Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#10



I find this article to be an atrocity to both science and humanity. This man does not deserve to call himself a scientist because he provides absolutely no proof for any of the assertions he makes. His explanations are wild theories that sound like those of a middle school student. His false notion about personality being undermined by the mercury in vaccines and that causing homosexuality makes absolutely no sense.
            Further, there is no such thing as ‘gay DNA’ whereby gay parents produce gay offspring. Straight parents do not always produce straight offspring, so there obviously isn’t ‘straight DNA’ either. This theory has been disproven many years ago when not all gay parents produced gay children, so this man is clearly very behind in the times.
            The man also states that in spite of what the World Health Organization has said, homosexuality is a disease “because it just is.” Research conducted by many people smarter than this man has been done that has led the WHO to not characterize homosexuality as a disease, but because this man objects (and for no apparent reason).
            It’s so obvious that vaccines do not cause homosexuality and even more obvious that there is absolutely nothing scientific about anything said by this man. This is just sickening.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#9



First, I do not believe fairness and balance are necessarily linked in journalism (specifically science journalism). To be ‘balanced’ would be to give different sides of a controversial issue equal coverage. Sometimes this may be appropriate, but not when one side is supported by much more evidence than the other. This is especially essential when reporting science; you cannot pass a position that most scientists take as equal to a position that politicians or businessmen take. They don’t know science, so their beliefs are only rooted in what will further their agendas.
            To be fair would be to acknowledge the side that has more support and demonstrate that it has more scientific backing in the article. If a science writer provides a summary of all of the valid scientific evidence for two sides of an argument, it should come out which side is more supported simply by the greater abundance of content about one side than the other.
            As for Fox News, I do not believe they are fair or balanced. They certainly aren’t fair, as they often poke fun at scientists and make well-supported theories such as climate change out to be fictional creations. They definitely have underlying motives for all of their content as they are an overtly conservative network dedicated to serving the politicians and businesses which fund them.
            They also don’t seem to be balanced. I don’t think that balancing sides that do not have equal support is accurate journalism, but if one chooses to do so, then their viewers should at least then have a basic understanding of both sides (since they should have both been covered equally). However, Fox News viewers apparently scored even lower on a test of current issues than people who did not watch the news, indicating that there must have been some misinformation from the network. Most likely, there is a complete imbalance with the side that is receiving more coverage being the side that is not supported by science unless it is convenient for the conservatives.
            This falsification of science for political gain only generates more skeptics of science when na├»ve viewers sadly watch this channel. And when people center their beliefs and lives around these lies, we are kept from moving forward as a society.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

#8



In a sense, Mooney is correct; when two sides of a scientific issue do not have equal scientific evidence to support them, they do not deserve equal exposure or respect. However, that is not to say that both sides shouldn’t appear in science journalism.
            If science writing was only to inform and sway people who are already informed and swayed to the more scientifically supported side, it would be pointless. Instead, science writing is also geared at people who are ignorant in hopes of opening up their minds to what is right in front of them. In order to do this, you have to appeal to them and treat their viewpoints like they at least deserve as much dignity as to be mentioned and disproven rather than simply dismissed as wrong.
            Articles do not necessarily need to be ‘balanced,’ but they do need to mention all prominent viewpoints on a scientific issue and the evidence both for and against those arguments. If some views have less support and more opposition than others, that should come out in the writing. This way, a science writer can be completely objective and still demonstrate how one side is more supported in the scientific community.
            In my last article, I wrote about the conflicting sides surrounding whether Burmese pythons that are invasive to the Florida Everglades will be able to expand beyond the Everglades or not. There is more scientific evidence denying their expansion than supporting it. The side that asserts that the pythons will expand also claims that global warming will further enable them to do so. Most scientists really do not believe that global warming would help any species expand, but rather undermine all species by destroying habitat.
            I explained both viewpoints and some literature supporting each. However, when I interviewed both student and faculty experts on the matter, all of them supported the side which stated that the pythons would not expand and explained why they scientifically subscribed to this side. Although I did not take a particular stance in my article, the overwhelming, compelling evidence that I presented for one side did end up overshadowing the other simply because it was more available for that side.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

