Monday, April 1, 2013

A short rant about science journalism

I can't resist...a good friend of mine linked to a Discover magazine blog today.  The blog was covering a recent Correspondence piece in Current Biology.  Basically, the authors have been studying a local population of swallows for the past 30 years and have noticed a decrease in swallow roadkill as a proportion of the total local population.  They found and reported a correlation between longer wings and victims of roadkill.  The blog coverage, however, basically reported that rapid evolution is causing swallow wingspan to decrease, which allows swallows to avoid traffic more efficiently. 

This is a classic example of a science journalist taking a suggestive science article (which was already of questionable quality) and spinning it into a narrative for the public. And this is why we have science illiteracy in the US

...Or is it? I can't know the precise causative agent(s) for my generalized sense that many Americans experience confusion around scientific topics.  Why?  Because correlation does not imply causation.  *end rant*

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