Category Archives: science journalism

The End of the Mukherjee Affair: He “clarifies” in response to a critical letter

Let’s mercifully draw the curtain on L’Affaire Mukherjee, which started when a number of eminent scientists criticized Siddhartha Mukherjee’s May 2 New Yorker piece because it gave a completely distorted view of how genes are turned on and off to make bodies (see critiques here and here). I’ve been awaiting the New Yorker‘s and Mukherjee’s response […]

The Atlantic: Genes are overrated; science doesn’t progress towards truth. Me: Wrong on both counts

The Atlantic has a review of Siddhartha’s new book on genetics; the review is by Nathaniel Comfort, a professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins, and carries the provocative title of “Genes are overrated.” I haven’t yet read Mukherjee’s book, so I won’t comment on its content except to say that the […]

Steve Pinker demolishes John Horgan’s view of war

As you may recall, Science Contrarian John Horgan’s notorious “admonition to skeptics” blog post at Scientific American criticized the entire skeptical community for its supposed failure to campaign against war. That “hard target”, said Horgan, should take precedence over our attempts to attack “soft targets” like homeopathy, global warming denialism, and opposition to vaccination and GMO foods.  But he also […]

Tw**t of the day: “Epigenetic poetry”

Antonio Regalado is the Senior Editor for Biomedicine at MIT Technology Review. Sadly, given his position he seems unable to distinguish between reality and well-written but incorrect descriptions of reality. “Epigenetic poetry” indeed. If you want lyrical science, first be sure it’s good science. UPDATE: In the comments, reader suggested that Regalado was being sarcastic here, and, if […]

More on Mukherjee

We’ll have two guest posts today, and the second comes from Greg Mayer, who’s been AWOL for a while (he’s now in Costa Rica). by Greg Mayer As WEIT readers know, Pulitzer Prize winning author and physician Siddharta Mukherjee has been in the news since he published an article in the New Yorker on “epigenetics”. Surprisingly […]

PLOS Biology weighs in on Mukherjee affair: “Writing for Story distorts and cripples explanatory prose”

At least one science writer, Tabitha M. Powledge, has called out her journalistic confréres for their abysmal coverage of MukherjeeGate. In her piece at the PLOS Biology blog, “That Mukherjee piece on epigenetics in The New Yorker“, she has little patience for the “let’s leave out the truth in favor of a cute but dubious […]

Mukherjee takes confusing positions about epigenetics in Nature and in Forbes

Believe me, I really am tired of this affair and didn’t want to post more on Siddhartha Mukherjee and his New Yorker article, a piece that, to many scientists, distorted what we know about gene regulation (see here for background).  But I did note that I’d discuss press coverage of our disagreement, and we have some. Yesterday, two articles […]

John Oliver takes down science reporting

Several readers sent me this clip from John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” about science reporting. And I have to say that’s it’s not only funny, but instructive. It discusses p-hacking, the lack of replicability of many studies, and the distortion of research reports by the popular press. He even goes after TED talks, which, I […]

Dreadful science journalism at Vox: all interpretations of science are equal, but some are cuter than others

We’re beginning to see a recurring theme among the defensive responses to our scientific criticisms (here and here) of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s misleading piece on epigenetics in the New Yorker. So far, the responses of journalists (see here as well as below), of Mukherjee himself, and even of the New Yorker, are along these lines: There are differing opinions on this issue. […]

A disgraceful movie, but a good newspaper article

by Greg Mayer Update: The Tribeca Film Festival has pulled the film, apparently in response to widespread criticism. Details at Jezebel. Thanks to reader horrabin for the alert.   Jerry has taken note of the upcoming showing at the Tribeca Film Festival of a ‘documentary’ by the disgraced and de-licensed British physician Andrew Wakefield.(And  Orac […]

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