Category Archives: science writing

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 […]

2017 Edge Question: “What scientific term or concept should be more widely known?”

UPDATE: I should have asked readers to answer the question for themselves, so I’m adding that here. Several people already have done that, and I encourage it. __________ Every year, science-book agent John Brockman, who handles the “trade books” of every well known science writers, as well as running the online intellectual “salon” Edge, asks his […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

Another fail for the New York Times’s science section

This is the third time I’ve gotten the paper copy of the New York Times and read its “ScienceTimes” section, determining the proportion of all science articles that are about “pure” science that has nothing to do with our species, versus those articles about health, global warming, and the like that are relevant to human well-being. The previous […]