Perry again insists on ideology, even when it's demonstrably not true
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 18, 2011
GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is a skilled politician but he shows poor quality thinking when handling policy challenges using knowledge and science.
We hear the term - but how much will a new US energy infrastructure cost?
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 16, 2011
We hear talk about how we need to transition to a green energy economy, but what exactly does that mean? A little math and some energy insight can paint a rough picture.
The 'World's Toughest Reviewers' give Fool Me Twice a Major Thumbs Up
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 16, 2011
If you know Kirkus Reviews you know they can be very tough - in fact their tag line is "The World's Toughest reviewers Since 1933."
Why I gave my son a dangerous cell phone even after San Francisco said it's bad for him
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 01, 2011
Last week the big science news was a new study saying cell phones don't increase cancer risk in kids. It was promptly called into question on HuffPost and elsewhere. Several reporters referenced the May 31 release by the World Health Organization about a "possible" link between brain cancer and cell phone use, which classed it in the same risk category as eating pickled vegetables and drinking coffee. In a related move, last week San Francisco passed a regulation requiring retailers to post radiation exposure warnings on every phone and hand every customer educational material counseling them on the possible risks to their health.
Two bizarre cases from neuroscience shed light on a failed policy
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 28, 2011
Last month, forty years after Richard Nixon declared America's War on Drugs, the UN's Global Commission on Drug Policy declared it a failure and said that "policies need to change now." Two bizarre cases from neuroscience help explain why it hasn't worked.
New Pew study signals what may be the best hope for democracy
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 21, 2011
A major part of the American public's weakening grip on reality is caused by the pernicious myth of the "marketplace of ideas." As a Hollywood screenwriter, I can tell you there is no "marketplace of ideas." It's a marketplace of emotions.
These eerie echoes from the past show nations that placed ideology ahead of science - like America is now - have come out losers
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 15, 2011
Today's GOP antiscience fervor is somewhat new for America, with almost all of the new GOP freshmen lawmakers to take positions that are vehemently anti-climate science, pro-creationism, pro-abstinence only education, and seeking to personally vilify, harrass and attack scientists for their own political gain. This has never been a successful strategy, and today's GOP should abandon it. Americans should support Republican candidates that are pro-science. Nations that have strayed too far down the path of placing ideology ahead of science have come out losers, both economically and in terms of global power. Consider these examples from history, that are eerily echoed in today's antiscience politics:
Energy Industry-funded Heartland Institute engaging in more religion-style climate science denial proselytizing
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 11, 2011
I got an email from Joel Primack, Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Director of the University of California High-Performance Astrocomputing Center at UC-Santa Cruz. He and his wife Nancy Abrams, a writer and lawyer, have a new book out and were on Extension 720, a Chicagoland radio show. Who should call in, but Maureen Martin, the Heartland Institute's senior fellow for legal affairs, and she engaged them in a discussion of denial.
Garry Trudeau has some fun with Louisiana's classroom creationism kookiness
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 10, 2011
When the Louisiana state legislature adjourned on June 23, 2011, Senate Bill 70 — which would have repealed the antievolution law in effect in the state since 2008 — died in committee. The driving force behind the repeal effort was Baton Rouge high school senior Zack Kopplin, working with the Louisiana Coalition for Science.
We live in a day when students lead the charge for truth, while parents want to sacrifice their childrens' education to satisfy their political affiliation.
Symphony of Science's new music video
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 08, 2011
I usually hate the short cute video drivel you can find on youtube, and I try to stay away from it. That goes double for the new autotuned drivel. But once in a while somebody actually does a halfway decent job of it, and then somebody else like PZ Myers, who we all know has such cultured taste, goes and vets it for you, and you have to watch.
Today's GOP seems increasingly anti-science, but it wasn't always so. 80 years ago, the antiscience social conservatives were Democrats.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 07, 2011
Today the party that most stands for freedom, openness, tolerance, caution, and science is the Democratic Party, which may explain why fifty-five percent of scientists polled in 2009 said they were Democrats, while only six percent said they were Republicans, compared to thirty-five and twenty-three percent of the general public, respectively. Early in the twentieth century this situation was almost reversed. Republican Abraham Lincoln had created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863. Republican William McKinley, who is admired by Karl Rove, won two presidential elections, in 1896 and 1900, over the anti-evolution Democrat William Jennings Bryan.
