sensationalism

There's no doubt that Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant scientists to have ever lived. There's also no doubt that he enjoys giving his opinion on topics of which he knows absolutely nothing.

A few years ago, Dr. Hawking got into trouble for claiming, "Philosophy is dead." It was a strange thing for a theoretical physicist to assert, not only because theoretical physics has direct implications for philosophy but because the entire scientific enterprise is predicated upon epistemology. (That's the philosophical discipline that seeks to answer one of the most important questions humanity has ever asked: How do we know what we claim to know?)

Dr. Hawking has also...

When I was learning how to do word problems in elementary school, we were taught to ask ourselves a few questions after arriving at an answer. One of them was, "Does my answer make sense?" For example, if a problem asked how many apples a person can buy if he has $5 and each apple costs 50 cents and your answer is negative 17 million, something has gone horribly wrong.

Does my answer make sense? is such a great question, that every published scientific paper henceforth should be required to answer it explicitly. Perhaps we would avoid seeing papers with titles like this:

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In a recent documentary, religion scholar Reza Aslan ate a small piece of human brains. That was inadvisable.

The purpose of his six-episode CNN series "Believer," according to the Los Angeles Times, is to explore misunderstood faiths. Of course, given the choice of good journalism or sensationalism, Dr. Aslan chose the latter. In one episode, he hung out with the Aghoris, a small, fringe Hindu cult with extremely bizarre practices that are meant as a rebuke to...

Back when I was editor of RealClearScience, Slate's science page was a daily must-read. Now, I never read it because the quality of its reportage has fallen dramatically and because I grew tired of Phil Plait deceiving readers about science policy and posting selfies with his goat.

There are plenty of other reasons to avoid Slate. Perhaps the best is that the site is enamored with publishing contrarian news articles. Their formula is time-tested: (1) Take a statement that is obviously stupid; (2) Write a headline vigorously...