The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Classic April Fools’ Joke from Scientific American

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 1, 2011

This is a fitting post for April Fools’ Day :)

A friend reminded me of a wonderful Scientific American editorial which appeared in the popular magazine a few years back on – you guessed it – April 1st.  In the spirit of science, skepticism, and a little fun, I share it with you here. Enjoy…

Okay, We Give Up

We feel so ashamed

By The Editors | April 1, 2005

There’s no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don’t mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there’s no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.

In retrospect, this magazine’s coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it. Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.

Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that’s a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That’s what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn’t get bogged down in details.

Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody’s ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.

Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can’t work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and imperil national security, you won’t hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration’s antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that’s not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either-so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools’ Day.

Posted in humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cell Phone & Cancer Study Follow Up

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 27, 2010

Last October I posted about a really crappy piece of “journalism” in the New York Post regarding a supposed link between cellphone use and cancer.  The punchline was that the headline-grubbing morons at the NYPost ran their story before the actual study had been published!

Well, now the actual study by the real scientists & researchers involved has been published, and – lo and behold – it paints a very different picture from the fear-mongering goobers at the NYPost.  In part, their conclusion states:

“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones.”

For reference, the entire study is available here in PDF format. Now of course I’m not surprised in the least by these results, seeing as how, based upon the laws of physics as we know them, there is no plausible mechanism by which such low-energy emissions from cellphones could cause cancer!

One would hope that various media outlets would take a lesson from this fiasco, but I suppose some people are more interested in selling paper than responsible news reporting.

Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New York Post: Sloppy Journalism in Report of Cellphone-Cancer “Link”

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 26, 2009

In another media *facepalm* moment, the New York Post is reporting of a supposed “link” between cellphone use and cancer…

Study: Cell Phone Cancer Link

A groundbreaking, $30 million study into cell phones has found a link between long term use and brain tumors.

The World Health Organization is about to reveal that its decade-long investigation has found the devices can lead to cancer — and the internationally-respected body will soon issue a public health message with its findings, London’s Daily Telegraph reported today.

The conclusion goes against years of assurances by cell phone companies and scientists that cell phone use is safe.

But last month, Sen. Arlen Specter (D – Pa) organized Senate hearings to examine health implications of talking on-the-go.

CAN YOU KILL ME NOW? -- A groundbreaking, 10-year study will show that long-term cell phone use can lead to brain tumors.

elizabeth lippman/N.Y. Post
CAN YOU KILL ME NOW? — A groundbreaking, 10-year study will show that long-term cell phone use can lead to brain tumors.

The WHO’s Interphone investigation’s results showed, “a significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of ten years or more,” the Telegraph reported today.

The study’s head, Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, said, “In the absence of definitive results and in the light of a number of studies which, though limited, suggest a possible effect of radiofrequency radiation, precautions are important.”

The project carried out studies in 13 countries, talking to tumor sufferers as well as healthy cell phone users, It interviewed 12,800 people.

The results will be officially published before the end of the year, according to the Telegraph.

This is a perfect example of how some in the media misuse science to make headlines, while at the same time spreading misinformation.  Notice that the article is citing research which hasn’t even been published yet! So, if the research isn’t yet published for scrutiny, how in blazes do the morons at NY Post know what the research says?  I always thought that a good journalist was supposed to check their facts before reporting a story, not the other way around.  Apparently, the folks at the NY Post live in an alternate universe.

In addition, some other tidbits that pop up in this article:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Psychic Scumbags Are Like Buzzards

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2009

Wow, some people have no shame.  Take, for example, all of the psychic woo-meisters who are taking advantage of Michael Jackson’s death to promote their flim-flammery…

Psychics see magic in Michael Jackson’s life

When Glynis McCants looks at Michael Jackson’s life, she sees the number five.Numerologist Glynis McCants says that with his numbers, Jackson was a draw to fans.

Numerologist Glynis McCants says that with his numbers, Jackson was a draw to fans.

Jackson’s talent was discovered when he was 5 years old, he came to fame as a member of the Jackson 5 and he planned a series of 50 concert dates in London, England, as part of a comeback tour before he died on June 25 at the age of 50.

For McCants, a noted numerologist and author, those facts are very telling: “Five is the number for drama, and it was in his life his whole life.”

It just gets worse from there, with practically every huckster from Uri Geller to the local crazy old bat reading chicken entrails on the corner attempting to ride this bandwagon of stupidity.  A more appropriate title for the article would be “Psychics see dollar signs in exploiting Michael Jackson’s death”. These opportunistic scumbags don’t ever seem to miss the chance to make a quick buck – whether it is this or by claiming, like uber-douchebag John Edward, to be talking to the dead, they’re like buzzards picking over the meat of a carcass. Gah…

What’s worse, this is a big story on a major, mainstream news outlet – freakin’ CNN of all places!  My respect for CNN has just dropped by about five orders of magnitude.  If you’re as disgusted as I am about CNN giving serious attention to this lunacy, contact them and let your thoughts be known.

