Carl Zimmer: Science journalism in the Age of Trump

After Trump’s election, when we began to wonder what an authoritarian regime could do to science, my first thought was the story of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko—a tale known to all geneticists. Born to a peasant family in 1898, Lysenko eventually became an agronomist and, in 1928, reported a series of experiments in which he claimed that an environmental modification of winter wheat, allowing it to germinate in spring after cold treatment, could be inherited over subsequent generations. The higher yield of this crop, he said, would revolutionize Soviet agriculture, minimizing the effect of the severe famines that had killed millions.

The problem was that these results were bogus: one could not genetically modify a crop through pure environmental modification. (This claim that has revived with the recent epigenetics juggernaut, which has shown a very limited ability of environmental modifications to be be inherited, but none are adaptive and the heritable changes last only one or a few generations). But despite the theoretical weaknesses of Lysenko’s hypothesis, and the plain fact that his “vernalization” ideas didn’t work, Lysenko became Stalin’s Pet Scientist and rose to become director of the country’s Institute of Genetics, a position of great power. Denigrating real (i.e., Mendelian) genetics as a plot by decadent Western science, Lynsenko and the Soviets put into wide effect his theories of inheritance of acquired traits (now called “Lysenkoism”), while at the meantime real geneticists were being persecuted, fired, and even killed. Nikolia Vavilov, a great Russian agronomist who did real work in identifying the origin of domesticated plant cultivars and creating seed banks, was arrested and sentenced to the gulag, where he starved to death.

Eventually Lysenko fell from grace under Khrushchev, but the damage to Russian agriculture had been done, and genetics was set back several decades. The lesson is to let scientists dictate how science is done and what science is accepted, and to keep alive science’s vital, self-correctives of criticism and doubt. None of this was possible under Stalin.

And so, in a keynote lecture given yesterday to a conference “Science, Journalism, and Democracy: Grappling With A New Reality” at Rockefeller University in New YorkCarl Zimmer began with the story of Lysenko story. His talk, called “Let’s not lose our minds“, was published at Medium, and underlines the dangers of science in an authoritarian regime as well as giving advice about what journalists can do about it. (Thanks to several readers who send me the link.)

While American agriculture may not be in danger of governmental interference with science, one area clearly is: climate change. And that’s what Zimmer writes about.

It’s frightening to read Zimmer’s account of how the President, the EPA, Congress, and other members of the administration are downplaying and censoring the very clear evidence for anthropogenic climate change. We are, says Zimmer, starting to repeat the pattern that developed in the USSR during the Lysenko years (his words are indented):

— A government decided that an important area of research, one that the worldwide scientific community had been working on for decades, was wrong. Instead, they embraced weak evidence to the contrary. [JAC: True!]

— It ignored its own best scientists and its scientific academies. [JAC: Also true!]

— It glamorized someone who opposed that mainstream research based on weak research, turning his meager track record into a virtue. [JAC: we don’t yet have a climate-change Lysenko]

— It forced scientists to either be political allies or opponents. [JAC: This hasn’t happened widely.]

— It personally condemned scientists who supported the worldwide consensus and spoke out against the government’s agenda, casting them as bad people hell-bent on harming the nation. [JAC: Not so much true as making sure their voices aren’t heard in government policy]

— The damage to the scientific community rippled far, and lasted for years. It showed hostility to scientists from other countries, isolating them from international partnerships. It also created an atmosphere of fear that led to self-censorship. [JAC: Not so true; the community itself isn’t being damaged: American science remains vital, although climate scientists may be disheartened.]

— And by turning away from the best science, a government did harm to its country. [JAC: True, but the harm is wider: to the Earth as a whole.]

The parallel isn’t perfect—the government, for instance, is not jailing climate-science dissenters or refusing to give NSF or money to studies of climate, but it’s close enough to be worrying. The authorities are denying scientific truth—not in the service of a political ideology so much as to capitalistic business interests aligned with the Republican party. And unless that truth is heeded, we’re screwed.

