The Island of Doubt

Freelance science journalist and communications consultant

Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times presents a disturbing tale of attempts by creationists to up their chances of slipping religion into science classrooms by piggy-backing it onto “balanced” instruction of climatology.

It’s a sore spot for some climate change pseudoskeptics. Any time anyone makes any kind of claim about the effects of a warming planet on tropical storm activity, you can count on a deluge of rejoinders about how shaky the science on the subject really is.

As regular readers will know, I prefer the term “pseudoskeptic” over “denier” when it comes to those who insist we needn’t be worried about climate change. This is because the common denominator among any set of such characters tends to be a misapplication of the scientific method, a failure to apply rigorous skeptical analysis to…

This has nothing to do with climatology, or science in general, but I can’t resist sharing it with you. From the instructions to our new DTV antenna, which until the Great Ice Storm of 2010 damaged its transformer-coaxial connection, brought in more watchable channels than expanded basic cable or satellite: For those that might have…

It’s hard to know just when George F. Will parted ways with reality. Some argue he abandoned respect for historical accuracy years ago. But it’s only in the last year or so, thanks to a series of bafflingly misinformed column on climate change, that it became clear to all but his most loyal readers that…

In the past couple of days a pernicious little meme has appeared in two leading North American newspapers. I refer to the notion that there is such a thing as “settled science.” First, on a column about climatology Monday the Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente asked not-so-rhetorically “So much for the science being settled. Now…

Fixing journalism

Covering climatology may not be the biggest challenge facing today’s mainstream news outlets and the journalists they employ, but it certainly has exposed a serious weakness in conventional news reporting. That weakness, as I implied in my previous post, is a pathological fear of taking sides, even then the “sides” in question are reality and…

What ails journalism

David Roberts at Grist, riffing on This American Life’s Ira Glass, nails it on the head: “…news reporting is declining in part because of just this phenomenon: reporters do not react like human beings. The audience doesn’t see or hear themselves in most news reporting. When covering something amazing, reporters are not allowed express awe.…

Via the ever-vigilant Stoat, I draw your attention to a letter to the Netherlands parliament from by 55 Netherlands scientists. Along with the usual “the science remains sound” defense of our understanding of anthropogenic global warming, it provides some useful perspective: The writing of IPCC reports and its quality control remains the work of humans.…

It gives me no pleasure to pass on the facts about the lack of respect for the truth shown by climate change pseudo-skeptics. But there’s simply no getting around it.