Science News vs. Science

News Analysis by Kip Hansen – 21 April 2021

Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

The journalist‘s job is to find out : Who, What, When, Where, Why and How  and then to explain them to the audience – readers or viewers —  in a comprehensive, even-handed and unbiased account, worded in such a way as to enable the readers to understand the subject and to form their own opinions about the meaning and applicability of the subject of the news report

In today’s case, I look at The New York Times headline that reads:  “Brisk Walking Is Good for the Aging Brain“ this at the top of recent  story in the Phys Ed columnPhys Ed is a feature of the Move section, which is a subsection of the Well section – these all seemingly falling under the general Health section.  It is authored by Gretchen Reynolds. [ see end-note on the timing of this piece ]

The sub-title reads as follows: 

”Older people with mild cognitive impairment showed improvements in brain blood flow and memory after a yearlong aerobic exercise program.”

While the lede states:

Brisk walking improves brain health and thinking in aging people with memory impairments, according to a new, yearlong study of mild cognitive impairment and exercise. In the study, middle-aged and older people with early signs of memory loss raised their cognitive scores after they started walking frequently. Regular exercise also amplified the healthy flow of blood to their brains. The changes in their brains and minds were subtle but consequential, the study concludes, and could have implications not just for those with serious memory problems, but for any of us whose memories are starting to fade with age.”

The only problem with this report is that it is not true.  The study being discussed did not find that brisk walking (in the study designated as Aerobic exercise training (AET)) improved brain health or thinking in older people with early signs of memory loss.    So, what did the study really find?

“AET [ Aerobic exercise training  ] effects on cognitive performance were minimal compared with SAT [stretching-and-toning ].”

WARNING: These are the results directly quoted from the journal itself, in “journal-speak”:

“Results: Total 48 patients (29 in SAT and 19 in AET) were completed [sic] one-year training. AET improved VO2peak, decreased carotid β-stiffness index and CBF pulsatility, and increased nCBF. Changes in VO2peak were associated positively with changes in nCBF (r=0.388, p=0.034) and negatively with carotid β-stiffness index (r=-0.418, p=0.007) and CBF pulsatility (r=-0.400, p=0.014). Decreases in carotid β-stiffness were associated with increases in cerebral perfusion (r=-0.494, p=0.003). AET effects on cognitive performance were minimal compared with SAT.

Conclusion: AET reduced central arterial stiffness and increased CBF which may precede its effects on neurocognitive function in patients with MCI.” 

Abbreviations used:  SAT = stretching-and-toning;  AET = Aerobic exercise training (in this case, “brisk walking”);  VO2peak = peak oxygen uptake; CBF = cerebral blood flow;    nCBF = normalized CBF; MCI = Mild Cognitive Impairment.  ( some explanatory links added – kh )

What does all that mean?  In a very small study, 48 people suffering from “mild cognitive impairment” – which generally means getting a bit forgetful, misplacing items, trouble finding the right word etc. – were assigned to do a regular program of “stretching-and-toning” or  “aerobic exercise training” (in this case, “brisk walking”) for the period of one year.  Various blood flow tests were performed throughout the year and they were tested for cognitive performance. 

Those of you who are older and go to your physician for yearly checkups probably experience the simplest cognitive tests there – “I’m going to tell you three words, I want you to remember them and repeat them  back to me later”.  “Here is a drawing of a circle, write in the numbers as if it were a clock and set the time to 10 after 11.”   Participants in this study did much more thorough tests, but you get the idea. 

When all the results were in, the researchers found that exercising in either program improved blood flow to the brain – “reduced central arterial stiffness and increased CBF [cerebral blood flow]“ — which they believe would or might help to improve memory.  “Stretching-and-Toning” did seem to improve cognitive function somewhat, in three of seven specific tests, but was not found significant enough even to mention in the conclusion of this study, and aerobic training, the “brisk walking” touted by Reynolds,  not-so-much . .. “minimal” is the word used. 

Why discuss this study at all?

The purpose of writing about this is not to criticize the study – it was small but well-done.  And its findings were wholly expected.  Compared to sitting and watching TV or playing bridge, dominos or canasta,  encouraging  the elderly to get up and move about is better for them (and for me).  Moving “gets the blood flowing” (literally) and that has been proven over and over to have a positive effect on subjective physical, mental and emotional health, especially for those in institutional settings. 

But biased “advocacy science” journalism is bad for its readers – it feeds them false and misleading information.  It makes them stupider and ill-informed instead of smarter and more knowledgeable. 

