Apocalypse Then

By Keith Kloor | June 5, 2014 8:51 am

One of the best books I’ve read in the last year is “The Bet,” by Yale historian Paul Sabin. The author penned a New York Times op-ed around the time of its publication. As Fred Pearce wrote in his New Scientist review, Saban “has produced an absorbing narrative of how two people’s ‘clashing insights’ unleashed on the world polarized views of the environmental and resource threats we face in the 21st century.”

Those two people would be the economist Julian Simon and biologist Paul Ehrlich. When you see those names paired together, their famous wager will surely be mentioned in the same breath. Saban’s book is a must-read if you want to learn how the stage was set for the acrid, polarized climate debate playing out today. This incubation is something I discuss in my recent review of the “The Bet.”

Admirers and detractors of Paul Ehrlich are aware of the enormous influence he had on the trajectory of the environmental discourse. This passage from “The Bet” speaks to the conflicted assessment of Ehrlich by his peers just as he was making his mark in the early 1970s: Read More

Opportunistic Scaremongering

By Keith Kloor | May 28, 2014 10:30 am

In 2008, the animals rights group PETA was lambasted for a new ad campaign.

Although the billboards were quickly taken down, the ridiculous article discussing the supposed link between autism and milk remains on the group’s website. Steven Novella and a columnist for the Telegraph (among others?) seem to have just discovered the article and mistaken it for a new campaign. Still, it’s worth noting one thing the Telegraph columnist said about the PETA article. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: autism, biotechnology, GMOs
MORE ABOUT: autism, biotechnology, GMOs, PETA

The Electric Car Boomlet

By Keith Kloor | May 24, 2014 8:26 am

Guest post by Jess Scanlon

As the summer driving season kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, more cars than ever will be skipping the gas station in favor of electric charging ones. These include the 88 Tesla “supercharger” stations in the United States. Tesla is the high-end option of the modest but growing electric car industry. The company produces sporty roadsters (such as the one pictured above) and high-end sedans, like its Model S (prices start at $70,000), which Consumer Reports last year rated a “nearly perfect car.”

The most recent Tesla Supercharger station, debuted in April in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Trenton located near exit 7A of the New Jersey Turnpike, a road many drivers will use this weekend on their way to the Jersey Shore. It is part of  Tesla’s expanding coast to coast network of free electric charging stations.


Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: transportation

The Entrenched GMO Narrative

By Keith Kloor | May 22, 2014 2:46 pm

Regular readers of Collide-a-Scape know that I’m interested in popular narratives that shape public discourse. I’m specifically interested in how science and environment-related topics are covered in the media, and how this coverage tends to create dominant narratives.

Along these lines, I’ve explored the genesis and amplification of varied media narratives, from Jared Diamond’s collapse meme and Paul Brodeur’s power lines/cancer connection reportage to Vandana Shiva’s GMO/Indian farmer suicide storyline.

One interesting pattern, as these cases suggest, is that sometimes the emergence and staying power of a particular narrative owes to an influential science writer, well-placed journalist, or popular activist.

In other cases, a narrative coalesces around a stock villain, such as Monsanto as the great Satan, or a phrase like the “new normal,” a term that associates severe weather events with man-made climate change.

I like to explore how these memes originate and what sustains them. I have the feeling that not everybody shares this interest. So when another journalist researches the archives for a story on how agricultural biotechnology became so controversial, it’s worth noting. Here’s the opening scene Brooke Borel sets for her piece recently published at Modern Farmer: Read More

No Critical Thinking Required

By Keith Kloor | May 21, 2014 2:37 pm

On Twitter, a popular health advocate makes this observation:

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

Here’s another correlation that will blow your mind.

You can check out all manner of “spurious correlations” at this site, which Knight Science Journalism blogger Paul Raeburn and others have been noting of late.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs, science, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology, GMOs, science

Is the GMO Debate Advancing to a Higher Level?

By Keith Kloor | May 21, 2014 10:46 am

I’m just catching up with several deeply reported articles on GMOs that are worth your attention. Molly Ball, a staff writer at The Atlantic, recently published a long piece that explores the swirling politics and emotions driving the GMO labeling campaign in the United States. She concludes: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology, GMOs, science

Is Journalistic Self-Censorship a Big Problem?

By Keith Kloor | May 19, 2014 1:53 pm

The London Based SciDevNet, which is “committed to putting science at the heart of global development,” has an interesting post up today entitled, “Is science journalism ignoring censorship?”