What can scientists do? Here’s Carl’s take on what has been done:

And how is the scientific community responding? Many participated in the March on Science. Many others have spoken out about their research. But there are other responses that have a different echo. On August 25, Nature reported things in the Department of Energy are a lot like they are in the EPA: scientists supported by the department have been asked to remove references to climate change and global warming from the descriptions of their projects.

One scientist who does this research was chillingly realistic about this situation. “If that’s what it takes to keep science going for a couple of years, we will I guess play along.” Just a couple years, and somehow, magically, this will all be over.

Well, the March on Science was, as I predicted, pretty useless. The government hasn’t magically started paying attention to scientists, and if you claim the March did anything other than make people feel good about themselves, show me some real changes produced by the March on the government’s attitude toward science (that was, after all, the aim). But I am still heartened that many scientists are doubling down on the data, even as the government tries to steamroller them.

The main point of Zimmer’s talk was to tell young journalists what they could do to keep journalism free, always pointed toward scientific truth, and unpolluted by corruption. He offers seven pieces of advice, including things like “be aware of history”, “hold on to your journalistic principles”, “write for the public, not for the powers that be”, and so on. Those are good things to hear, but I don’t sense science journalists themselves being corrupted by the government.

But neither journalism nor public awareness, I think, will save the world from anthropogenic climate change. Journalists have been telling the story for years; you can hardly be literate and be unaware that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that humans are warming the Earth and the consequences will be dreadful. Politicians and business interests don’t care, nor does the public want to make this a major issue, all for two reasons: business has too much to gain by unrestricted emission of greenhouse gas, and the consequences global warming are so far in the future that our cohort can ignore them, passing the buck to future generations. By then, of course, it will be too late.

Perhaps we can help things by changing the administration and legislature, but even a Democratic President couldn’t do much in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. And if you think we can change our leadership from Republican to Democrat over the issue of climate change itself, you’re wrong. Perhaps Trump and the GOP will effect that change through stupidity alone, and that would be good. But I still see little happening to stem global warming. Doing that will take a meaningful effort on the part of all industrial countries, and that seems highly unlikely.

Global warming is not like Paul Ehrlich’s dire predictions about the destruction of the planet by overpopulation—predictions that didn’t come true. In the case of global warming, the causes will continue and the will to curb them is missing. Can we do anything? Not so long, I think, as the effects remain in the distant future. Maybe when Miami gets inundated we’ll start to see some change, but by then it will be too late.

Finally, the greatest danger to science journalism is not its corruption or muzzling by the Trump administration, which I see as crying wolf, but its death by a thousand cuts, as the media eliminates science journalism bit by bit. And while there is good journalism produced by writers without science degrees (Zimmer is one example), more journalism, and more popular articles, should be produced by scientists themselves (are you listening, Scientific American?). That, too, is unlikely given that newspapers and magazines seem to be getting less and less interested in science.

Lysenko speaking at the Kremlin, 1935. Joseph Stalin to the right.

43 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Historian
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    “It’s frightening to read Zimmer’s account of how the President, the EPA, Congress, and other members of the administration are downplaying and censoring the very clear evidence for anthropogenic climate change.”

    Back in June, the NYT published a long article discussing what groups argue that climate change was not due to man-made activities. As might be expected, energy interests (financed by the Koch brothers) as well as those working in obsolete industries (such as coal) lead the way. Add to the mix the fact that many Republicans opposed taking action on climate change simply because Obama supported it and because they hate government regulations in general. The result of all this is that it has become a litmus test for Republicans to oppose climate change action. The Trump administration is stocked with climate changer deniers. Even though most Americans accept climate change, the Republicans pay little political price for doing nothing. The Times notes: “But most public opinion polls find that voters rank the environment last or nearly last among the issues that they vote on.” Later in the article is the following: “Until people vote on the issue, Republicans will find it politically safer to question climate science and policy than to alienate moneyed groups like Americans for Prosperity.”

    I do not know if we have yet reached the tipping point regarding whether we can still do anything to reverse climate change. Certainly, we must be close. As long as the Republicans control Congress and the White House and the public is apathetic, we can expect nothing to be done.

    • Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I believe that Trump secretly accepts anthropogenic climate change, and that he has a brilliant plan for addressing the problem – nuclear war with North Korea should bring on a nuclear winter. Problem solved – it will be uuuuuge.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 8, 2017 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        Since thermal heating is probably a significant contributor to climate change, it would seem to be desirable to eliminate a major global source of hot air and put a cork in Trump.

        😉

        cr

        • rickflick
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

          Both ends. 😉

  3. Sastra
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    A lot of Trump’s most fervent supporters are Evangelicals, and they’re well skilled in creating internal consistent realities which are smugly opposed to “what the scientists say.” Environmentalists are trying to wrest control away from the believer’s obligation to exercise Dominion over the earth. Accept that, and there’s no reason to pay attention to the fallen.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 7, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      This is the heart of the matter. People wring their hands attempting to figure out why the republicans ignore science and refuse to believe in climate change. It is all about religion and following the religious party line. To admit reality would mean spending federal funds doing something about this problem and this is simply and totally against the line. Therefore, easier to ignore the science than to spell out the real reason. It would also be against their fundamental believe that g*d put man here to control and use the earth’s resources as he sees fit.

      • Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        I too think religion is at the heart of this, but there are other things hiding in that darkness too. I don’t believe it is “all about religion and following the religious party line”. Venality is as much to blame as religion and the religious are useful.

      • Harrison
        Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        I think assuming their genuine religiosity is in a way letting them off the hook. The Republican voter base really loves Yahweh, but their elected officials have always had an eye for Mammon.

        Many Republicans surely must believe what scientists are telling them. They’re not too dumb to understand, they’re just liars. Liars who don’t care about the suffering of future generations as long as they make money now, and anyway THEIR future generations will be among the haves who will be rich enough to not have to suffer the effects as much as the have-nots.

        • Sastra
          Posted September 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          I think you’re giving too much credit to Republican leaders, assuming they’re capable of ignoring their own religious indoctrination because they’re too “intelligent.” It’s not about being smart. Smart people believe weird things by coming up with better rationalizations.

          Couple love of God with the belief that God blesses those who love him and you get the honest and sincere love for these blessings. Sure, it might look just like common greed and self-interest — but secular folk won’t see that it’s totally not.

          We are the easiest people to fool.

          • Harrison
            Posted September 7, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

            In the case of climate science however, there’s no clear conflict between a particular religious doctrine and an understanding of anthropogenic climate change. It’s not nearly the same as other science/religion conflicts.

            Furthermore arguments even among religious Republicans against climate science are more rooted in hatred of govt. and protection of industry profits than religion. It’s on the list, but fairly low. It’s an extra justification for doing what they already want to do for secular reasons. Classic fig leaf.

            I’ve simply no good reason to believe that absent religion, Republican attitudes toward climate science would be any different. Whereas with abortion or other topics, it may well be.

            • Sastra
              Posted September 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

              You could be right, but I’ve been reading a book about the surprisingly strong influence Reconstructionism has had on the Christian Right, so I’m not so sure. Presuppositionalists infuse their understanding of God into EVERYTHING, especially when it has to do with their dominion of the earth. And they draw a connection between belief in global warming and secular humanism. God is not in charge. God’s will is being thwarted. Plus, Environmentalism is paganism. This attitude dates back for decades, at least.

              I’m not saying that it’s not all suspiciously convenient. But, absent religion, the denial might not be as fervent, or as extensive.

              • Randy schenck
                Posted September 7, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                Man is in charge and g*d put the earth and all his creation here on earth for man’s pleasure. It is a one way street and things like conservation and the environment just do not matter. Even when the economics is on the side of green, they will dig goal.

  4. BJ
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    There are far more significant differences between the current situation and that of the Soviet Union with Lysenko. The most important difference is that in a democracy like ours, the government can suppress a scientific fact all it likes within its own purview, but we have thousands of scientists who don’t work for the government publishing real climate science in hundreds of legitimate journals, with the backing of a free exchange of information. The government doesn’t have the power to stop any of this from happening, nor stop information from reaching the people.