Gretchen Reynolds is a long-term advocate for “more exercise for health” – which is generally a good thing.  But when she misrepresents the findings of a study to advocate for her favorite health-lifestyle hobbyhorse, she does herself and her readers a disservice.  She says “The changes in their brains and minds were subtle but consequential, the study concludes…” but only the first part is true.  The changes were very subtle indeed but the study did not conclude that they were “consequential”. (We just read the conclusion above…)

Not only that but in regards to cognitive functions (memory etc.)  the study was most supportive of “stretching-and-toning” exercise and not “brisk walking” – “AET effects on cognitive performance were minimal compared with SAT” — the newspaper report on the study actually reverses the findings.

Why bother?

This is an analysis of a newspaper report about a scientific finding.  And my purpose of analyzing it is to illustrate that even the simplest of scientific findings are often, I might say almost always, sadly misrepresented and so many times presented solely through filter of the bias of the journalist.  

Now, in this case, the point that Reynolds is advocating is worthwhile, probably not-harmful,  and is a helpful and good thing.  She advocates “Get Moving” for almost everyone and she is right on that.  You want to feel better? Get the generally recommended “20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days.”   [The current recommendation has been recently upped to “30 minutes five days a week” –  in an escalation pushed by advocates, but the change is not actually based on any new scientific understandings.]

[Note:  a nice purposeful walk with the dog, chasing kids around the park or around the house trying to catch them for their baths, vacuuming, raking the yard, bicycling to the shops, a quick five-point round of basketball with the neighborhood boys  – all these count – it doesn’t have to be, and in my opinion, shouldn’t be,  “exercise-for-exercise-sake”.]

So, if I agree with her position, why do I complain?

Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

Let me repeat:  The journalist‘s job is to find out those six things (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How ) and then to explain it to the readers, in a  comprehensive, even-handed and unbiased account, worded in such a way as to enable the readers to understand the subject and to form their own opinions about the meaning and applicability of the subject of the news .

Science Journalism is Hard

It is hard to do right and thoroughly in the space provided by publishers.  Science journalism (including health reporting) has a special edge to it,  as often a topic has steep prerequisites for understanding the new information. 

We need good careful science journalists to make all the new information coming out of science research and discovery available to the general population, as appropriate.  There used to be some really excellent science journalists but they are a rare breed today.  Those that might have become great science journalists are being taught instead that their job it to convince the general public to believe this-or that scientific hypothesis or support this-or-that environmental, health, science, social or climate  fad.

This is where great science communicators have a place in the pantheon of Science.   People like Isaac Asimov and Dick FeynmanCarl Sagan started out great, but some believe, as I do, that he got carried away by his own celebrity.  The Greats came before the current crop of self-promoters masquerading as Science Communicators  — the new crop of Science-as-Issue-Advocacy Celebrities. 

These Science-Celebrities include self-promoting scientists, politicians-turned-science-celebrities, TV-announcers-turned-Science-Experts (based mostly on their melodious oh-so-British voices), and, not to be left out,  Movie-Stars-turned-Science-Experts.   

Everyone has biases and everyone who writes, including myself, allows some of that bias to come though in their writing.  It is nearly impossible to keep one’s writing perfectly pure — free from bias.  But the effort has to be made if one is to even pretend to be a journalist. 

Opinion writing is important too – but the job of an Opinion Columnist is far different, a universe away, from that of a news journalist.   And the two should never be mixed without good cause and without absolute transparency – opinions clearly and openly labelled and separated from facts — and opinions of the journalists never mixed into a news report.

So, how does a reader protect themselves from the biases of the journalists?  Let me say simply:  It Isn’t Easy.

The best protection is to be, first and foremost, generally well-educated with a solid background in all of the Liberal Arts subjects, including at least a couple of years study introducing the basic concepts all of the sciences.  It is my opinion that this should be accomplished in the first 12 years of pre-university level education.  However, anyone at all familiar with the educational system in the United States is aware that this level of education is seldom achieved except for the top-tier level STEM students.  And in many cases, not even for them.   

[True story:  I had a friend, in the top 1% of high school students from Los Angeles, who, only as a sophomore at an elite California university, discovered that all those lights in the sky – the stars — were actually suns, just like our own Sun. ]  

For many, maybe most of us, that train left the station long ago and we simply can’t all go back to school and make up our deficits.  But we can make a dedicated effort to fill in some of our educational blank spots. There are so many resources online offering the basics of math, science, art, music, politics and almost every other topic one would care to study. We must train ourselves to be truly critical thinkers, subjecting all incoming information to an analysis for the major fallacies, unsupported claims and at least the most easily-spotted outright falsehoods. 

