Linkage 5/7: Climate Change McCarthyism & Neanderthal Sex


Climate Scientists to Politicians: Enough Already

A pretty remarkable letter was published in the journal Science this week, signed by 250 members (including4 University of Chicago scientists) of the National Academy of Sciences and calling for “an end to McCarthy-like threats” surrounding climate change. The letter makes a stand for reason on both climate change specifically and science in general, arguing that the scientific process of constantly questioning and improving the knowledge of a particular subject should not be misinterpreted as flaws.

When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

The letter comes on the heels of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe suggesting in March that U.S. and British scientists should be criminally investigated for their role in the “ClimateGate” hacked e-mails incident. Michael Mann, the Penn State climatologist who created the famous hockey stick graph showing the recent rise in global temperatures, was cleared by his university of any misconduct charges, but was targeted this week by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Such efforts are political grandstanding at its most despicable, and seriously endanger the ability of scientists to conduct research in an open and unpolitical forum. Great coverage, as always, by Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth.

2010 BIO Coverage Roundup

To wrap up BIO week, I thought I’d cast a net for some of the other commentary from this week’s conference in Chicago. Bruce Japsen of the Chicago Tribune saw part of Al Gore’s speech and focused on how the global recession wounded the biotechnology industry. Tuesday’s keynote session with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton was controversially closed to the media, but Forbes ran a perspective on the event from a conference attendee. Industry magazine Fierce Biotech and the San Diego Biotechnology Network were also grinding out gavel-to-gavel coverage alongside our own.


The science writing of Carl Zimmer usually can be found in the pages of the New York Times and the webpages of Discover, but here’s a Zimmer piece in a scientific journal – Evolution: Education and Outreach. The article, which discusses the history of media coverage of evolution, offers advice to teachers on how to use today’s news stories to engage students on evolution, and recaps the controversy over the unveiling of Darwinius masillae last year. “No teacher should expose students to The Sun‘s coverage of Darwinius,” Zimmer writes, “just as no teacher should expose students to deer ticks.”

Speaking of evolution and human origins, the winner of the most sensational science headline-generator of the week goes to Science in a landslide, thanks to a study of Neanderthal DNA. Interesting findings abound in the genetic draft sequence published today by an international team of scientists from 3 Neanderthal skeletons found in Croatia: differences in genes for skin, brain function, and diabetes that may explain why we’re still around Neanderthals are not. But the big media hook is expressed in headlines like “Hot Human-on-Neanderthal Action,” based on the evidence that the two species interbred some 80,000 years ago.

Last month, we covered the first use of a new subcutaneous implantable defibrillator device in the United States, a procedure performed by University of Chicago cardiologist Martin Burke. This week, WGN did a piece on the device and Brooke Bergeron, the Naperville mother of four who is the first S-ICD patient.

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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