There was some criticism of this video out there, but I liked it. Given how little attention the average news reader/online browser is going to devote to genomics, I think this kind of thing is just right (except for the misleading throwaway line about junk DNA).
Sure, the video hypes ENCODE as biology’s latest, greatest, development, but nobody outside the scientific community is going to know the difference between ENCODE and all of the rest of us genome biologists anyway. So basically, the video us hyping all of us.
I don’t know how I missed news of this April event at the University of Wisconsin, but no matter – video is online:
Science writers now work in an age where uncomfortable ideas and truths meet organized resistance. Opposing scientific consensus on such things as anthropogenic climate change, the theory of evolution, and even the astonishingly obvious benefits of vaccination has become politically de rigueur, a litmus test and a genuine threat to science. How does denial affect the craft of the science writer? How can science writers effectively explain disputed science? What’s the big picture? Are denialists ever right?
Missourians have voted overwhelmingly for a ‘right-to-pray’ constitutional amendment that creationists may use to let students opt-out of certain topics in science class. When I voted on Tuesday in my St. Louis suburb (against this amendment, of course), the ballot described the proposed amendment with a single, innocuous sentence that basically nobody could disagree with (except maybe Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne). No wonder the thing passed with 83% in favor – you can make anything sound good if you’re not constrained by honesty, which, when it comes to prayer, one would think ought to be a constraint.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
In the months leading up to the vote, Amendment 2 prompted unsuccessful lawsuits over its ballot wording, which its critics argued oversimplified the issue to the point of deceit. Continue reading
Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person’s mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. – Thomas Pynchon, Slow Learner
Dr. Stewart Firestein, a Columbia University neurobiologist is a scientist after my own heart. A former actor and theater manager, he went to graduate school in his mid-thirties, and despite the late start, has pursued a successful career understanding olfaction. He teaches a class on ignorance in science, and he’s written a book based on the ideas in the class, Ignorance: How It drives Science.
The basic message of the book is that facts are boring, while ignorance is (or can be) interesting, and we need to teach and practice science with this in mind. In this brief, genial book, Firestein gives advice on how to have an interesting conversation with a scientist – ask any of the following questions:
LA Times: Koch-funded climate change skeptic reverses course
WASHINGTON – The verdict is in: Global warming is occurring and emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity are the main cause.
This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Never mind that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago. The difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.