We humans are social animals, with society serving as the glue that binds us together. Through our ideals, ethics, and actions, we all have a hand in forming the collective views of society. “Work hard”, “take care of your family”, “don’t commit crime”, are a few basic tenets. But sometimes, often when faced with something novel, society can panic. Rather than try to understand this new trend or thing, frenzied members might view it as a threat and seek to banish it. Sociologists call these moments “moral panics”. More often than not, they’re irrational, with little to no support from scientific evidence. Here are four moral panics not backed by science:
1. Dungeons & Dragons. In the 1980s, spurred by a few attention-grabbing incidents, the media, politicians, and many prominent members of society glommed on to the idea that the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was driving players to psychosis, suicide, and even murder. The fantasy game has players cooperatively imagine themselves as a party of heroes (or villains) in a magical world filled with demons, beasts, and spells.
Perhaps the most risible, widely acclaimed children’s book in the history of children’s books is The Rainbow Fish. This book, featuring a beautiful fish with shiny scales on the cover, made it into home libraries of children everywhere. It tells the story of a fish who is special because his scales are shiny and brightly colored. Every other boring, no-talent, plainly scaled fish envies the lovely and gifted Rainbow Fish and harasses him. The solution? The Rainbow Fish gives away all that made him special in order to earn their friendship and now these little commie crappies each have one scale but remain ugly, envious redistributionists.
The result? Equity. Everyone felt better because no one was great. A bunch of mediocre fishes swim around with pink hair or a nose ring and a big chip on their no-talent shoulders.
After losing in court and receiving a nationwide injunction against the institution of the mask mandate, the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had a decision to make: accept the court’s decision and move on to other means to combat Covid-19 without resorting to mask mandates; try to start from scratch and put a mask mandate rule in place that might conform better with statutory requirements; or appeal the case.
Just a few years ago, concepts such as “white supremacy,” “systemic racism,” and “structural intersectionality” were not the standard fare of prestigious medical journals. These are now the guiding ideas in a February special issue of “Health Affairs” that focuses on medicine and race.
Featuring nearly two dozen articles with titles such as “Racism Runs Through It” and “Sick and Tired of Being Excluded,” as well as a poem called “Identity,” the Washington, D.C.-based, peer-reviewed journal analyzes racial health disparities not through biology, behavior, or culture, but through the lens of “whiteness,” along with concepts such as power, systems of oppression, state-sanctioned violence, and critical race praxis – a sampling of terms that come up in the February issue.
Health Affairs, dubbed by a Washington Post columnist as “the bible of health policy,” represents something much more ambitious than woke virtue signaling. Its February issue reflects the effort of newly empowered “anti-racist” scholars to transform concepts that are still considered speculative and controversial – and some say unprovable – into scientific fact. This growing effort to document, measure, and quantify racism is being advanced by other high-profile publications, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and Scientific American, which last year ran articles entitled “Modern Mathematics Confronts Its White, Patriarchal Past” and “Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy.”
A team of American and Ecuadorian scientists has discovered two new species of glassfrogs in the Tropical Andes of Ecuador. Glassfrogs are known for their translucent undersides which reveal their insides.
The Tropical Andes are considered the greatest of all biodiversity hotspots. Running along the western coast of South America, the region includes forests, grasslands, and mountainous terrains across altitudes from 1,600 to 16,000 feet! Many of the tens of thousands of plant and animal species that dwell there can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
It was undoubtedly this reputation that attracted the researchers to the area back in 2015, when they initially found the new species of glassfrogs. Juan Guayasamin, a Professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, and his colleagues have spotted the amphibians numerous times since then, but still, they haven’t been easy to find. Hyalinobatrachium mashpi and H. nouns, as Guayasamin has dubbed the frogs, typically occupy lofty vegetation along steep streams and rivers in the high-elevation cloud forests. Both have beautiful yellow and green coloration on their backs with clear spots. Most individuals were found on the undersides of leaves, where females lay their eggs, and where both male and female partners remain to watch over them.
Vision is the primary way that humans sense the world, so what happens when you suddenly strip sight away? In 2004, researchers at Harvard Medical School found out.
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a Professor of Neurology, led a team that blindfolded thirteen healthy young adults for 96 hours straight. During that time, as part of a broader study, participants were taught braille for four hours a day, engaged in tactile stimulation activities like puzzles and clay modeling, took daily brain scans, and otherwise lived their lives – they got dressed, they ate, they walked around, and they went to the gym, all in total, numbing darkness.