Warning:  The hardest fallacies and falsehoods to spot will be those that agree or align with our own pre-existing biases —the I want to believe”  factor.

Many times, however, a news report will be false because it omits important information.  A recent example [18 April 2021] is this in the NY Times: “Despite Tensions, U.S. and China Agree to Work Together on Climate Change”.  If you have time, take a quick peek.  The answer – what is omitted — is in this Reuter’s report: “China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020 more than 3 times rest of world’s – study”  — “China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW.”

Bottom Line:

1.  It is the journalists’ responsibility to do good, honest journalism – to tell the truth without bias.

2.  It is the readers’ responsibility to read carefully, widely and critically and to ensure, to the best of the readers’ ability, that information taken into one’s understanding is as close to the truth as possible under existing circumstances. 

3.  Everything that you believe or understand to be true that is Not True – that does not accord with the greater reality – makes you stupider and less informed, more prone to errors in other types of judgements and decisions in your everyday life. 

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End-note:  The original NY Times/Gretchen Reynolds article appeared 31 March 2021.  I delayed posting this piece until I after I had written to the study authors to request and receive, by return email, a full copy of the study and supplemental materials.  I did this on the chance that the full study might have included important information not in the news report or abstract that would have justified Reynold’s claims for the study.  It did not.  Those who are truly interested can email me and I will forward a copy of the study. 

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Author’s Comment:

“He that is without bias among you, let him first cast a stone….”   That disqualifies me from making final judgements of other authors – I am certainly not bias-free but I am not shy about stating my opinions.  I have written often here about journalism – and the lack of it – and about Climate and related topics.  My understanding of the Climate Issue can be found here and here

Readers can contact me at my first name at the domain i4 decimal net.

Start comments with “Kip…” if addressing me.

Thanks for Reading!

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Carlo, Monte
April 22, 2021 6:28 pm

AKA Tech-Writer Syndrome, using carte blanch to translate technical writing into what the author thinks it means for a wider audience.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
April 22, 2021 9:15 pm

I’ve found that the people hired to write press releases for scientific institutions often lack basic scientific understanding. I personally have had to correct such releases on simple science matters before they’re sent out the door. There have been some where they haven’t bothered with vetting and emberassment ensued.

Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
April 22, 2021 9:43 pm

Truth! But on the other side, my late Uncle, an English major, without an engineering or scientific degree, had a lifetime career with NASA as a technical writer (often with Engineer as part of his job title) because NASA engineers and scientists could not write in English for the public, for other technical people, for training of support personnel or astronauts, for politicians, or for NASA public relations.
When I later went into working as an engineer for government contractors in aerospace and computing, I found that the ability to write a comprehensible paragraph was more useful and rare than any technical competence. Engineers self-deprecatingly joke about this.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 9:45 am

Kip, it’s not just ‘novels’.

If you have a strong stomach, try some of the recent political autobiographies.

Clyde Spencer
April 22, 2021 6:46 pm

I enjoyed your article and agree with it. As someone who started his career spending a decade teaching science at the college level, I have an insight I would like to share. I think that teachers and science communicators have a particular responsibility for accuracy. One’s first exposure to a fact or principle is very important and is difficult to overcome, even when presented with good evidence that what is believed to be true, isn’t.

Many years ago, I read a report on a study done with sailors who were taught how to tie different knots. They then taught them a different hand-motion to tie the same knot. They appeared equally adept at tying either way. However, when told to tie the knot while they were under stress, they invariably reverted to the first method they learned.

Therefore, I believe that any teacher/communicator who teaches something that is wrong does a great disservice to the student. They will find it difficult to divorce themselves from this mistruth.

We should shed a tear for the young people of today who are being taught the paradigm about anthropogenic global warming, instead of being taught how to think and explore science on their own.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 10:06 am

Kip – add to that “objectivity is racist” (although I guess that’s part of CRT)

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 22, 2021 8:32 pm

I have a similar background as a university science educator. And this sentence was very unsettling:

However, anyone at all familiar with the educational system in the United States is aware that this level of education is seldom achieved except for the top-tier level STEM students. 

As educated as I am, with a Phd in a fundamental science, I really feel quite ignorant, meaning that there is so much more that I/we don’t know than we know. So, I have not really reflected much about the educators and the students in other departments of the university and because I am involved in my own research challenges, I have not really mixed enough to detect the knowledge gaps in others. My working assumption has been that most people are as adept as I am but are just not interested in STEM. So this paragraph really stunned me:

True story: I had a friend, in the top 1% of high school students from Los Angeles, who, only as a sophomore at an elite California university, discovered that all those lights in the sky – the stars — were actually suns, just like our own Sun. 

I always thought that within a short period of time, I could communicate what I am researching to practically anyone. However, I now doubt that.

And this has huge ramifications vis-à-vis climate education and understanding. I can so easily see through many of the dubious claims that the alarmist community posits and assumed I could point these out to anyone. However, if I am talking to a person that does not know that a star is a sun, this assumption is completely erroneous. (And how large is the population of people that don’t know a star is a sun? The majority???)

To make a really cynical observation: It seems to me, after reading this post, that the CAGW proponents actually know they are communicating with a scientifically illiterate audience and are unscrupulously taking advantage of that fact (ie, we can say whatever we want, because most of the population is too ignorant to fact check us). And once people “believe” the Earth is head for a catastrophe, it is impossible to scientifically reason them out of it.

That said, and as I discuss the issue of climate quite frequently, I have noticed that I have done a lot better using Tony Heller’s material than I have arguing the science itself. Even scientifically uneducated people can understand things like: adjusted data, flip-flopping explanations, cherry picked end points, historical newspaper claims, etc.

Anyway, that is my two-cents worth on the topic.


And, once again, WUWT posts a very thought provoking article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anon
Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Anon
April 23, 2021 3:53 am

“It seems to me, after reading this post, that the CAGW proponents actually know they are communicating with a scientifically illiterate audience and are unscrupulously taking advantage of that fact”

Reminds me of how back in the ’70s I often debated religion and evolution with a friend of mine who became “born again”. He loaned me some books published by the Creation Institute in Texas. The authors were trying to present a story of a young Earth and Noahs Flood and no evolution. The authors used a great deal of actual geological terminology. It was obvious to me that they really understood geology but were writing this nonsense to fool the idiots. They couldn’t have written that material without having taken several geology courses in which case they wouldn’t believe in the nonsense of Genesis. At the time I only had a superficial knowledge of geology but I was suspicious so I went to a university and bought all the geology texts, then read them all. Not only did I deeply appreciate how great the science of geology is but I also realized how I must always remain skeptical of such bullshit. Now when I read almost anything about the climate in the MSM- I can easily see how crazy it is and I’m amazed that so many people I know who have advanced degrees believe that stuff!

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 23, 2021 5:52 am

The Bible book of Genesis does not support the young earth idea. The very first words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What follows was the 6 days. Therefore, the earth existed before the 6 days began.

Furthermore, the word “day” can also mean a period of time. For example, when a person says “In my day …” they do not mean one single day, but a time when they were younger. So, the 6 days are 144 hours but 6 periods of time. The Bible never supported the young earth idea.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Wade
April 23, 2021 7:47 am

Those who wrote the bible knew nothing about the age of the Earth and hardly anything much beyond their horizon- so what they say one way or the other is of no concern. They should have stuck with ethics and morality.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  Wade
April 23, 2021 8:09 am

The big mistake is in believing that Genesis is anything other than allegorical!

Reply to  Jim Whelan
April 23, 2021 6:21 pm

The Bible is not a science book. I am a born again Christian who has studied science. I believe in God and in the Gospel of Christ, but I do not think the Bible was EVER meant to be a scientific text. It is a compendium of literature tracing mankind’s pursuit of understanding that which can never be understood, except in the context of God’s unfathomable love of humankind. And yes, Genesis is definitely allegorical, thanks be to God.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 23, 2021 8:25 am

Hi Joseph,

Thanks for that reply. It reminded me of this (not to imply that Harpur is correct, I have no idea):

(Harpur: Professor, ordained Anglican priest, Rhodes scholar)

And that is how I was operating at University up until about four years ago, when on occasion I would depart from teaching the fundamental sciences and teach about CAGW. My teaching was straight out of the textbook and I made the assumption that everything in the textbook was thoroughly “peer reviewed”, as the peer review process in my discipline is still quite exacting.

It just never occurred to me that I needed to fact check the text book and I was summarily tossing students out of my office who came to me with their doubts, for “being under the sway of the climate denier community”.

And after having cleaned up my act (I actually feel embarrassed and ashamed of what I was teaching back then) I have quit all further invites to participate in CAGW instruction and have gone back to teaching just the fundamental sciences… and I have even gone back to some of the students that I dismissed and apologized.

The only way I can ever imagine going back to any kind of climate instruction is if the course is set up as a “free-thinking inquiry” into climate change, where both sides of the issue are presented.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anon
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Anon
April 23, 2021 9:31 am

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I started teaching fresh out of university, and unquestioningly taught what was in the text books. I was, after all, young and naive. However, like you, I feel some distress at what I imparted to those impressionable minds — particularly the claims of the likes of Paul Ehrlich. It was a seductive argument that he presented and I did not have the experience to see the flaws.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 8:41 am

Hi Kip,

Thanks for the invite, but I feel that I am just getting my feet wet here at WUWT, and have actually been a bit intimidated by all of your commenters and contributors (eg McIntyre, Soon, Curry, Lindzen, etc… sorry to have left anyone out, but the list is endless) and have been reluctant to post. I have been a little less bashful at Tony Heller’s blog, when I thought I had something useful to say. So give me a little more time here to learn. I will save your contact info for the future, when I feel I am a little more knowledgeable and articulate on the subject.

Cheers… and thanks for all of the work you do!

Barnes Moore
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 23, 2021 5:41 am

Reading this blog and the comments is always educational – as is reading newspaper columns on climate change and the comments there – although reading the comments in the papers is frequently frightening given the level of ignorance, and how substance free too many of the comments are, and the amount of outright misinformation or outright lies are posted. No amount of data can convince the true believers – they frequently just resort to the consensus argument. While it might not change peoples mind re: Co2 being the control knob, to get people to realize the impossibility of replacing fossil fuels with unreliables will likely require some major grid collapse/catastrophe where the blame cannot in any way be shifted to fossil fuels – it has to be blatantly attributable to the penetration of unreliables on the grid at the expense of reliables. California and Texas should work as examples, but the media was able to spin the TX debacle in a way that shifted the blame to a failure of gas – the “wind trubines performed as expected” line while gas production “failed”. It was far more complex a situation than what most people were willing to take the time to understand, but the bottom line is that the penetration of wind at the expense of coal/gas was a major contributor to the problem.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 8:37 am

Sounds right- so I’d guess that electricians are on board with the new religion, joining those who install “clean energy”. Here in Massachusetts it’ll be verboten to buy a gas driven car in ’35- so the electricians will see boom times. A solar “farm” was built next to my ‘hood in ’12, employing, temporarily of course, 40 electricians. But now if I need one for some routine wiring work- I’ll expect them to have much higher hourly rates. Just another unintended consequence.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 9:40 am

And think about all the carpenters and drywall installers that will be needed after the new wiring has been installed in old homes.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 24, 2021 5:17 am

I’m sure you know it is more than the drops that need installing. Probably 95% of transformers will need to be replaced and in many cases, new distribution cable will also be needed to support the new loads.

If you currently have a 200 amp breaker box, adding another 300 amps to it won’t be cheap. The only other option is a 2nd drop to a 2nd meter setup. Ala, the need for new transformers.

Does anyone know if any of this has even started being planned for as we speak? Planning, designing, equipment amounts, ordering, supply, scheduling all need to be underway if needs are going to be met. Installing windmills and solar panels are going to seem minor.

I can foresee the point where you buy an EV and then have to wait a year or more while the upgrades to support charging at home are accomplished.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 9:38 am

I don;t think we have enough available WIRE to do so

Related to that is this recent assessment of the potential for finding new copper deposits:

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 24, 2021 1:01 am

Just replacing all the cars in the UK with EVs will consume 50% of the world’s copper, let alone the neodymium and lithium.

Mike Maguire
April 22, 2021 7:06 pm

Happy Earth Day!

President Biden celebrated it, using his status as one of the highest priests in the climate religion cult by delivering more fake climate news, telling us how global warming/climate change, caused the coldest month in the US in 30 years. And the solution is more Green Energy that made the energy catastrophe in TX much worse.

Just following in the footsteps of his mentor, President Obama, who marched out his climate czar, John Holdren to do global warming “damage control” during a previous (natural weather) incursion of the Polar Vortex in 2014.

“Breathtaking”: The White House Releases Its Climate Heavy Hitter on the Polar Vortex

Holdren: “A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues,” Holdren asserts”

But the authentic science shows the complete opposite of the things they state and what the MSM reports in the news!

Alan M
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 22, 2021 8:55 pm

The Big Lie is that “AGW causes all bad things”.

And only bad things

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 22, 2021 10:12 pm

Who has ever claimed that “AGW causes all bad things”? Nobody would be silly enough to make such a statement. Even a lesser statement such as “AGW only causes bad things” is also almost never stated since again it is clearly wrong.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 22, 2021 10:50 pm

Of course such things are not stated, you ninny. They get around looking that foolish by failing to mention any good outcomes from increased CO2 and the obvious benefits of a naturally warming planet. Try to resist being so pathetically disingenuous for a fleeting moment and look at the evidence … thousands of pointless “scientific” papers listing the terrors of AGW.

Out of date now, but still informative …

Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 24, 2021 1:07 am

A new name for Warmists, Einstein deniers. Just found Albert’s 1917 paper pointing out Nikolov and Zeller are correct.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 22, 2021 11:57 pm

Even a lesser statement such as “AGW only causes bad things” is also almost never stated since again it is clearly wrong.

So you agree the pleasant warming we have experienced has benefits for mankind.

Fingers crossed it continues.

Reply to  Redge
April 24, 2021 1:08 am

Grand solar minimum. Insulate.

M Courtney
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 23, 2021 12:42 am

The Precautionary Principle states that we must assume that the downside is so great that we must act to prevent it before we even have a chance to get evidence.
Other bad things and other good things are irrelevant – the Precautionary Principle says they are dwarfed to insignificance.
Anyone who ever invoked the Precautionary Principle has practically said “AGW causes all bad things”. Because all other things don’t matter.

I agree with you, it’s very silly. But that’s what the Green movement claims.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  M Courtney
April 23, 2021 10:51 am

I have to laugh. Every time someone refers to the Precautionary Principle it reminds me of a comment here several years back. I don’t remember who said it but basically they said they’d accept the Precautionary Principle when those invoking it brought along a parachute every time they boarded an airplane.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  M Courtney
April 23, 2021 10:55 am

The precautionary principle says you don’t destroy the world economy over an unproven supposition!

Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 23, 2021 12:43 am

Poor Izzy, wakes up at the back of the class from his delusional stupour stupid………

And makes yet another dazed, random nonsensical comment..

So funny to watch.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 23, 2021 3:57 am

In the following article I see a claim that climate change is causing a tipping of the axis of the Earth!

Have any of the AGW proponents ever said anything nice about climate change?

Richard Page
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 23, 2021 6:24 am

It has become the ‘easy out’ for some climate enthusiasts – rather than investigate what is causing a problem; a time consuming and exhausting process most often, they simply put it down to ‘climate change’. They get their grant cheques, everyone nods sagely and the little darlings seldom have to leave their air conditioned, comfortable offices and jealously guarded parking space. In that they are not doing due diligence, things get attributed to climate change and accumulate.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Izaak Walton
April 23, 2021 9:48 am

Who has ever claimed that “AGW causes all bad things”?

Nobody has actually made such a claim. However, anyone with a reading comprehension expected of a college graduate should immediately notice that the plethora of articles for the general public (such as at, where I routinely point out the obvious) is overwhelmingly focused on the potential negative aspects of the claimed “climate emergency.”

Barnes Moore
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 5:21 am

AGW or CAGW is the perfect liberal cause – they can blame every bad thing that happens on it, and even invent bad things that don’t happen and blame those on it as well.

Last edited 1 year ago by Barnes Moore
Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Mike Maguire
April 23, 2021 3:54 am

“….the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming….”

The fact that so many people except that shows we are in an age of mass insanity.

April 22, 2021 7:28 pm

It’s impossible to be totally unbiased because all our interpretations of everything we perceive are influenced at the most basic level by the characteristics of our Homo Sapiens Sapiens species, and that applies to all the other numerous species of life on our planet.

We unavoidably project our interpretations of whatever we perceive, onto the objects that we perceive, and claim that is reality. A very common example of this is to describe a leaf as ‘green’. There is a large consensus of opinion that leaves are generally a shade of green, or yellow during autumn. However, those colours exist only in the human mind. The unbiased reality is, a leaf has no colour, but it does reflect certain wave-lengths of light that we interpret as a colour which is usually green.

In other words, unbiased reality consists of the characteristics of both the observed and the observer.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 22, 2021 8:13 pm

Kip says:
“But there is Reality and it exists outside of, separate from, our individual or collective perceptions”

No, not at all. Vincent is just a product of my overactive imagination. Feel free to ignore it. Sometimes i wish my subconscious would stop producing these irrational constructs. *sigh*

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 22, 2021 8:22 pm

The reality that exists outside of, and separate from our collective and individual interpretations, is unknowable. Of course, it is reasonable to presume that stuff exists outside of human perception, but the ‘real and unbiased’ nature of that ‘stuff’ is obviously unknowable.

