science policy

Remember the Occupy movement? It began in 2011 and fizzled out a few years later. Why?

Because it stood for nothing. Anything that protesters disliked was a target to be "occupied," so activists used the movement to vent their anger over the status quo. But what exactly made them angry and how they proposed to fix it were never elaborated. Instead, we got endless video footage of protesters camping near city streets, blocking traffic, and pooping on the sidewalk.

Simply put, it is not sufficient for a political movement to express dissatisfaction. If it wants to have a lasting impact, it must have an achievable goal in mind. Without a unifying rallying cry, a political movement risks fading into...

What's the biggest, deadliest threat the world faces today? How a person answers that question reveals a lot about them.

Epidemiologists and microbiologists fear pandemics, economists fret over depressions, and foreign policy analysts fear war. Political partisans will often say something flip -- like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton -- but the upside is that you no longer have to take that individual seriously.

Those who fancy themselves enlightened are likely to answer climate change, but like Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb, this is simply the apocalypse du jour. Climate change is a slow-moving threat whose consequences are in the...

The U.S. Congress is made up mostly of professional politicians and lawyers. This comes as a surprise to precisely no one, but the sheer numbers are rather striking.

According to the Congressional Research Service (PDF, Table 2), the 115th Congress consists of 168 Representatives (out of 435) who are lawyers, and the Senate has 50 lawyers (out of 100). Combined, lawyers make up nearly 41% of Congress.

How many lawyers are in the U.S.? One law firm (with a nifty interactive map!) estimates roughly 1.3 million. Given that the U.S. population is about 323 million, the number of lawyers...

A judge in California is going to determine whether or not coffee causes cancer.

Think about that. We live in a society where judges and lawyers -- not medical doctors, scientists, or even a group of really clever AP biology high school students -- get to determine the credibility of biomedical research. The stakes are high: If coffee is deemed carcinogenic, then the State of California will be required to give up all pretense at common sense and sanity.

To give just a small flavor of the level of insanity California has reached, attorney Raphael Metzger and his group's trial lawyer NGO Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT - founded by U.C. Berkeley Professor Martyn...

I voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the State of Washington. My general belief is that adults should be allowed to do whatever they want to do, as long as they aren't harming anybody else.

So, this article is not about whether adults should have the right to smoke pot. Instead, this article is about basic responsibility, something that a lot of potheads apparently don't have.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a 9-year-old 5th grader took what she believed to be a box of gummy candy to school and shared them with friends. The problem is that it wasn't just any gummy candy; instead, the candy contained THC, the active...

Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, has announced his retirement. When he leaves, the Senate will lose its most ardent supporter of alternative medicine.

Previously, that title was held indisputably by Tom Harkin, a Democratic Senator from Iowa. He is largely to blame for the abomination known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), an organization so worthless that it had to change its name so biomedical scientists would stop mocking it.

If Ted Kennedy was the Lion of the Senate, Sen. Harkin was the Snake Oil Salesman of the Senate. Given that his pet project wasted billions investigating pure...

Scientists and lawyers do not get along. There's a reason for that. Simply put, scientists and lawyers do not think alike.

I was smacked in the face by this reality when I was called into jury duty in 2011. The case involved a car accident, and the standard in Washington State for the jury to decide in favor of the plaintiff is a "preponderance of evidence," which is a fancy way of saying, "51 percent." Essentially, a coin toss decides if the plaintiff wins a bunch of money.

The judge asked if any of the potential jurors objected to that. I did. "I'm a scientist," I explained, "and I need more evidence than that." So, I was shown the door.*

That experience...

Open displays of bipartisanship are rare these days and, as such, should be applauded. Unfortunately, a recent example of bipartisanship promotes junk science and bogus health claims.

In a press release, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis and Republican Congressman Mike Coffman announced their intention to launch the Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus. That sounds nice, until you realize that "integrative" and "wellness" are code words for "alternative medicine."

However, as we've said multiple times, there's no such thing as alternative medicine. If alternative medicine worked, it would just be called medicine. In other words, a patient has two choices: evidence-based...

Over the past few days, a controversy has erupted following claims in the Washington Post that the Trump Administration has banned or otherwise discouraged the use of seven words, such as "fetus" and "transgender," by the CDC and other HHS agencies. For what it's worth, CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald has denied these reports.

Lest we forget, the Obama Administration did something similar: In 2009, it began referring to acts of terrorism as "man-caused disasters." Additionally, throughout its eight-year tenure, the...

A recent editorial in JAMA Marijuana, Secondhand Smoke, and Social Acceptability begins by remarking on “The cloud of secondhand marijuana smoke” visible a half mile away from a 420 party [1] in Golden Gate Park. (Obviously, the work of people capable of making joints larger than Cheech and Chong could imagine.)

The authors point out that this behavior, if smoking tobacco rather than weed, would be “unthinkable (and illegal)” because it has to do with social acceptability – pot good, tobacco bad. To bolster their acceptability argument, they note differences between the two combustibles. For example, 16% of high school sophomores and 25% of high school seniors report marijuana use,...