“A specially designed blindfold was worn that prevented all light perception,” the researchers described. “It was held in place by a Velcro strap and further secured by Ace bandages. The blindfold permitted full motion of the eyes as well as opening and closing of eyelids. Potential tampering with the blindfold by the subjects was controlled with the use of a piece of photographic paper attached to the inside of the blindfold.”
The night sky, in all its astral beauty, has ever been a source of wonder for the human race. But over a century ago, some astronomers looked up and saw a paradox.
Why, they wondered, if the Universe is infinite, with an infinite number of stars, is the night sky not white? Every direction we look, there should be a star whose light has traveled all the way to Earth. So the night sky should be a sea of sunlight!
This conundrum is commonly called Olbers’ paradox, named after the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers, who wrote about it in the early 1800s, though he was not the first, nor the only, thinker to ponder it.
President Joe Biden’s latest nominee to the Fed has faced criticism for embellishing her resume, but recently some economists have raised the possibility that her most famous research contains fatal flaws.
Lisa Cook, a professor of international relations and economics at Michigan State University, was nominated to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on Jan 14. Three weeks later, on Feb. 5, an anonymous Twitter account pointed out a mistake in Cook’s 2014 paper, “Violence and economic activity: evidence from African-American patents, 1870-1940.”
The anonymous tweet sparked a flurry of blog posts criticizing Cook’s paper. Andrew Gelman, a statistics professor at Columbia University, compared Cook’s dataset with a more recent dataset from the Brookings Institution and said the results did not match. “Hey—this is a lot different!” wrote Gelman.
Perched about 325 feet (100 meters) up the slopes of the Prealps in southern France, a humble rock shelter looks out over the Rhône River Valley. It’s a strategic point on the landscape, as here the Rhône flows through a narrows between two mountain ranges. For millennia, inhabitants of the rock shelter would have had commanding views of herds of animals migrating between the Mediterranean region and the plains of northern Europe, today replaced by TGV trains and up to 180,000 vehicles per day on one of the busiest highways on the continent.
The site, recognized in the 1960s and named Grotte Mandrin after French folk hero Louis Mandrin, has been a valued location for over 100,000 years. The stone artifacts and animal bones left behind by ancient hunter-gatherers from the Paleolithic period were quickly covered by the glacial dust that blew from the north on the famous mistral winds, keeping the remains well preserved.
Since 1990, our research team has been carefully investigating the uppermost 10 feet (3 meters) of sediment on the cave floor. Based on artifacts and tooth fossils, we believe that Mandrin rewrites the consensus story about when modern humans first made their way to Europe.
As the mid-term elections approach, a number of Democrat governors are now following in the steps of Republican Governors Ron DeSantis (FL) and Glenn Youngkin (VA) in support of dropping mask mandates.
Supported by their political and media allies, the governors of states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California, and Oregon are now announcing mask mandates in schools may be dropped soon, as the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Toothbrushing is a mindless activity that most of us have on autopilot, but in infinitesimally rare circumstances, it can result in a medical emergency.
Late last week, Drs. Gary G. Ghahremani and Katherine M. Richman, both radiologists at the University of California-San Diego Medical Center, published a paper in the journal Emergency Radiology detailing eight different accounts of adults ingesting toothbrushes. These cases join about fifty others previously reported in the medical literature.
All of the instances Ghahremani and Richman describe occurred at the UC-San Diego Medical Center between 2002 and 2015. Five of the patients, all of them with psychological disorders, intentionally swallowed toothbrushes, while the other three patients accidentally did so. In two of the accidental instances, the toothbrush’s head snapped off as a result of overly vigorous brushing.
Science communicators once again had their hands full in 2021. Between two and three million research articles were published this year, announcing discoveries from the microscopic to the cosmic and from the (relatively) mundane to the controversial. The gigantic elephant in the room – COVID-19 – also continued to hang around, killing millions while dishonest actors manufactured misinformation galore.
Separating science from pseudoscience, hype from reality, and truth from fiction, all while reporting honestly and coherently, can be a struggle. But each year, writers at a range of websites prove they are up to the task. At RealClearScience, we honor them in our annual listing of the top websites for science.
ScienceNews has provided dependable science journalism since 1921.
The scientific method used to govern much of popular American thinking.
In empirical fashion scientists advised us to examine evidence and data, and then by induction come to rational hypotheses. The enemies of “science” were politics, superstition, bias, and deduction.
Questions set the scientific method in motion. Without that initial curiosity, that “I wonder…”, that “What if…”, we would not have the technology, the medicine, nor the knowledge that we have today.
But not all questions have readily attainable answers. Despite our formidable advances in probing reality over the years, there are some things we are still incapable of concretely knowing. One day, that could change, but for these topics it’s currently hard to fathom how. Here are four questions that humans may never know the answers to:
Do You See Red Like I See Red?
Every member of America’s expert class possessing even a modicum of integrity and self-awareness has long been aware of a simple truth: Only a fool would trust the emanations of America’s leading experts.
Worse, the more prestigious the job title, the less trustworthy the pronouncement. Official experts who speak for the government are the most suspect of all. Worse still, you can’t write off anything they say because a great deal of it is informed and valid.
Deborah Ball, a mathematics professor at the University of Michigan, argued in a podcast that the discipline inflicts racism against Black and Latino students.
On Jul 21, Ball appeared on an episode of the Ed Fix Podcast titled “Fighting Racism with Mathematics” to make her case.
The Pacific Northwest was hit with a record-shattering heat wave in June, with temperatures over 35 degrees higher than normal in some places. On June 28, Portland, Ore., reached 116 degrees. Late last week the region suffered another blast of hot weather, with a high in Portland of 103 degrees. The New York Times didn’t hesitate to pronounce the region’s bouts of extreme weather proof that the climate wasn’t just changing, but catastrophically so.
To make that claim, the Times relied on a “consortium of climate experts” that calls itself World Weather Attribution, a group organized not just to attribute extreme weather events to climate change, but to do so quickly. Within days of the June heat wave, the researchers released an analysis, declaring that the torrid spell “was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.”
World Weather Attribution and its alarming report were trumpeted by Time magazine, touted by the NOAA website Climate.gov , and featured by CBS News, CNBC, Scientific American, CNN, the Washington Post, USAToday, and the New York Times, among others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that all schools require mask-wearing indoors by teachers and students, vaccinated or unvaccinated against COVID-19.
And many school districts are adopting that requirement, to the dismay of many parents.
Albert Einstein. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Marie Curie. Gaia. The first person came up with the general theory of relativity. The second is regarded as perhaps the greatest classical composer of all time. The third is the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. The fourth isn’t a person at all; it’s a dog.
All might be considered geniuses.
Some individuals are supremely gifted, with abilities that the vast majority of people cannot hope to replicate even after years of dedicated practice – the adolescents who are chess grandmasters, the musicians with perfect pitch, the professional athletes who make their colleagues look like amateurs. Scientists have been studying these people for decades, hoping to uncover genetic, environmental, or social underpinnings for their talents. Researchers have yet to find satisfactory answers.
Which brings us to dogs.
The remains of a 26.5-million-year-old giant, hornless rhino — one of the largest mammals ever to walk Earth — have been discovered in northwestern China, a new study finds.
The newly identified species, Paraceratherium linxiaense — named after its discovery spot in the Linxia Basin in Gansu province — towered over other animals during its lifetime. The 26-foot-long (8 meters) beast had a shoulder height of 16.4 feet (5 m), and it weighed as much as 24 tons (21.7 metric tons), the same as four African elephants, the researchers said.
The new species is larger than other giant rhinos in the extinct genus Paraceratherium, said study lead researcher Deng Tao, director and professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. A new family tree analysis of Paraceratherium species, including P. linxiaense, reveals how these ancient beasts evolved as they migrated across Central and South Asia at a time when the Tibetan Plateau was lower than it is today, Tao told Live Science in an email.
Diets that exclude meat and fish (vegetarian) or all animal products including dairy and eggs (vegan) are becoming increasingly popular for health, environmental and ethical reasons.
Past research in adults has linked vegetarian and vegan diets with a reduced risk of heart disease but a greater risk of fractures, caused by low calcium intakes. But the impact on children has not been evaluated, until the release of a new study this week.
The researchers found a link between shorter heights and lower bone mineral content among vegan children, compared to meat-eaters. But they didn’t show vegan diets caused the difference. Nor can they say the differences will last into adulthood.
It took three biologists to haul a 240-pound (109 kilograms) fish out of the Detroit River in Michigan last month. The nearly 7-foot-long (2.1 meters) “monster’ sturgeon,” caught and released by the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, could be more than 100 years old. It’s a mightily impressive catch for sure, but is it the biggest freshwater fish in the world?
The Detroit River fish is a lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), and while it is believed to be one of the largest ever caught in the U.S., there are much bigger fish swimming in rivers around the world. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the planet’s largest freshwater fish is the beluga sturgeon (Huso huso), living between Europe and Asia in the Black, Azov and Caspian seas, and the rivers feeding them.
Beluga sturgeon can reach a maximum length of more than 26 feet (8 m), or about four times as long as a king-size mattress, and weigh up to 2.2 tons (2,000 kg, or 2 metric tons), according to the Pan-European Action Plan for Sturgeons, prepared by the World Sturgeon Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund. When they grow up, belugas are at the top of the food chain, eating fish such as roach and carp, aquatic birds and even seals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Once upon a time long ago, we agreed there were certain immutable laws of human nature. These laws were based on facts, reality, and data.
In other words, we accepted common sense about the way the world worked according to logical and even “scientific” principles. That assumption defined us as “enlightened” rather than Dark Age reductionists and ideological- or myth-driven zealots.
Not now. “Progressives,” especially the media, are most often regressive, anti-Enlightenment, and intolerant people, who start with a deductive premise and then make the evidence conform to it—or else.
Americans mostly have given up on familiar institutions for entertainment, guidance, or reassurance. What now do Hollywood, network news, the media in general, Silicon Valley, the NBA, NFL, MLB, or higher education all have in common?
A propensity to lecture Americans on their moral inferiorities, a general ethical decline in their own disciplines, and a strange obsession to acquire great wealth while living in contrast to what they advocate for others. Add also incompetence. Movies are mostly bad now. The network news is blow-dried groupthink. There is no “paper of record” anywhere. Twitter and Facebook no longer even try to hide their politicized contortions of warped rules and twisted protocols.
Professional athletes are now reminders of why no one ever wants to be “enlightened” by multimillionaire quarter-educated narcissists. The public a half-century ago lost faith in academia. It wasn’t just that most new bad ideas could be traced to the campus or that hothouse professors increasingly seemed both ignorant and arrogant, but rather their product—educating students—was defective. No one believes anymore a BA is synonymous with knowledge. More likely, it is a euphemism for incurring $100,000 in debt.
Over their 165 million-year reign on Earth, hundreds of billions of dinosaurs lived and died. Occasionally, they did the latter en masse, making it much easier for us to find their fossilized remains and examine them. Concentrated areas of dinosaur death have become colloquially known as “dinosaur graveyards”. The following are some of the most remarkable.
1. The Hilda Mega-Bonebed. Around 75 million years ago, a herd of Centrosaurus that may have numbered in the thousands was swept up in a torrential flood that inundated the lowlands of what is now Alberta. The hapless, top-heavy dinosaurs were dragged into river channels that flowed into the shallow inland sea which cut North America in two, where they drowned and accumulated in a macabre mass. Scavengers feasted upon their fleshy remains.
Today, these centrosaurs’ resting place is a jumble of bones roughly the size of 280 football fields in southern Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park, a goldmine of ancient history. It is so large that completely excavating it would be impractical.
Journalists and scientists have more in common than you’d think—at least they should. Scientists seek to understand and explain how the natural world works. They observe, ask questions, and approach new information with skepticism as they work through a careful process to determine what is true.
Journalists, in theory, use the same curiosity and rigor to provide the information we need to make good decisions in our lives. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, a core tenet of journalism is to “seek truth and report it.” In both worlds, negligence begins where skepticism ends, creating dangerous opportunities for peddlers of misinformation.
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual “Dirty Dozen” list is a perfect marriage of scientific and journalistic negligence. Each year, the EWG, a controversial, agenda-driven organic activist group, purports to rank the top 12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides. And each year, the media takes the bait without fail, and the coverage reads like sponsored content.
Black Lives Matter. Believe All Women. Everybody wants to be on the right side of contentious civil rights issues — that’s why the debate over what that “right side” is becomes so intense. But the most quantifiable systemic injustice in our nation today is not black versus white, or male versus female. It’s old against young.
