Category Archives: science writing

The BBC unwisely jumps on the epigenetics bandwagon

About two weeks ago,  the BBC’s “Future” website published a long science article touting the importance of epigenetic effects in humans: the idea that various behaviors, traumas, and psychological propensities produced by the environment on parents can be transmitted to their offspring. This is supposed to act in a “Lamarckian” way: the environment modifies the […]

Five Books: Adam Hart-Davis’s choice of the best books on popular science

Adam Hart-Davis is an English writer, photographer, and broadcaster, known for being the presenter of several popular BBC series. In a Five Books piece (click on screenshot below), Hart-Davis lists and discusses what he sees as the five best popular-science books. According to the site, “Adam Hart-Davis says clear simple writing is the key to […]

Science posts go unread. . .

I’ve kvetched before about how readers seem to ignore science posts, which started out as the heart of this website and are still dear to my own heart. In response, readers often say that they do read them but simply can’t comment because they don’t have the expertise. That’s fair enough and isn’t a problem for […]

SciBabe, paid by Splenda, touts its product

Yvette d’Entremont writes about popular science, especially consumer scams and misconceptions, on her website SciBabe. Her site’s bio notes that she has bachelor’s degrees in theater and chemistry from Emanuel College in Boston, a masters degree in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and worked eight years as […]

In which a predatory journal wants my paper

Every week or so I get an invitation to republish one of my papers about evolution and genetics in some wildly inappropriate journal. These are, of course, the predatory journals that glom onto nearly any scientist, however relevant their research, to get money (you have to pay to publish in them). Here’s an email that […]

The BBC gets evolution wrong again when describing a new discovery of early eutherian mammals

Well, after uncritically publishing a piece on the new “species” of orangutan (and not even seeking out any dissenting voices, unlike the BBC’s Discover Wildlife site), the BBC news site once again engages in a misleading piece of science reporting. The misguided piece has the headline below (click on screenshot to go there); I’ll get to […]

The Daily Beast distorts epigenetics with bogus claims that children can “inherit memories of the Holocaust”

I’ve written extensively on this site about recent claims that environmental modifications of DNA, through either methylation (sticking a -CH3 group onto DNA bases or by changing the histone scaffolding that supports the DNA, can constitute a basis for evolutionary change. This claim is simply wrong. To date, while we can show that environmental “shocks” given […]

The science books that inspired eight science writers (and me)

Yesterday’s Guardian has nice survey of eight science writers (many of them working scientists): “‘I was hooked for life’: Science writers on the books that inspired them.” They don’t make it clear that they’re really asking about popular books, as some of the books that “fired my imagination”, as the article notes, weren’t science trade […]

Deceptive science reporting by Newsweek

Look at this tweet from Newsweek: Are you sitting down? NASA has found signs of life on a Saturnian moon https://t.co/06M6EwIDl3 pic.twitter.com/K4UcBtlILV — Newsweek (@Newsweek) May 7, 2017 Now read the damn article: it doesn’t say that they found ANY “signs of life” on the moon Enceladus, It is possible that life could evolve or […]

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 […]