activism

I've been a science writer and editor for nearly eight years. During this time, I've learned a few things.

Perhaps the most important is that science is never enough. It doesn't matter if you have facts, data, and logic on your side, a substantial proportion of people will reject what you say and call you bad names. The reason, usually, is because they have an ideological conflict of interest -- by far, the worst kind of conflict of interest. That is, they are so dedicated to a particular viewpoint, that literally nothing will change their minds. That is anathema to science.

Editors must be aware of that fact. Otherwise, they are likely to be...

"Attn:" is an activist website that produces extremely popular videos, some of which feature the esteemed scientist (all actors consider themselves scientists) Zooey Deschanel. And like most activist websites, truth comes in a distant second place to eyeballs.

One video making the rounds on Facebook is titled, "Processed Food in America vs. Europe." The video pushes the old trope that Europeans eat food hand-picked from the Garden of the Gods, while Americans eat slop filled with dangerous chemicals. So far, it's received 62 million views.

The lies come early and often. Let's break them down:

"Processed food contains chemicals that are illegal in Europe."...

I met a friend at a coffee shop in Seattle today. We covered a lot of ground in the short time we had together -- politics, the state of our nation, the state of our city.

We don't see eye-to-eye on many issues. But what we have in common is a respect for each others' intelligence and intentions. We also share a desire for truth rather than ideology to prevail. By doing our best to rely on facts and to acknowledge our own sources of bias, we can have productive conversations despite our disagreements.

After my friend left, an elderly gentleman approached me and said (paraphrased), "I overheard you talking about politics. You both listened to each other and responded. That's not usual for this city, where it's bash, bash."

It's not just Seattle; it's all of America...

One of the predictable consequences of our tribalistic, hyperpartisan society is a collapse in basic decency.

Look at the way Republicans and Democrats treat each other. Look at the way so-called intellectuals and scholars treat each other. Look at the way we treat each other on social media. (Look at the names I'll be called in the comments section.)

There was a time, not all that long ago, when we regularly interacted with people with whom we strongly disagreed. Remember those goofy TV debate shows, like CNN's Crossfire and Fox News's Hannity & Colmes? Apparently, they represented the high-water mark of modern American political discourse and tolerance.

Today, we not only refuse to listen to opposing viewpoints, but we refuse to live in the...

Journalism isn't what it used to be.

Decades ago, it was a widely respected career. Every night, people would gather around their television sets to watch the nightly news. There weren't many options to choose from, and Walter Cronkite was easily the most famous. He was so influential, that a myth widely believed to this day circulated about him: When Cronkite declared the Vietnam War a stalemate, President Lyndon Johnson supposedly remarked, "If I've lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America."

He never did say that, but the kernel of truth at the heart of the myth still rings loud and true: There was a time when Americans...

Good science journalism is hard to find. In a world of fake news, the public needs trusted guides to help them understand complex issues.

The website Undark, whose stated mission is "true journalistic coverage of the sciences" seems a promising venue. Its editorial staff and advisory board contain some fairly well-known and respectable names.

That's what makes the website's publication of a Monsanto conspiracy article so troubling and, quite frankly, bizarre. The piece, written by Carey Gillam, deploys distortions and half-truths early and often. Literally, the very first sentence is a...