Curious George
Reply to  Vincent
April 23, 2021 1:57 pm

a leaf has no colour”
You mean, nothing has a colour.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 22, 2021 8:49 pm

I would say that there is reality and a pseudo-reality. A test of the difference is, if someone is high on a psychedelic, and believes that they can fly, I would call that a pseudo-reality. Reality intervenes and asserts itself if that person steps off a tall building with the expectation that they can fly safely to the ground.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 22, 2021 9:15 pm

Reality intervenes and asserts itself if that person steps off a tall building with the expectation that they can fly safely to the ground.

As Bill Hicks pointed out, in that situation it’s probably safer to try flying from the ground upwards…

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
April 26, 2021 5:17 pm

Someone who is on a ‘trip’ is not likely to be thinking rationally about safety.

The way the typical alarmist operates in their word of pseudo-reality would be to rationalize that flying upwards is different than flying downwards. Thus, they don’t have to make a test flight.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 23, 2021 3:17 am

Of course. But the point I’m trying to get across is that the reality in that example is related to the characteristics of a human being who doesn’t have wings. One cannot completely separate an objective, unbiased reality from the qualities of the observer which must introduce to at least some extent a degree of bias.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 24, 2021 1:09 am

Objective? You mean?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 4:04 am

But trying to understand/grasp that Reality is the problem- especially since 95% of it is dark matter or dark energy. We’ve only begun to understand it. Maybe in another million years….

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 7:53 am

Of course some astronomers suggest that dark matter doesn’t exist- which makes the mystery that much deeper!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Vincent
April 23, 2021 4:02 am

After I had cataract surgery- I realized my perception of colors had been wrong. My eye surgeon told me the cataract is like having a yellow filter over my eyes. In particular, green foliage now looks more blue-green than before. When I had only one eye done- I could see a big difference. I presume all our perceptions are so alterted and/or distorted for one reason or another and not to be trusted. A good reason for science work to be disciplined- not politicized as is “climate science”.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 24, 2021 1:11 am

That’s just being a bloke. Women have better colour vision than men.

April 22, 2021 8:16 pm

When WUWT reports on a science story it is usually actually reporting on a press release about a scientific paper. The majority of the time the writer of the press release gets something wrong. A lot of the time the writer gets something seriously wrong and totally misrepresents the actual research.

Writers make scientists look stupider than they actually are. It’s usually not malice. It seems that it’s just that nobody seems to care whether the science is correctly represented to the public.

Reply to  commieBob
April 22, 2021 8:39 pm

For the exact reasons you state, I have come to think that WUWT might be better to report on the actual papers as opposed to the You-Reek-Alert press releases.
As it is, most papers are paywalled, but some are not. True, WUWT would have fewer hard science posts, but they could be much more in depth. We would not be wasting time on how a journalism major twisted the research to make it “relevant”, or comport with a favored narrative.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 11:59 am

Understood, and I agree.
What I find wastefull are the press releases where a scientifically illiterate journalism major has mangled the science out of all recognition. The commenters here then spend the day blasting the “shoddy science”, when what they really should be blasting is the press release which has turned a piece of science into a caricature of itself.
This sort of thing happens here *all the time*, and I submit that it serves nobody’s interests.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  commieBob
April 22, 2021 8:48 pm

It’s usually not malice.

I’ve always found Hanlon’s razor useful … “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  commieBob
April 22, 2021 9:26 pm

Most science reporters have journalism degrees with little or no science education. When I talk with reporters, I have to be very careful to explain even basic facts and even then they can garble things.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  commieBob
April 23, 2021 4:06 am

…”nobody seems to care whether the science is correctly represented to the public”

Because the “journalists” are low paid- so they’re not the brightest bulbs….

Then the politicians get their “science” from those nitwits.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 10:04 am

Back in about 1989, when I was a committed Second Amendment activist, I was interviewed many times by reporters. I don’t think that they ever quoted me accurately! One can attribute that to incompetence.

However, one time when I was being videotaped for a TV news program, the young woman asked me a question about waiting periods. I proceeded to tell her about research I had done showing that when California increased its waiting period from five days to 15, the percentage of justifiable homicides, measured as a percentage of total homicides, suddenly dropped in half. Before I could finish what I had started, she turned to the camera man and with a frown, pulled her index finger across her throat. He immediately put the camera down. Obviously, it isn’t always incompetence. Sometimes it includes discourteous behavior.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 24, 2021 1:13 am

And active malice.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 4:52 pm

That news has to be trumpeted from the highest tower.

