Empirical Findings About the Relations of Science and the Media and About Public Risk Perception
The public image of science is fraught with misunderstandings: On the one hand, large parts of the population are not used to concepts of probability and risk, which are taken for granted in science. The resultant misconceptions about the possibilities and conditions of science contribute to marked scepticism in the public about progress. However, this attitude now seems to have exceeded its peak. There is also another tendency to be observed in other public debates, namely to attach great value to rationality on an abstract level and, at the same time, attribute even greater ethical value to irrationality. A major role in the creation of this climate of public opinion must be ascribed to the mass media. For decades, it has been seen in connection with topics such as atomic energy or other subjects arousing public irritation that the opinion prevailing among journalists often profoundly contradicts majority opinion among scientists. In situations of this kind, it is the position of journalists which becomes generally accepted because their reporting is the most important source from which public opinion is formed.