science and politics

Like a coffee stain on a new carpet, Karl Marx stubbornly refuses to go away. The appeal of his ideas seems to be rooted in some fanciful, whitewashed version of history, because almost without fail, Marx's biggest fans are those people who never had to live under the consequences of his political philosophy.

Attempts to rehabilitate Marx's image occur among left-wing academics, usually fringe economists and undergraduate philosophy majors. Marx is not a typical topic of conversation among biomedical scientists, which is why a recent editorial by Richard Horton, editor-...

ACSH has been around since 1978 but I doubt we have ever seen anything like this before.

Climate scientist Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University has sued the National Academy of Sciences, which publishes the prestigious journal PNAS, for publishing an article that disagreed with him. The lawsuit claims that Dr. Jacobson was libeled and slandered. He is suing to get the journal to retract the article.

For his hurt feelings and bruised ego, he also wants a big bag of money, $10 million to be precise.

To say that this is...

The rapprochement with Cuba appears to be short-lived.

Today, the Trump Administration expelled 15 Cuban diplomats due to the mysterious "sonic attack" against nearly two dozen American diplomats and staffers in Havana. According to the New York Times, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the expulsion is "due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats."

It's not a secret that President Trump disagreed with President Obama's attempt to normalize relations with Cuba. Back in June, Mr. Trump took steps to...

Every so often, the media likes to warn us that we're all dying from air pollution.

Headlines like, "Air Pollution 'Kills 7 Million People a Year'" are common and repeated like a morose version of the childhood game "Telephone." Predictably, that leads to calls for tighter environmental regulations, and anyone who disagrees is labeled an Earth-hating, cancer-loving industry shill.

Now a team of researchers from the University of Chicago has created a map that depicts the average number of years of life per person that could be saved if countries adopted the...

In order to capitalize on current events and our hyperpartisan climate, science news outlets increasingly feel the need to weigh in on how day-to-day political affairs will affect science.

Originally in Nature News and reprinted by Scientific American, an article published on Monday boldly proclaims, "What Germany's election results mean for science." The authors suggest tighter regulations on GMOs and ambiguity on energy/climate policy.

Here's a better answer: The German election means nothing for science. Absolutely nothing. Nobody with any credibility looks to Germany for leadership on scientific issues. There are multiple reasons for this...

"Follow the money!" activists shout. The money trail, according to this logic, always leads to lies and deception.

This puerile fallacy, argumentum ad aurum, is just a thinly disguised ad hominem attack commonly used against scientists. Instead of criticizing the quality or conclusions of the research, activists instead assault the integrity of the scientist.

For certain, money can be a corrupting influence. That's why journals require scientists to disclose financial ties to industry. But money isn't the only source of corruption. Indeed, anything that causes a person to reject evidence-based science should be considered a...

Recently, I gave a seminar on "fake news" to professors and grad students at a large public university. Early in my talk, I polled the audience: "How many of you believe climate change is the world's #1 threat?"

Silence. Not a single person raised his or her hand.

Was I speaking in front of a group of science deniers? The College Republicans? Some fringe libertarian club? No, it was a room full of microbiologists.

How could so many incredibly intelligent people overwhelmingly reject what THE SCIENCE says about climate change? Well, they don't. They just don't see it as big of a threat to the world as other things. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of them felt that antibiotic resistance and pandemic disease were the biggest global threats. One person thought...

It's been an interesting week for people who work in public relations.

United Airlines dragged a screaming passenger off one of its planes, injuring and bloodying him in the process. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, claimed that Hitler didn't use chemical weapons, apparently forgetting that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in gas chambers.

Not to be outdone, the national organizers for the March for Science said, "Hold my beer, and watch this."

March for Science Defends ISIS

Today, the official March for Science Twitter account criticized the Trump Administration for bombing ISIS, claiming that the gigantic bomb we dropped on the terrorists is an "example of how science is weaponized against marginalized people."

After...

President Trump has convened a panel to address America's opioid epidemic. Its first mission should be to find convincing data to identify the actual cause(s) of the problem. That will be much harder than it sounds, since ideologues are always in plentiful supply.

Indeed, many influential people already seem to have a strong opinion about who is to blame. Claire McCaskill, a Senator from Missouri, points her finger at pharmaceutical companies. She is launching an investigation, but there is little need for one, given that she has already told us what its conclusions are ahead of time: 

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Today, it seems that honest disagreement just isn't possible. Social media, which has become a sewage pipe of political hyper-partisanship and unscientific propaganda, magnifies this disturbing trend. If two otherwise intelligent people disagree on something, accusations of being a liar, fraud, or paid shill are quick to follow.

Compounding this problem is the fact that half of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Instead of ushering in a Second Enlightenment, it appears the Information Age has turned us into paranoid cynics who perceive dark forces controlling world events. Such is the state of our...