During the coronavirus pandemic, abandonment of adult responsibility in respected institutions — medical, educational, and parental — is indicative of sweeping moral collapse. Making sacrifices for future generations used to make sense in a grown-up world. But baby boomers, those children of the ’60s who have controlled the country for 30 years, have desensitized our culture with their apathy and entitlement. Why should healthy children be held to the same medical standard as a 70-year-old “boomer” with multiple comorbidities? Why have young people, who beat COVID-19 quicker than the annual flu, been forced to surrender a year of their lives to satisfy the anxieties of a paranoid gerontocracy? The calculated hysteria of our politicians has accelerated institutional fragility, a condition of paralysis in which medical and educational leaders refuse to acknowledge prejudicial restrictions on the young and the healthy.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who announced plans to step down as Amazon’s CEO last month to focus on philanthropic and science interests, is set to spend the $10 billion he invested in the Bezos Earth Fund by 2030, the Associated Press reported.
Bezos announced the fund in February 2020, but he offered few details on how exactly the money would be distributed. Andrew Steer, who for eight years has been the head of the environmental nonprofit World Resources Institute (WRI), will be the fund’s CEO.
In a series of tweets, Steer revealed very few details, however he did say Bezos’ “goal is to spend it down between now and 2030.”
A dozen generations or so ago, the scientific method gradually began superseding the method of authority as the most reliable way of knowing the world. We no longer had to accept without question what powerful individuals and institutions asserted; we could observe and test and measure, relying on a more objective approach. This profound shift in focus helped the human family take steps away from darkness and toward light. But apparently the light was too bright.
In an interview with Tucker Carlson, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy unintentionally defined this critical moment in America’s history. “We weren’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this,” he explained about his draconian decrees, including a ban on religious gatherings, to fight coronavirus. “First of all, we looked at the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other.”
Murphy’s comments undoubtedly buoyed the egos of academic “experts” across the country. A leading politician boasted, without the slightest sense of remorse, that his fidelity to the almighty deity of “science” prevailed over protecting the rights of his state’s citizens.
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution? Meh. The six-foot distancing rule concocted by a handful of careerist bureaucrats in Washington? Bow and scrape.
by Edward Ring Just over 10 years ago, the world lost Michael Crichton, bestselling author and screenwriter, who succumbed to cancer at age 66. His loss was greater than we could have known at the time. During the final years of his life, Crichton became increasingly focused on the…
by Grace Carr Scientists reported that an antiretroviral drug prevented the spread of HIV in 1,000 sexually active homosexual couples, according to an eight-year study conducted in Europe. The authors published their findings in the Lancet medical journal Thursday, Reuters reported. Researchers followed 1,000 couples, each composed of one…
by Kevin Pimbblet Black holes are long-time superstars of science fiction. But their Hollywood fame is a little strange given that no-one has ever actually seen one – at least, until now. If you needed to see to believe, then thank the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which has just produced…
by Robert Romano In 1963, Karl Popper proposed that the central criterion of the scientific method should be its testability, or the ability to falsify a theory. Absent that, he wrote that such a theory could not be considered scientific. Popper wrote, “A theory which is not refutable by…
by Troy Worden The organization which holds “the largest pro-life event in the world” has formally announced the theme for its next march in 2019: “Unique from day one: Pro-life is pro-science.” This Thursday the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, a pro-life organization which aims to “end…
by Tim Pearce Federal investigators are probing into a 2017 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that claimed refurbished trucks emitted significantly more pollution than new models. The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced Tuesday that it would look into allegations that EPA officials improperly colluded with truck manufacturer Volvo to…
by Michael Bastasch – The Associated Press claims that “science says” global warming increases the area of western U.S. land scorched by wildfires every year. – Climate scientist Cliff Mass noted AP’s simple correlation is not “science” and misses other key drivers of fires. – It’s similar to another report…
by Michael Liccione The prestige of science in our culture is well-earned. That scientists discover truths (or at least serviceable approximations to truths) is undeniable. The evidence for that is how successfully scientific findings have been applied for centuries as technology, which has improved life greatly for countless people. Sound…
by Michael Bastach Some scientists and activists no longer want their critics to be called “skeptics,” but Princeton University Physicist William Happer said “climate denier” is meant to denigrate those critical of claims of catastrophic man-made global warming. The term “denier” is “designed to cast me and others like…