Posts Tagged ‘news’
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 9, 2014
For far too long, the media landscape has increasingly gone down the rabbit hole when discussing science-oriented topics. Often, the notion that journalists and editors should provide balanced coverage and diverse viewpoints has been abused to the point where pseudo-scientists, cranks, and charlatans are given equal time and (implicitly, at least) equal validity on various news shows and in print. And this gives the general public a false impression of what is and isn’t science.
This demand by pseudo-scientists for “equal time” is a real problem. Creationists have been at it for decades in the U.S. public school system, thankfully with little to no success, and many other pseudo-scientists are starting to employ the same tactic. For example, many news stories in recent years on climate change often include at least one token “skeptic” of global warming. In addition, this kind of demand for “equal time” pops up in other venues: on at least two occasions, when participating in skeptical and science panels at Dragon*Con and Convergence, our panel was challenged on “why we didn’t include a believer?” In one case, creationists were demanding a seat on a science panel about evolution and why creationism was problematic, and in the other case, believers in ghosts were demanding a seat on a panel of skeptics who were there to specifically discuss the scientific and cultural reasons why people still believe in ghosts.
The implication by believers in pseudo-science is, I think, that scientists and skeptics have an “ivory tower” mentality and are just trying to talk down to people when, in fact, we are simply attempting to educate them in science and good critical thinking. And, unfortunately, for far too long the media landscape has given folks like these way too much air and print time to spew their nonsense… until now.
Recently the BBC announced that they will no longer tolerate pseudo-scientific abuse of the idea of providing diverse viewpoints:
BBC Trust says 200 senior managers trained not to insert ‘false balance’ into stories when issues were non-contentious
BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’
The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.
The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.
Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’
“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.“Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”
The Trust said that man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics. …
Read the rest of the story here
This is welcome news indeed! It is my hope that this will be the beginning of a trend by more media outlets to do away with the facade of false “balance” on scientific matters and more good science will be presented as a result. Stay tuned and we’ll see.
**Hat tip to Tim Farley at Whatstheharm.net for the heads up on this story! :)
Posted in media woo | Tagged: abuse, balance, BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, cable, climate change, cranks, creationism, creationist, deniers, diverse, diversity, equal time, global warming, internet, media, news, print, pseudoscience, radio, science, television, TV | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2013
As I mentioned in my last post regarding this past Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, there has been a huge amount of rumor, misinformation, and innuendo floating all over the place, and we should do what we can to combat it.
Of course, one would hope that our media outlets, such as “The Most Trusted Name in News” CNN, would take such a task to heart, making certain to get their facts straight before they report the news. But, sadly, in the era of the 24-hour “news” cycle, it appears that getting it right takes a back seat to getting it first.
I can think of no other way to illustrate this point more clearly than to reference The Daily Show’s incredible smackdown of just how badly CNN botched some major news regarding the bombing:
Yup, that’s CNN… the most busted name in news.
Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: 4-15, 4/15, accuracy, April 15, bomb, bombing, Boston, Boston Marathon, CNN, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theory, death, debunk, fact checking, facts, fearmongering, humor, information, Jon Stewart, killing, marathon, massacre, media, misinformation, news, Patriots Day, rumors, Snopes, Tax Day, terror, terrorism, terrorist, The Daily Show, The Most Busted Name in News, The Most Trusted Name in News | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 24, 2012
Given the amazing success of the Reason Rally this weekend in Washington, DC (roughly 20,000 secularists/atheists/non-religious people showing up in the rain is a success to me :) ), it seems more than appropriate that the Freedom From Religion Foundation runs an ad which will receive a nationwide airing on CBS on Sunday and Monday. The ad opens with President John F. Kennedy’s famous remarks about an absolute separation between church and state. Here’s the ad:
Wonderfully done, and well-timed. This is an especially important time for those of us in the non-believing community to step up and be counted, given the preponderance of religiously-oriented stupidity on display in election-year politics these days. If we hope to uphold church-state separation and fight back against those who would turn our secular republic into a theocracy, we need to get vocal and get active!