    When it comes to climate change, I don’t see how what’s happening now is any different than what happened under the W. Bush administration. W.’s administration also suppressed climate change science, to absolutely no effect within the scientific community (unlike Lysenko) and without significant effect on the populace’s perception of the issue (I would say that the effect on the populace’s perception comes far more from right-wing media sources, and that continues to be the case today — and this is just a price that must be paid in a democracy). In fact, every administration has inconvenient truths they decide will go unaddressed and unmentioned.

    At least when it comes suppression of scientific information and defunding of departments dealing with science, I’m far more concerned about areas in which the government is the greatest source of research funds, or where it’s the government’s job to monitor/test/confirm results (e.g. the FDA), or where affecting immediate government policy could result in catastrophe as soon as tomorrow (other areas of the EPA). But, again, none of this is new with Trump…just worse!

    • Historian
      Posted September 7, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      The defunding of climate change research by the Trump Administration is one problem, but the greater problem is that it is taking no action to fight climate change. It will take the cooperative efforts of the U.S. government with governments around the world to arrest the negative effects of climate change. Since the Trump Administration is withdrawing from international agreements, the future of the world is not bright. I feel sad for the people who will be living on this planet 50 years from now unless current trends are radically reversed. If this dystopian future happens, the Pinker thesis will be nothing more than a quaint historical footnote.

      • BJ
        Posted September 7, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        “It will take the cooperative efforts of the U.S. government with governments around the world to arrest the negative effects of climate change.”

        Frankly, no administration before this one has taken any truly significant action either. Democrats in Congress, even when they have a majority, lack the courage to even bother proposing serious legislation. Nobody wants to get anything done, and one side merely pays lip service to the issue.

        But my real point was that to compare the Trump administration to an authoritarian regime, or to compare the current state of science to Lysenkoism, is venturing into appreciable alarmism.

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted September 7, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          Is it not the case that (some of) the states have said they will continue to abide by the Paris accords, even if the USG does step away? Some of them are significant economic entities in their own right.

          • BJ
            Posted September 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

            All the Paris Accord really does in the first place is ask (not even tell, just ask) its signatories to come up with ideas to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and then report on how they’re doing. Like the Kyoto Protocol, it’s just a game of pretend where everybody acts like they’re doing something significant, while doing nothing significant.

            • Posted September 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              Maybe so but it is a framework upon which more substantive reforms can be built. International agreements often build incrementally.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    The right-wing deniers think they have a knockdown argument against climate change: Al Gore is fat and has a big carbon footprint of his own.

    Trump and his traitorous hordes think they can overcome any obstacle through demagoguery and gaslighting — that they can whip their followers into a frenzy and convince them that those who deny their denialism are crazy and anti-American.

  6. Kevin
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I am not skeptical about science in America or anywhere.

    Climate change is real and anthropic forcing is a major reason. Even if half the people don’t believe that.

    If all the research on climate change stopped today, it would not make much difference. Most of do not contribute to understanding how acidity affects coral, or dryness affects piñon bark, etc. But all of us can ride a bike to work, make energy efficient decisions for home and office. And some of us can even contribute to making technologies and materials more efficient.

    This problem can be beat without a lot of people on board.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      If all of us need to ride a bike to work then I think this problem cannot be beat without a lot of people on board. After all, “all of us” is everybody on board, right?

      Either way, when it comes to mass transportation, bikes aren’t the answer, electric cars are.

  7. sgo
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Well, there was a recent article in the Washington Post that reported that a political aide is now signing off on EPA grants – and the article states he is specifically looking for double C’s (climate change): https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/epa-now-requires-political-aides-sign-off-for-agency-awards-grant-applications/2017/09/04/2fd707a0-88fd-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html

  8. Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It isnt just climate change missing from the public radar and consciousness. It is science in general, including loss of biodiversity, destruction of marine life, etc. Who is to blame? The media of course, and our educational institutions that have not mandated environmental studies in their curricula at either high school or college level. But a prime reason is the lack of environmental consciousness and involvement on the part of minorities,and the subsequent single minded focus of the left and liberals on “social justice”, i.e. racism primarily. The problem is there is no solution (no acceptable one, that is) to human bias and prejudice and no way to change “hearts and minds” short of social engineering and authoritarianism. Scientific issues, however, are amenable to institutional and legal reform. But given the residual guilt of liberal whites (over what I am not sure), social justice has now completely edged out environmental and eoological issues. Unless this changes, there will never be a meaningful constituency to elect a new congress or president. This is especially true of the Democrats, who seriously thought that their emphasis on social justice and
    social issues would win the presidency. What we need desperately is a constituency that puts environment first and foremost and which votes accordingly. Anything short of this will be tokenism.