#7



My set of drawings uniformly consists of old, wrinkly white men with glasses and lab coats holding beakers of bubbling chemicals. Not all of them are well groomed or well shaven. Some are hunched and bald. However, these drawings do not resemble the scientists I know. The science departments at Ursinus are very diverse, having members of both genders and various races and ethnicities, all with unique style and demeanor.
The drawings certainly reflect a certain stereotype about scientists being small old men. This is bad for science because this type of person is not very interesting or appealing. Not many people particularly want to be that type of person, so they may choose not to go into scientific fields. Further, because that type of person seems uninteresting, people may not want to hear what scientists have to say. 
It is particularly bad for science writing because the audience who is supposed to read science articles does not meet the scientists or the writers face to face, so the appearance and motivations of the scientist are left to the imagination. This renders the scientists susceptible to being stereotyped as boring old men who work with beakers in a lab all day long. This would deter them from reading the articles, thus missing out on some potentially vital information. Who wants to donate their time to reading a long article based on ‘science’ done by boring old people?
A lot of people do not view that stereotypical image of a scientist as a real person with a heart or feelings and emotions. That lack of humanity is what drives people to distrust scientists; putting one’s faith in drones seems slightly scary.  It is easier to place faith in more personable figures, such as actors and other public figures who appear in interviews on talk shows and in magazines. Because they are more relatable, they seem more trustworthy to the general public, despite that their judgments about science are much less trustworthy because they have no support for the assertions that they make.
This is due to the fact that scientists operate behind the scenes—most scientists do not appear on talk shows and in regular magazines to talk about their research findings. Other, less reliable people have the exposure that scientists are lacking. And science writers can’t recover that for them because the science writers are not the experts either. The field of science needs to be elucidated; it is not simply lab work with test tubes and white coats. It is such a large and important aspect of life and provides the only evidence we can get to explain lots of phenomena.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

#6



In many ways I am a genuinely scientific person. I don’t doubt science on the basis of religion whatsoever; in fact, I don’t subscribe to any religion because I believe in the evidence that science has provided for its postulates. I follow the proper recycling protocols to the best of my knowledge to ensure energy efficiency, including being absolutely sure to separate a water bottle from its cap before discarding them in the recycling container. I believe in global warming, I don’t buy that vaccines cause autism, and I wouldn’t jump too quickly into the allure of hydraulic fracturing.
However, I also find myself sometimes accepting “truthiness” when it is convenient for me. It’s been scientifically proven that the plastic used to make water bottles can be carcinogenic if certain numbers are present in the label. I have never checked the label of a single water bottle I’ve ever drank because I don’t really care or believe that I will be affected, even though it is perfectly possible that I could. Most things that have been scientifically shown to be carcinogenic don’t bother me; I’m certainly not avoiding the microwave. My mindset is “everything causes cancer these days.”
Many of my favorite foods and snacks contain some kind of preservative or dye that has been shown to be harmful and are banned in many countries outside of the United States. Knowing this, I still proceed and eat them, because I enjoy eating them regardless of the risks they pose to me.
Most pets besides dogs and cats are really not meant to be domesticated. Still, reptiles fascinate me, so I’ve invested in geckos and snakes for pets before. Although it has been proven that the animals do not thrive as well as they would in the wild, because I want reptilian pets, I accept the “truthiness” that they’re just as good in captivity.
However, when writing, I would not allow my own personal breaches of science to spill into my words. This is completely unethical; “truthiness” is just a falsehood that you convince yourself is true for your own comfort and convenience. The “truthiness” I assert which makes me feel inclined to drink from any water bottle, eat foods with dangerous ingredients, and own exotic pets has no scientific backing; I could not defend it. Perhaps because it is journalism, I could admit to my own mistakes, but I would never pass them off as what people should be following.
Science writers might be inclined to tell truthiness because they are biased. If they want to convince people of one side of a controversial issue, they’ll use any evidence they can find, even if it isn’t actually scientific. Alternatively, it could be due to a lack of understanding. Not all science writers are scientists themselves; perhaps when a particular aspect of science just does not make sense to the writer, they’ll make their own inferences, leading to “truthiness.”
This is very dangerous to the rest of the world, as it leads to individuals, policy makers, and corporations feeling justified in certain things which they believe is supported by science. If Truthland convinced any skeptical gas companies that fracking is completely fine, they may go ahead and frack indiscriminately across the country. But what if in 20 years we find out for sure that fracking has some really terrible effects? Too late?
And what about people who don’t get vaccinated because they’re afraid of getting autism because they read it in some article or saw it on the news? Then they get some potentially lethal disease which hasn’t been dealt with in a long time and give it to everyone else who’s susceptible.
“Truthiness” must be kept out of science writing at all costs. If something is to receive the authenticity that comes with the branding by the name “science,” it must follow actual science.