Hat tip to The Friendly Atheist for bringing this to my attention! :)
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, ad, advertisement, atheism, atheist, CBS, conservatives, election, FFRF, Freedom From Religion Foundation, God, gods, government, JFK, John F. Kennedy, news, nonbeliever, nonreligious, politics, Reason Rally, religion, religious right, secular, secularists, separation of church and state, television, The Friendly Atheist, TV, United States | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 25, 2011
In a welcome break from some of the usual credulousness that seems to permeate the modern media landscape regarding all things paranormal, recently ABC News did an episode of “Beyond Belief” on the topic of psychics and mediums. Titled “Can Psychics Really Talk to the Dead?”, the episode focused upon famed dead-talker James Van Praagh. The interview of Van Praagh by Josh Elliot is excellent, as Elliot is respectful but appropriately skeptical of Van Praagh’s claims, especially when he conducts a bit of a deeper investigation beyond simply swallowing Van Praagh’s parlor act whole. In the interview, Elliot even nails Van Praagh for using time-tested tricks such as cold reading…
Another well-done segment in the show focused on the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge to anyone who can display, under a properly controlled setting, evidence of supernatural or paranormal abilities. It is important to note that in the following video, all of the claimants agreed to the conditions of the tests they underwent before the tests took place. After agreeing to these conditions, it is telling that upon seeing their obvious failure, the psychics still insisted they had legitimate psychic powers and also complained about how the test “wasn’t fair” (even though they agreed it was fair before they failed). Take a look at this segment at this link (it’s the video at the bottom of the article).
So, even though they agreed to the test ahead of time, were fully informed of the conditions of the test and what was required to declare success and the million dollars, and the fact they were predicting (quite confidently in some cases) that they were “sure to win the money”, they all failed – and failed spectacularly. But then they turn around and blame the skeptics for not making the test fair; I’m sure that if they had won the million dollars they’d be saying the test was fair!
To read more about the entire show and get a skeptical perspective on how it went, check out the JREF’s blog post on the matter.
Posted in psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: ABC, ABC News, Banacheck, belief, Beyond Belief, cable, Can Psychics Really Talk to the Dead, cards, cold reading, dead, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, James Van Praagh, Josh Elliot, JREF, media, mediums, Million Dollar Challenge, million dollars, news, Nightline, palm, palmistry, Prime Time, prize, psychics, reader, reading, show, talking to the dead, tarot, television, trick, TV, Van Praagh | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 15, 2011
I just wanted to post a follow-up to my earlier posts on the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis (for reference, those earlier posts are here and here) and the related ideologically driven, anti-nuclear hysteria that is being pushed by far too many people. An excellent example of this kind of zealotry is on display on the comment sections of my two previous posts, and I just want to focus on a few particular comments made here by people who are misrepresenting facts at best and engaging in some pretty despicable fear-mongering at worst. I think it serves as a pretty useful exercise in critical thinking to examine such claims…
Comment #1: Here is the first comment I want to examine, regarding my blog post titled Japanese “Nuclear Fallout Map” is a FAKE!!!…
Well, I’ve been keeping track of all this fallout business from the beginning and I have to say, it’s not looking good. There are reports from Arkansas and several other states concerning elevated radiation levels in milk and municipal water supplies, as anyone who’s been keeping track of this has probably heard by now.
So if this is all B.S. then why is radiation showing up all over the U.S.? And most importantly, why isn’t the media talking about it?
First of all, this commenter is equating the detection of “elevated” radiation levels with “dangerous” radiation levels, and they are not the same thing. As has been pretty thoroughly reported, radiation from Fukushima has in fact reached various parts of the United States (as well as other nations); however, what this commenter is not saying is that such levels of radiation have been detected in trace amounts. In the context of radiation, “trace” essentially means “so small that you don’t have to worry about it.” And whether or not the amount of radiation detected is higher than the normal background isn’t as relevant as whether or not the amount is near the danger level – and, in all the cases of such radiation detected in the U.S. the danger level is no where close to being reached.
What this commenter also neglects to mention is the fact that, as I’ve stated before, there are other (natural & artificial) sources of radiation around us all the time! As this link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows, there are sources of radiation everywhere – from the sky, the ground, your house, your food, etc. Hell, chances are that you have received a higher dose of radiation from reading these words on your computer screen than you’ve gotten from the Fukushima power plant.
As for the last comment: “why isn’t the media talking about it?” – I have no idea where this innuendo of conspiracy comes from, seeing as how the media has been going on and on about this story for well over a month now, and all along most media outlets are screwing up the science just as is this commenter.
The comment continues:
Telling the public that radiation levels are only “slightly elevated” and causes no health hazards. Just like our Government “experts” told the natives living around the Atoll islands out in the Pacific the same line of nonsense after they tested twenty-three nuclear devices including the first hydrogen bomb between 1946 and 1958. 10 years later 90% of them had died from cancer.
Again, this smacks of blatant conspiracy mongering. Also note the outlandish claim that 90% of the inhabitants of the islands within the Pacific Proving Ground had died of cancer within ten years – there is evidence that those people were negatively affected (through higher rates of cancer & birth defects) by the related fallout, but nothing to support the claim of a 90% death rate within 10 years time. This is precisely the kind of hyperbole which displays zealotry trumping facts & reason.
Also it has been announced that Fukushima will most likely surpass Chernobyl as far as radiation emission levels are concerned.
Now, if radiation from Chernobyl was detected all over the northern hemisphere (and that is a fact)and the Fukushima event is supposedly far worse, what fool in their right mind would question whether or not radiation from the Fukushima event would make it to the U.S.?
It has and it will continue to do so.
While Fukushima has been upgraded to a level-7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), the same INES rating as Chernobyl, to claim that it is just as bad – or even worse! – than Chernobyl is simply laughable. First of all, it has been clearly documented that the total amount of radiation released from Fukushima is only about one-tenth that of Chernobyl, and that radiation release is much more localized & less lethal than Chernobyl ever was. In fact, the Chernobyl accident resulted in a direct death toll of 56 (due to immediate radiation sickness) as well as estimated 4,000 additional cancer fatalities among people exposed to elevated doses of radiation. As a result, the city of Chernobyl (pop. 14,000) was largely abandoned, the larger city of Pripyat (pop. 49,400) was completely abandoned. It should be noted that, so far, there has yet to be a single death confirmed to be related to radiation released at Fukushima.
So, despite the similar INES rating of 7, comparing the two events – in terms of severity of radiation release & dispersal as well as human fatalities – is like comparing apples and hammers.
As for the rambling about radiation reaching the United States, see my previous notes on that. Once again, “detectable” does not equal “dangerous”.
Last, but not least:
Now to say this is “fear mongering” is ridiculous, I have checked my facts and I suggest everyone else does the same. Because it doesn’t seem like the people we pay to keep us informed concerning such things, are doing their jobs very well. As far as hair and teeth falling out, I don’t think it will get anywhere near that bad but, the long term health effects of low level exposure should be considered at least.
More conspiracy mongering. I think this section of this person’s comment can be best summed up as follows:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in conspiracy theories, environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, INES, International Nuclear Event Scale, Japan, Japanese, know nukes, media, meltdown, misinformation, news, no nukes, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, reactor, science, sensationalism, tidal wave, tsunami | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 13, 2011
Okay, this has been one helluva weekend for science (specifically, physics) and skepticism because of the earthquake in Japan, subsequent tsunami, and the ongoing situation with the nuclear power plants in the region. In this post, I am going to focus on the nuclear power plant question, because that is where the most amount of misinformation is being spread. And, sadly, because much of this misinformation is being spread by a horribly irresponsible media, I will not be referring to any media articles in this post.
First of all, let me say that I’m pretty mad at the manner in which this whole situation is being framed: while there are likely many tens of thousands of dead & dying victims in the wreckage of the earthquake & tsunami, much of the media focus is on the supposed “danger” posed by the nuclear power plants. Folks, this “danger” – while not completely fictitious – is being way, way, WAY over-hyped. In fact, it is being so overly-hyped that many people turning to most of the media are getting the impression that this is about to occur in Japan…
[**Update: Speaking of misinformation, there is a bogus "Nuclear Fallout Image" going around the Internet. More on that load of crap here.]
Let me continue by listing some reputable, scientifically accurate sources of information & updates on the situation with the Japanese nuclear plants and radiation in general. I strongly suggest that you turn off the TV and go to these sources for your information on the question of all things nuclear power & radiation oriented:
The World Nuclear News website (an outlet put together by nuclear engineering professionals and science journalists to get accurate information out to the public)
Nuclear energy 101: Inside the “black box” of power plants (one of the few mainstream media outlets that gets it right – kudos to you, Boing Boing! :) )
A Conversation with My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan (from Skepchick Evelyn Mervine, who did an excellent job of cutting right to the chase regarding the scientific & technical issues involved)
Calculate Your Radiation Dose (from the United States’ EPA, which takes into account the natural & artificial sources of radiation around you all the time)
Now, having listed some reputable sources on the topic, let me take some time to address some of the more misinformed & outlandish claims being tossed all over the Internet and media landscape regarding what’s happening…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, Japan, Japanese, know nukes, media, meltdown, misinformation, news, no nukes, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, reactor, science, sensationalism, tidal wave, tsunami | 43 Comments »
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: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, journalism, light, media, medicine, National Research Council, New York Post, news, NY Post, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
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.
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: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, journalism, light, media, medicine, National Research Council, New York Post, news, NY Post, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 7 Comments »