The questions raised by the author, Nick Ishmael Perkins, are first discussed in the context of traditional censorship issues, such as when governments restrict access to information. This is fairly straightforward.

What is more vexing and hard to quantify is the problem of self-censorship, or what Perkins calls “low level censorship” that, for science journalists, is experienced at mundane or bureaucratic levels. He writes: Read More

Mike Adams, AKA the ‘Health Ranger,’ Wants Some Respect

By Keith Kloor | May 16, 2014 8:33 pm

In my previous post, I reported on legal threats recently made by Mike Adams against Forbes and one of its contributing writers, Jon Entine, who oversees the Genetic Literacy Project. Entine is hardly the first science writer/blogger to shine a spotlight on Adams, whose penchant for raw foods, alternative health treatments and various outlandish conspiracy theories enables him to straddle multiple fringe-dwelling worlds.

So before my post was published, I emailed Adams to ask if he has ever pursued legal action against any other writers who had written similarly unflattering articles about him. He never answered that specific question, but he did send a long response, which I post below in its entirety. Read More

Mike Adams, the Alt Medicine Purveyor Who Calls himself the ‘Health Ranger,’ Threatens to Sue Forbes and Writer

By Keith Kloor | May 16, 2014 10:58 am

It is not unusual for public figures to be unhappy with how they are portrayed in the media. Sometimes their complaints are understandable, other times not so much. What is unusual is for a public figure to take legal action against a journalist.

That’s because in the United States there is a very high bar for a defamation claim. A landmark Supreme Court decision 50 years ago ruled that a public figure cannot recover damages “unless clear and convincing evidence proves that a false and defamatory statement was published with ‘actual malice’ – that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

But if you are someone who still wants to punish a journalist for something he or she has written, you don’t actually have to sue. You just have to rattle a few sabers and threaten legal action.

This appears to be the tactic Mike Adams is using in an attempt to intimidate Forbes and muzzle one of their contributing writers/bloggers. Much more about that in a minute. First some background: Adams is the founder and operator of an internet website called Natural News, which, according to its mission statement,

covers holistic health, nutritional therapies, consciousness and spirituality, permaculture , organics, animal rights, environmental health, food and superfoods , and performance nutrition.

The Wikipedia page on Natural News is a good place to start if you never heard of Adams and want learn what he espouses and what the science blogosphere has written about him. For example, Wikipedia notes (my links) that, “Adams is an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 Truther,” and has “endorsed conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.” Adams now objects to this characterization, yet he provides all the proof with his own writings.

At RationalWiki, you can browse from a ghoulishly absurd spectrum of conspiratorial offerings from Adams, including the one about Bill Gates and Microsoft developing weaponized influenza viruses, to achieve their “ultimate goal of wiping out a significant proportion of the human race.”

Unsurprisingly, Adams is a regular voice on the most feverish conspiracy forums.

By now, I can imagine what you are thinking. This guy is so far out there that who of sound mind–knowing all this–could possibly take him seriously?

Well, try wrapping your head around this: Dr Oz just had Adams on his TV show. Is it possible that neither Oz or his producers were aware of Adam’s notorious history? Here’s one incredulous reaction.

Anyway, all the kooky things that Adams puts up on NaturalNews.com and says all over the internet are there for you to check out yourself. For some examples, just follow the links I provided above. Or you could read the recent profile of Adams by Jon Entine at his Genetic Literacy website. The piece was cross-posted at Forbes, where Entine is a contributor to their website. (He is not on the Forbes editorial masthead. Rather, Entine, a science writer, is part of a large “content” network at the website.) For his piece, Entine drew almost entirely on Adams’ own writings, the public records of his various companies, and what scientists and other science bloggers had to say about him.

Adams did not appreciate the piece, which characterized him as “anti-science” and focused on his crusade against GMOs and how that commingled with his various conspiracy theories. He immediately went after Forbes and Entine.

To see how that has played out over the last month, let’s rewind the clock to April 3, when Entine’s unflattering profile of Adams was posted on the Forbes website. That day, Adams contacted Forbes to complain about factual inaccuracies and slanderous statements in the piece. He demanded it be taken down. Forbes complied, but it also asked Adams to spell out the alleged falsehoods in an email.

The next day, Adams sent a lengthy missive, detailing all the “corrections.” The gist of them: He objected to being called “anti-science,” an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 truther, and so on. In an email addressed to the Forbes editor, he wrote: Read More

Blowback from the Anti-GMO Crowd

By Keith Kloor | May 14, 2014 11:26 am

I’m not feeling the love: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs, science

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »