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Darwin Still Rules from the Grave

Darwin died in 1882, but more than any other scientist, seems to live on in the science news. Here are some recent examples. The question is: do any of these articles really have anything to do with the theory that made him famous? Or is some other dynamic at work that keeps him in the forefront?

Selling Confabulation as Science

Science is supposed to be all about demonstrable proof through experiment. Should some scientists get away with confabulation – mere storytelling? Look at these recent headlines published on science news sites and consider whether some serious housecleaning is in order.

Animal Plan: It Works Well

There were Greek and Roman naturalists who were intrigued by what they saw in the living world, but their observational tools were limited to their five senses. Modern science has expanded our senses far beyond the capabilities known just a century ago. We are privileged to live in an age of discovery that is revealing even more wonders beneath the surface of living things, wonders worth knowing about. Here are just a few.

Man, Mammals, and Ice Ages

What do scientists really know about early man and the creatures in his habitat?  Some clues can be found by following science news in a historical fashion: that is, to look for reversals of previously-held opinions, surprises in fossils, and other evidences that scientists are not really making progress in their theories, despite the common […]

Psych-Man Fraud Exposed

A popular social psychologist in the Netherlands has been exposed of committing “fraud on an astonishing scale,” forging data in dozens of scientific papers for nearly a decade. The exposè doesn’t just destroy his reputation. The fraud will cause “huge damage,” said Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton University,” because “His work is very central—or was.”

Preventing Aging Through Darwin-Free Science

Will new discoveries in biochemistry lead to longer lives? There are hopeful signs that aging can be delayed, if not prevented. Whether or not that happens in our lifetimes (causing new worries for Social Security), scientists are learning amazing things about how cells work that should give us more reason for Thanksgiving.

Spin or Sin

You are bureau chief for a science news organization. Your job is to convince the public that science is right, and their doubts are wrong. You believe in reason and evidence, but you are frustrated that large segments of the population doubt the scientific consensus on certain hot-topic issues. The way to reach them, you say, is by coaxing people they already respect to convey the message, and use graphics to present the evidence. Sound reasonable?

Caveman’s Best Friend, Evolution’s Newest Upset

The evolutionary story of the dog-human relationship has had to be drastically revised in light of recent findings. The old story was that wolves tamed themselves into doggish behavior some 15,000 years ago in Asia by frequenting human garbage dumps. Evidence from caves, fossil prints, and the dog genome, though, has required a near complete overhaul of how our animal companions and their relationships to humans evolved, calling into question whether evolution was involved at all.

The Blind Men and the Ape Man

“We have all seen the canonical parade of apes, each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line-up is tosh. Yet we cling to it. Ideas of what human evolution ought to have been like still colour our debates.” So said Henry Gee, editor of Nature. Are other icons coloring scientists’ views of human origins? How close are they to describing scientifically where we come from?

Evolutionary Guru Deceives Himself

Maybe you’ve had this experience: you’re in class, taking notes, and after a long lecture, the teacher realizes something wrong, and announces, “Forget everything I just said.” Frustrating, isn’t it? That’s what a recent article on evolution did. An evolutionary psychologist explained the origin of lying, then admitted he is self-deceived.

Human Cloning Advanced Despite Ethics

A researcher in New York obtained women’s eggs and conducted experiments on them that could lead to human cloning. While done in the name of regenerative medicine, the experiments on embryonic stem cells involved the destruction of a human embryo. This kind of experimentation raises multiple ethical concerns, but the researcher went ahead anyway, and scientific journals are hailing the advance, albeit with a palpable twinge of conscience about ethics.

Of Minds and Men

It takes a mind to know one. Can cognizant, sentient minds evolve from slime? Most of the secular science press takes it for granted. Here’s a journey into storybook land, where imaginative reporters see visions of slime climbing out of the mud to look back at an unobservable history of matter becoming mind.

It’s Still a Rare Earth

Now that hundreds of extrasolar planets are known, how do they compare to ours? The Kepler spacecraft has found a varied assortment of all sizes and distances away from their parent stars. Only a few reside in their star’s habitable zones. But that’s only the first of many requirements for life. Two recent studies indicate that Earth remains a rare bird in the celestial aviary.

Stretching Credibility in Evolutionary Stories

Improbable events happening numerous times; selective extinctions; voodoo phylogenetics – at what point do evolutionary explanations exceed the threshold of credibility a trusting public grants to the gurus of the culture, scientists?

Psychotherapy: Needs Reboot? or Just Boot?

The word “reboot” assumes a prior boot. You can’t reboot something that never booted up in the first place. The American Psychological Association is calling for “rebooting psychotherapy.” Is it even booted up? The press release begins with an admission that questions whether psychotherapy ever got powered on.
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