  9. helenahankart
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I think the best thing is to simply let hurricanes turn Mara-Largo into swampland and wait for Trumplestilskin to ask scientsts, sorry, beg scientists, to explain why its happened and produce solutions

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 8, 2017 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      It’s regrettable that these hurricanes have to devastate the Caribbean first before they make landfall in the US. If only they had hit Mar-a-lago straight off (or, better still, Washington…)

      (Hoping Floridians and Washingtonians will understand. Nothing personal…)

      cr

  10. Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I believe that Trump secretly accepts anthropogenic climate change, and that he has a brilliant plan for addressing the problem – nuclear war with North Korea should bring on a nuclear winter. Problem solved – it will be uuuuuge.

  11. Draken
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    The lesson is to let scientists dictate how science is done and what science is accepted, and to keep alive science’s vital, self-correctives of criticism and doubt.

    I’m wary of such claims, especially after the painful Macchiarini affair which set back the careers of several scientists before the heads started rolling at Karolingska Institut. Even under their new boss they seem to be reluctant to clean up their ranks.

    Funding but also prestige and ordinary pride can be just as destructive to a scientific environment as political interference.

  12. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    The US is the only country in the world where a major political party denies anthropogenic climate change. Unfortunately, its size makes it a significant player and in a position to do damage to the efforts of the rest of the world.

    It was a huge advance for the planet when Obama finally brought the US into line with the rest of the international community, making the Paris Accord possible. Trump pulling out of that has done enormous damage to his and the US’s reputation. It may not seem like a big thing from the US looking out, but it’s extremely significant to the rest of the world.

    When GWB travelled the world following his election, he faced huge protests everywhere he went because of his failure to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Then 9/11 happened and the world rallied around the US. We couldn’t kick you while you were down. It didn’t stop a lot of the world being very pi$$€d off with the official US stance on climate change though, and that continues.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 8, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I note that at the current Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Samoa, the US (in its guise of overlord of Guam) is trying to curry support for condemnation of North Korea as some sort of regional threat. Which it really isn’t, as far as Pacific countries go.

      Now why should Pacific Island leaders give a stuff what happens to a US dependency thousands of miles from them when the US’s current leadership patently doesn’t give a stuff about what happens to low-lying and hurricane-prone island nations?

      cr

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        The US went too far, and expected too much – you’re right. You’ve probably heard by now that NZ came up with something the other PI leaders have agreed to do as good international citizens. Many of them sell ship registry as a way of making money. NK government and businesses register their ships in the Pacific so they can continue to do business and get around international sanctions which include being able to search NK vessels. NZ has got the PI leaders to agree to rescind the registration of NK ships.

        I agree that the US went in heavy handed making demands expecting the PI leaders to do whatever they wanted just because they’re the US. NK is no threat to the South Pacific and the US treated the forum leaders like they were all stupid nobodies.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

          I think (though I haven’t been following Forum developments closely) the Forum leaders could have made the same point to the US delegate that I made in my last paragraph above, though possibly couched in more diplomatic terms.

          Which is to say, the biggest threat to most island nations is climate change, not North Korea.

          But then if recent events in Houston and the Caribbean and Florida (pending) don’t make the point to Mr Trump, I don’t know what will.

          cr

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            I agree – the biggest threat to them is climate change, and the fact that Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Accord is a kick in the teeth for Pacific Nations.

  13. rickflick
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    “…newspapers and magazines seem to be getting less and less interested in science.”

    Maybe it’s the people, the readers, who are getting less interested in science. Science, not long ago, was putting Neil Armstrong on the moon. People followed Kennedy and Johnson in this effort, largely driven by political rivalry with the USSR. It was driven by a handful of elite politicians who built enthusiasm for the project and where able to throw money around to many key states to win political support.

