Satoshi Kanazawa has an interesting post about how British Newspapers Make Things Up:
I hope American and British readers (and readers throughout the world) will finally wake up to the reality of British journalism: You just cannot believe what you read in British newspapers. I’d further call on my academic colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic never to speak to British reporters. You have absolutely no control over what they say about you and your scientific research.
Unfortunately, however, this does not always work. A reporter from the Sunday Times has recently requested an interview with me about one of my papers. Having already learned my lesson in 2006, I completely ignored his email and telephone messages. As a result, no interview took place. But that did not stop him at all. He went ahead and wrote his article, pretending that he had interviewed me and quoting me at length.
Gee, I wonder who that reporter was?
It’s not hard to find the story: Women are getting more beautiful, by Jonathan Leake:
Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.
And sure enough, Leake pretends to have interviewed Kanazawa:
Kanazawa said: “Physical attractiveness is a highly heritable trait, which disproportionately increases the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons.
“If more attractive parents have more daughters and if physical attractiveness is heritable, it logically follows that women over many generations gradually become more physically attractive on average than men.”
These quotes are not from an interview, but from Kanazawa’s paper “Beautiful parents have more daughters”. And if you read the paper you will find that Kanazawa is not saying that evolution is making women more beautiful, but rather that has already made them more beautiful. And Kanazawa says that human evolution isn’t happening at the moment:
In fact, we’re not playing catch up; we’re stuck. For any evolutionary change to take place, the environment has to remain more or less constant for many generations, so that evolution can select the traits that are adaptive and eliminate those that are not. When the environment undergoes rapid change within the space of a generation or two, as it has been for the last couple of millennia, if not more, then evolution can’t happen because nature can’t determine which traits to select and which to eliminate. So they remain at a standstill. Our brain (and the rest of our body) are essentially frozen in time — stuck in the Stone Age.
I should also note that Andrew Gelman has shown that Kanazawa calculated the statistical significance of his results incorrectly and they were not statistically significant.
But I’ve saved the best till last. Chris at A Free Man wrote a post arguing that Leakes’ story was bad journalism and bad science. Leake emailed him to complain about his story and wrote (my emphasis):
I stick to my point about bloggers. I wouldn’t write about someone or their work without contacting them. It’s unfair and risks inaccuracies.