Posted in media woo, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Defending Free Inquiry in Iran

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2009

I don’t usually delve into strictly political waters, but recent events in Iran have compelled me to share some important information with the readers of this blog.  One of the key things that drives all skeptics & scientifically-minded folk is the spirit of free inquiry.  Without the free flow of unfiltered information, science & skepticism in their purest & most useful forms wither.

Well, right now in Iran, there seems to be a revolution of sorts in the offing. There are huge protests, numbering in the 100s of thousands for days, alleging widespread & deep fraud on the part of the Iranian government and incumbent president & hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The challenger, a moderate politician named Mir Hossein Mousavi, is stating publicly that he will not accept the results of a fraudulent election, and he is demanding a revote.

Unfortunately, the Iranian government has responded violently to these protests, and they are also attempting to impose a media blackout.  This includes kicking foreign journalists out of the country and keeping them locked in their hotel rooms so they cannot cover the events unfolding in Iran.  In addition, the Iranian government is also attempting to silence dissent on the Internet by shutting down popular websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

This is where you can come in.  I found the following information on a thread at the JREF Forum:

If you have geek skills, an extra computer/server, and an interest in undermining fascist censorship, please help!  Here’s how you can set up an anonymous proxy server to help Iranians bypass the Internet barriers.

Windows
Linux
Mac OS X

AND…

There are people calling for anyone with a twitter account to change their location to Tehran and their time to +3:30 GMT in order to throw off government searches for Iranian students who are tweeting.

Please consider helping out; if you don’t have the skills necessary to set up a proxy server or set Twitter accounts, pass along this info to someone who can.  Help defend free inquiry in Iran!

Posted in free inquiry, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Judging Science & Faith

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 16, 2009

So here’s a tough question for you… in a nation where we respect religious liberty, how does the state handle situations where those religious beliefs are in direct conflict with established medical science?  I’m specifically referring to a situation in Minnesota where a judge has ordered that a boy receive chemotherapy for his cancer despite the parents’ religious objections.

Judge rules family can’t refuse chemo for boy

A Minnesota judge ruled Friday that a 13-year-old cancer patient must be evaluated by a doctor to determine if the boy would benefit from restarting chemotherapy over his parents’ objections.

In a 58-page ruling, Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg found that Daniel Hauser has been “medically neglected” by his parents, Colleen and Anthony Hauser, and was in need of child protection services.

While he allowed Daniel to stay with his parents, the judge gave the Hausers until Tuesday to get an updated chest X-ray for their son and select an oncologist.

If the evaluation shows the cancer had advanced to a point where chemotherapy and radiation would no longer help, the judge said, he would not order the boy to undergo treatment.

However, he said, if chemotherapy is ordered and the family still refuses, Daniel will be placed in temporary custody.

I posted about something similar in my entry titled “What’s the Limit on ‘Respecting Beliefs’?” but this is a far more serious situation – in fact, it is one of life & death.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in medical woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Some Humor: Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2009

As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post – Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash – I just had to pass along this little gem.

I just saw a couple of really funny clips over at the Daily Show website regarding the swine flu. One clip does some gentle lampooning of various media outlets for the manner in which they’re reporting on the subject, while the other clip does a great job poking fun at the conspiracy theorists running rampant on the topic.  Enjoy!  :)

Lampooning the Media

last-100-days-part-11

And the next – and in my opinion much more funny – clip poking fun at those whacky CT-woosters…

Conspiracy Theorists vs. Evidence-Based Journalism… Who Shall Win?

last-100-days-part-2

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Psychics on CBS News: Epic Fail

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2009

**Note: For more background on this topic, see previous posts Psychic Failure in Investment Scams and Psychic Parasites.

I just watched a fluff-piece on CBS News, and I think you’ll just have to watch it for yourself before reading my comments on it…

Notice, in the reporting there was not one hint of skepticism about these self-proclaimed psychics and their woo. Even worse, there was a hint of argument from popularity in that report where the reporter stated that in these tough economic times even more and more people are going to psychics for advice – with the implication that if more people are doing it, then there must be something to it.

Save your money, folks. Whether or not they truly believe in their powers, psychics are just pseudoscientific woo-mongers… this phenomenon is nothing more than a mixture of cold reading by the psychic & wishful thinking on the part of the person seeking advice (and sometimes by the psychic themselves).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in economics, media woo, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Death and Rebirth of Science Reporting?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 1, 2009

There has been a disturbing trend in recent years in journalistic circles: the decline of science journalism in many areas of the media, specifically print media (newspapers, magazines, etc). However, it’s not all bad news, because Internet-based blogging provides a new venue for science reporting.

science blogs

As this article in NatureNews states…

Traditional journalists are increasingly looking to such [science-based] sites to find story ideas (see ‘Rise of the blogs’). At the same time, they rely heavily on the public-relations departments of scientific organizations. As newspapers employ fewer people with science-writing backgrounds, these press offices are employing more. Whether directly or indirectly, scientists and the institutions at which they work are having more influence than ever over what the public reads about their work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Media Math

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 24, 2009

I saw this over at Wheat-dogg’s world, and I simply had to share it :D

media math

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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