John E Mack – 12/12

 

How do the media respond when an elite scientist steps outside the boundaries of “real” science? Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack’s research into the alien-abduction phenomenon has drawn the attention of fellow scientists and the media. Press coverage of his abduction studies may reveal how the media participate in defining the boundaries of science. J. Mack is a member of the scientific elite: a tenured member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, Pulitzer Prize winner, and well-known authority in his field. In public statements about his abduction work, he has asserted that this research is legitimate. He also has raised questions about the utility and validity of the standard scientific paradigm; scientists and journalists appear to find these questions unsettling or even unacceptable. Analyzing media coverage of Mack’s abduction research will improve understanding of how scientists use the media to fend off challenges to their sanctioned world view and how the media play a role in maintaining the cultural authority of science. Perhaps the gravest kind of threat to power is a challenge from within the power elite: dissecting media treatment of Mack, an elite scientist, will provide some new insights into how the scientific elite operates within the media-culture-power triad.

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