    The global warming challenge needs something like that to propel it along over many decades, and I don’t see the same formula of incentives working this time around. What leadership there is seems to be bought off by the enemies of reason.

  14. Mark R.
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    There is a generational problem with climate change denial as well. With a little research I located a Pew Research survey that found the older you are, the less likely you’ll accept ACC. The breakdown: ages 18-29=60% accept ACC, 30-49=55%, 50-64=48%, 65+=31%. Obviously, the younger generations have the most at stake, so it’s good that most accept the truth. I can’t believe that our current political situation (namely the Republican party’s loose grip on reality) can persist for much longer.

  15. Posted September 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Paul Ehrlich, I suspect, was only wrong in terms of his time framing and underestimating the human races ability to delay the inevitable by its use of short term fixes.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 11, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

      Agree!

  16. eric
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps we can help things by changing the administration and legislature, but even a Democratic President couldn’t do much in the face of a recalcitrant Congress.

    Politicians are fickle, and IMO campaign finance reform might do it. If/when an Exxon can’t “do for me lately” more for a representative than an average constituent, their interest will only garner the representatives attention as much as an average constituent’s.

    Were that to happen, I expect both Democratic and Republican representatives might find themselves suddenly convinced of climate change.

  17. Kathy Ross
    Posted September 8, 2017 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Carter put solar panels on the White House. Reagan took them off.
    Reagan said during an election debate with Carter, justifying his opposition to the latter’s energy policies. “It hasn’t produced a quart of oil or a lump of coal or anything else in the line of energy.”

    Imagine had we gone in the direction Carter tried to move us in.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 8, 2017 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Indeed. The earliest papers on AGW date to about 1947. In the late 60s, as a student, I remember my professors warning that action was already over due. It’s been like watching a pot of frogs on the stove.

  18. Posted September 8, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    “That, too, is unlikely given that newspapers and magazines seem to be getting less and less interested in science.”

    As a reporter in a small town, I can attest to this. I’ve been here for four years and have been told there is no Science beat. There never will be one. We have a community college and an extension center that does a lot of Ag and science for the state university. We have local experts that can speak on matters of Science. Unfortunately, unless it’s Ag related and affects the area immediately, it’s not getting covered.

    Whenever I have a few free moments, I try to get a science-related story done, but it’s not always easy and it doesn’t happen often.

    I was told by the editor that no one here cares about it and, if they do, they’re reading about it online. I tried to counter with, “If it’s in the paper, they might read it and start to care,” but was shot down.

  19. Bob Barber
    Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    A SAID POEM
    for Ronald and Beatrice Gross
    By Canadian artist John Robert Colombo in a collection called “Neo Poems”.

    “I have seen the future and it doesn’t work,” said Robert Fulford.
    “If there weren’t any Poland, there wouldn’t be any Poles,” said Alfred Jarry.
    “We aren’t making the film they contracted for,” said Robert Flaherty.
    “History never repeats itself but it rhymes,” said Mark Twain.

  20. Zetopan
    Posted September 10, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Part of the lack of interest in science reporting in the newspapers is due to the fact that when it even occurs it is often very poorly done.

    The largest newspaper in my state had a science section and it was pretty obvious that the editor of that section is the one who got the short straw (i.e. no one at the newspaper wanted the job).

    As a result even the most obvious pseudoscience got printed in the science section because that editor didn’t have the slightest clue about the differences.

    Complaints to the newspaper seem to have had an effect – there is no longer a science section, it was removed a few years ago.

    Add to that the fact that this newspaper has habitually dismissed AWG in their editorials and provided a ridiculously large number of column inches of one or more crackpots who insisted that AGW isn’t real and it’s all a conspiracy.

    What the public sees as science on YouTube, TV, and the newspapers is often so distorted that Dunning Kruger sets in and they think that they are well informed, not realizing that they are actually well misinformed.

    This state’s largest newspaper has actually transformed itself into a gossip and sports publication. I don’t see any way to rectify that situation.


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