Category Archives: science journalism

The birds of paradise, David Attenborough, and science education

Last night I was in the airport hotel in Auckland, and was excited to see, among the many dire offerings on my room television, a one-hour BBC show on the birds of paradise featuring the wonderful David Attenborough. The photography was fantastic (see clips below), and of course Attenborough, who first documented these birds on […]

Scientific American uncritically blurbs flawed study making students think science and religion are compatible

My big objection to science aggregation sites like Science Daily is that they don’t really do honest, critical reporting, but mostly parrot the bulletins issued by university public relations departments. The result is that readers get one-sided puffery of new results and no critical analysis. Science journalists often depend on such sources and, often lacking […]

CNN science completely botches natural selection in the headline, and is confusing in the text

I have little time to post this morning, but I call your attention to a really dreadful piece of science journalism at CNN. It refers to a new paper in PLoS Genetics by Arslan Zaidi et al. (reference below, free access) describing how natural selection based on climate (temperature and humidity) may have molded the nose shape […]

Where do you find the best science reporting?

Reader Peter called my attention to  two nice pieces on Real Clear Science and Infografic that evaluate popular-science reporting sites for both accessibility and quality.  Each outlet is scored on two axes: quality on the X-axis (evidence-based versus ideologically driven, i.e., is the reporting trustworthy?) and whether or not the content is sufficiently compelling and avoids […]

A really, really bad idea about reviewing scientific papers for journals

The usual way a scientific paper gets published is this. First, it’s submitted to a journal by one author (usually the “senior author”), and the journal’s editor then sends it to an “associate (or corresponding) editor”. That editor then chooses two or three reviewers, preferably ones who are prompt, thorough, critical in a good way, and also have […]

Nature Ecology and Evolution begins publishing

This journal, one of the family of Nature spinoffs, has been in the works for a while, and I have great hopes for it. Headed by editor Patrick Goymer, who used to work for the Mother Nature, comes out with its first official issue next January, but has already published four online articles that you can […]

Readers’ comments on Nature’s accommodationist piece

On September 20, the prestigious science journal Nature published an article by Kathryn Pritchard, “Religion and science can have a true dialogue“, which I found not only lame, but inappropriate for a science journal (see my post here). Pritchard is identified as someone who “works with the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Archbishops’ […]

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 […]