Alteration of Reuters headline to convey the opposite message is the latest in Fox News' propaganda war on climate change
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 06, 2011
On July 4, Reuters ran the following headline: “Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study.” The FOX NationThe following day, Fox News picked up the Reuters story, but changed the headline to “Reuters Bombshell: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduce Global Warming.” Just one problem: the sulfur dioxide emissions from the Chinese coal plants, the subject of the article, are not greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, they are the opposite.
Why Michele Bachmann's ideas about public education are bad for America
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 05, 2011
GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has made a career out of waging the values battle in the culture wars. A major part of that battle early on in Bachmann's career was the battle over teaching creationism in public school science classes. In fact, Bachmann got her start in politics on the board of a charter school that got in trouble for teaching biblical principles in class. She ran for school board as part of a group of religious conservatives that sought to take it over. She failed, but it was the last election she has lost. Today, the debate over "teching the controversy" has gone mainstream.
Attend the Heartland Institute and accept the energy industry into your heart as your personal savior and you can become an expert.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 30, 2011
The Heartland Institute is up to its usual tricks, delivering a religious retreat-like conference about climate change denial and passing it off as science. They are an energy-industry funded climate change denial outfit that equips their congregation followers with the latest anti-climate science preaching.
It is an approach that seems to have confused at least one state senator about the difference between the two. The story is instructive because it is happening in state legislatures across the country, and the stakes are tremendous.
Brain science shows why the War on Drugs is failing
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 27, 2011
This month, forty years after Richard Nixon first declared America's War on Drugs in 1971, the UN's Global Commission on Drug Policy released a searing indictment of the program, declaring it a failure. Two bizarre cases from neuroscience hold keys to understanding why, from a scientific perspective, the War on Drugs has not been successful.
The truth-telling, pro-life, anti-science Tim Pawlenty is a closet moderate who once told me that "personally" he is pro-choice
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 25, 2011
Tim Pawlenty has based his presidential campaign on truth-telling and toughness, and likes to talk about his pro-life credentials. But there are some problems with that. I've known Pawlenty since he was a young republican state representative from Eagan, Minnesota. We had some of the same friends and used to golf together once in a while. His campaign treasurer was my accountant. And Pawlenty told me then that "personally," he was pro-choice.
If women dressed more modestly, would they be less likely to be raped?
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 24, 2011
Sheril Kirshenbaum has a new piece out on Canada's National Post. It's a counterpoint to some Canadian news covereage of a Toronto policeman who suggested that if women dressed more modestly they would be less likely to be raped.
This is a claim I've heard from several sources lately, but is it true? Despite the latest "slut walk" movement to push back on this notion, there's a reason moms tell their daughters not to dress like a "slut."
A presciently stupid 2006 satire by Mike Judge called Idiocracy
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 20, 2011
A simply must see.
A new movement is afoot to end liberal arts degrees and transform higher ed into trade school
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 19, 2011
Salon runs this article about the benefits of killing the liberal arts degree.
Stanley Fish wrote of this sort of triumph of small-mindedness in 2010 in an eloquent criticism of Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education, a set of recommendations made by an independent panel to the British government. It advocated “student choice” in funding higher education.
Among the report’s palliatives: “Our proposals put students at the heart of the system.” “Our recommendations…are based on giving students the ability to make an informed choice of where and what to study.” “Students are best placed to make the judgment about what they want to get from participating in higher education.” The idea is that the money follows the students. Courses that compete successfully for student attendance survive and prosper; those that do not wither and die. The assumptions of market economics have triumphed: Ideas are now considered commodities.
We have to shame antiscience thinking into submission just like we did racism
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 18, 2011
Yesterday I spoke on the Netroots Nation 2011 panel Science Policy in Unexpected Places with some amazing copanelists here here here and here.
My comment that “Science is never partisan, but science is always political,” and that “we need to shame antiscience thinking into submission, just as we shamed racism” was picked up, tweeted and posted by Think Progress's Brad Johnson. It caused quite a discussion.
At the same time, my old state senator Michele Bachmann spoke at the other end of the Mississippi and reiterated her old position about intelligent design and how "we should teach the controversy."