headlines. In this year’s Darwin Day lecture, Dr. Carpenter will talk about the perils of pithiness in science writing, and discuss a handful of cases where science was misrepresented in the media because of pressure to make the information snappier. She will also examine why journalists and their audiences are often seduced by scientism—the belief that science, and the scientific method, alone can explain everything about the world, and review the consequences of this seduction.
Jennifer Carpenter is a British/Canadian journalist based in Toronto. She writes about all types of science, but most enjoys writing stories with an evolutionary twang. Her work has appeared in Science, Nature, New Scientist, and BBC Focus. When she isn’t writing, she makes, talks, and produces radio for the BBC and CBC. She also teaches evolutionary biology and science communication at the University of Toronto.
The Darwin Day events are sponsored by the Dean of Science (Martin Grant) and co-organized by McGill Science Outreach and Redpath Museum.