The Canadian Medical Association Journal or CMAJ printed an article in 2004 about how much of the media’s presentation of genetic research has exaggerated or twisted the actual goings on within the field. After examining 627 scientific journals and newspapers only 11 percent published claims that were moderately to highly exaggerated.
Seeing that genetics is such an enigmatic, almost intangible, idea the media is pretty much the only source that citizens have for understanding it. The media is unfortunately a biased medium, just as science can be, but this article is trying to be as objective as possible in its understanding of how much the public actually knows about genetic research.
This number baffled me. For all the controversy the media is a small part. This begs the question then, if we have such a solid understanding of the research going on in this field why is there such a controversy? Controversy often finds its roots in the media, the Vietnam war being a prime example. The media has a tendency to exaggerate its findings to get the public’s interests aroused. They love controversy because it feeds their wallets. However, if this is not the case here, there are other factors involved. If you were to ask me, I would say it is because we actually have only the basic and general information about the research going on, because that’s all that most care to understand. As laymans we probably latch on to specific phrases and ideas presented in such a field and try to found our moral ideas on the research tactics and results based on those. In this we find all too many people coming head to head with the conclusions they’ve reached without actually having much understanding outside of that.