Huffington Post sees UFO’s–logical fallacies everywhere

This quality of photo would be convincing evidence of a UFO visit.

I know all of my liberal friends love the Huffington Post (HuffPo), but I think that the online newspaper is no better than anything published by Rupert Murdoch.  And it’s not just me.  Brian Dunning, over at Skeptoid, considers it one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, although I think it deserves a higher seeding in the Pseudoscience Bracket.  Here’s how I look at it:  if they can’t get the science right, if they continue to support non-evidence based stories, how are we to trust anything else they write?  If they aggressively promote homeopathy, anti-vaccine lunacy, and colon detoxification, all thoroughly debunked with real science published in real peer-reviewed journals, then what are they promoting in their political news?  I rarely read anything from HuffPo, and I consider them an insult to the science journalism. Continue reading “Huffington Post sees UFO’s–logical fallacies everywhere”

Volcano in Germany is definitely not going to erupt soon

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the Laacher See, a caldera lake and potentially active volcano in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid, published a story stating that the volcano was ready to erupt soon.  Though there is plenty of evidence that the volcano is still active and may one day erupt, there is no evidence that it’s about to do so anytime soon. Continue reading “Volcano in Germany is definitely not going to erupt soon”

Huffington Post and quote mining–one more reason to ignore them

The Huffington Post published an article recently entitled, Science and religion quotes: what the world’s greatest scientists say about God.  I rarely read HuffPo, despite my having a similar political point-of-view, because of what I perceive to be a high number of anti-science articles.  In this case, HuffPo tries to show how some of the great scientists were actually deeply spiritual if not religious.  Using quotes as evidence for a history or biography of an individual is pathetic and disingenuous, especially if taken out of context.  It would be as if we tried to describe Los Angeles based on a snapshot of one house in San Pedro. Continue reading “Huffington Post and quote mining–one more reason to ignore them”

Most fish in the sea evolved on land–but not really

New Scientist, a popular science magazine, published an article entitled, “Most fish in the sea evolved on land.”  It doesn’t describe anything new and exciting, except bad science journalism.  If you read the title, you’d think “wow, fish evolved on land.”  Well, they didn’t, and the article makes that clear.  The article states that fish evolved in freshwater and radiate out to saltwater environments, mainly because freshwater environments are more stable, at least, with regards to the water. Continue reading “Most fish in the sea evolved on land–but not really”

8 Hunterdon county children diagnosed with whooping cough were behind on vaccines

8 Hunterdon county children diagnosed with whooping cough were behind on vaccines | NJ.com.

So here are more children that should have been vaccinated against a disease that is preventable by a simple vaccination.  It’s just so frustrating.

Oh, one more thing.  There isn’t much evidence that the vaccine is ineffective against new strains of pertussis.  It’s annoying that the writers of this article weren’t better trained in scientific journalism, so that they could ask questions about the efficacy of the vaccine from valid sources of information, instead of one of the vaccine denialists whose information is based on rumor and anecdote.

Huge volcano threatens Europe!!! Maybe not.

Although my interests center on medicine and biology, I have more than a professional hobbyist interest in geology, specifically vulcanism, the study of volcanoes (and not Spock).  So I peruse news stories about volcanic eruptions when they appear.  This week, a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, published a story entitled, Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London about to erupt?  I suspect that the Daily Mail is one of Britain’s sensationalist newspapers, and this article would confirm it.

But let’s go over some of it’s points.  Yes, the Laacher See volcano did erupt about 12,900 years ago, and it was a rather large eruption, on the size of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.  Obviously, I was somewhat surprised that such a recent and large volcanic event happened in Europe.  If it did happen today, Europe would be devastated for years.  That eruption was massive, and one can find deep layers of ash throughout Central Europe up through to the North Sea.  It had a profound effect on weather patterns of the era, with effects happening within a few weeks.

The article uses as its evidence that the volcano erupts every 12,000 years, so it’s overdue (I suppose) for an eruption, and that there are some CO2 outgassing in the lake (which formed when the magma chamber collapsed after the most recent eruption).  If that’s their “evidence” for a future eruption, then we need to redefine what constitutes evidence.  In fact, as they say in the financial industry, past performance is not a guarantee of future results.  Furthermore, I could find no published, peer-reviewed support for a prediction of a new eruption.  In other words, the Daily Mail invented this prediction.

As for the CO2 bubbles in the lake, yes that happens in water over a magma chamber, but it is, by itself, not an indicator of impending doom.  However, the CO2 can be dangerous, of course, but that’s a biological issue not a prediction-of-eruption issue.

This is what bothers me about these kind of articles.  The internet, being the rather instant communication method that it is, transfers this information from one side of the planet to another.  Soon, I’ll be reading about it in what are supposed to be reasonable websites that monitor the world environmental issues.

Science journalism has a responsibility to actually provide accurate information.  Too many times I read articles published in news sites (probably higher quality than the Daily Mail) that wildly misinterpret medical or scientific articles.  I spend so much time debunking the overstating of what is said that if I could get paid for it, I’d have quite a career set up.  Wikipedia is notorious for this kind of sensationalism.

I can only hope that all the skeptics out there have an effect on this type of bad science journalism.  And London, you’re safe for now, though with the Olympics coming up, I may change my mind.