J226 Science Denial: Role of the Media

Science Denial: Role of the Media

Who denies science? Why? And how does news coverage of science perpetuate the trend?

This course offers a critical look at the top instances of “science denial” to make news in the last two decades, with an emphasis on four case studies: climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and evolution. Students in the course will study the history of science “denialism” as a phenomenon dating to debates over vaccination and evolution in the first part of the twentieth century. We’ll look at how and why scientific matters that became news events lent themselves to contestation, debate, and controversy over the course of the century. And we’ll examine the emergence of the phenomenon of “climate denial” in the latter twentieth century, its recent transformation into the broader category of “science denial,” and this category’s relationship to the broader phenomenon of what media professionals now call “fake science news.” Along the way, we’ll compare the course’s core case studies with media coverage of pesticides, abstinence, drug addiction, health food fads, and more to see how scientific practices and norms lend themselves to different patterns of journalistic reporting. We’ll also take a critical look at the term ”science denial,” who it serves, and what happens when it is used as a frame for media coverage of scientific issues and developments.

Students in the course can expect to read media coverage of major science stories alongside scientific and academic studies. We’ll spend class time comparing the two to see how scientific and media industry norms interact to shape public understanding of science. Students will also work on a series of interdisciplinary group assignments that will combine journalistic reporting with scientific literature review to produce a new genealogy of contemporary science denialism.



Time:  TU 2–4pm

Location:  106 North Gate (Upper News)

Class Number:  32856

Section:  001

Units:  3

Length:  15 weeks

Course Material Fee:  None

Enroll Limit:  15

Restrictions & Prerequisites

Open only to second year students.