The reason third world countries stay third world countries is usually corruption. We should be allergic to corruption of all kinds but there is strong evidence that corruption pervades the scientific community. What you relate above provides just another example.

Given the education an talents of the Russian people, why is it so craptastic? Corruption pretty much explains it.

You can make up all kinds of excuses that places like Haiti are so miserable but Russia can’t take advantage of those. It should serve as a cautionary example of the effects of corruption.

Bring back respect for the truth.

Last edited 1 year ago by commieBob
Mumbles McGuirck
April 22, 2021 9:07 pm

Despite the poor reporting on this paper, I still think it’s worth the effort to strap Joe Biden to a treadmill 24/7. We’re fighting a losing battle there.

Chris Hanley
April 22, 2021 9:18 pm

… generally well-educated with a solid background in all of the Liberal Arts subjects, including at least a couple of years study introducing the basic concepts all of the sciences …

As well as the basic concepts a narrative history of science touching on the developments in astronomy physics chemistry biology etc., including abandoned concepts, would expose students to the scientific method in practice.
That is assuming they already have an overall historical framework in which to relate scientific developments but I’m not sure that is the case nowadays.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Hanley
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 24, 2021 1:14 am

What to think, not how to think.

Mike Dubrasich
April 22, 2021 9:57 pm


You are quite forgiving regarding science journalism, which is a credit to your patience. I am less virtuous in that regard. I cannot cite a single science journalism piece in the NYT that got it right, ever. Ditto other major newspapers, radio, and TV. Even the major scientific journals like Nature, Scientific American, Lancet, etc. are so reeking with bias it is sickening.

The only, repeat only, reliable scientific journalism today is on a handful of private Internet sites, chief among them WUWT. Unfortunately (but realistically) not all WUWT articles meet the mark, and while the comments are sometimes perceptive, many times they are not. It requires, as you note, the reader to bring his or her experience, knowledge, and logic to bear, even here at WUWT. Elsewhere science journalism is a lost cause. And the NYT is as lost as lost can be.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
April 23, 2021 11:12 am

“…and while the comments are sometimes perceptive, many times they are not.”
One thing I like about WUWT is that for most of the subjects covered in the posts there are usually several readers/commentors that have worked, taught or researched in that or closely related areas. Maybe more so several years back, but I remember discussions where several people suggested that posting a potential paper on WUWT was a much better peer review that submission to any of the journals.

April 22, 2021 10:20 pm

Writers almost always have multiple editors who assign the story, set the tone and slant, and modify the words, often ruthlessly, to get the copy into print. Senior writers may have enough time on the job and articles “on the spike” to get away without the assignment part, but can’t usually escape the rest of editorial changes. The writer rarely writes the headline, which is more difficult a process than it seems, and these are more often formed to grab attention than to summarize the article, which may be modified to fit the headline and/or the editor/publisher’s outlook. In the paragraphs quoted above, I see a couple obvious places where a simple change of a few words would have changed whatever Ms. Reynolds submitted to fit the desired headline.

And while an earnest fan of Isaac Asimov, I think I remember that he went to his grave claiming that we’d all be there shortly after him, killed either by the effects of ozone depletion and/or by the same fast approaching new ice age as forecast by Sagan. As one of the best and most prolific writers of popular science (as well as science fiction and science in his own fields), it is amazing to realize how often Asimov’s mind changed about the specific sciences over his writing career — a wonderful illustration of why science is never “settled.”

You also could have added Doctor (MD) Michael Crighton, son of a journalist, published in the New York Times at age 14, to your list of scientist/science communicators, whose smear as merely a “science fiction writer” in congressional testimony by ex-journalist and publisher Al Gore was, to me, most unforgiveable.

Last edited 1 year ago by dk_
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 24, 2021 1:15 am

Heinlein, as Lazarus Long, ‘what are the facts?’

Abolition Man
April 22, 2021 10:31 pm

Thank you for writing about what is one of the most consequential topics of our time; the battle for control of information!
The ability of anyone to ascertain relevant facts and data is influenced not just by the breadth of their knowledge and experience, but also by their learned biases. That is why it is so critical in the search for truth to explore numerous sources with different biases. Once I find one that seems consistently truthful I will return to it again and again, even when their slant is not aligned with my own. I can have an interesting discussion with someone I disagree with, but I won’t waste time with someone who makes up their own “truth!”
That’s why WUWT is such great site! Lots of highly educated and experienced folks discussing the latest findings in science; with lots of humor and comedy, and, usually, few of the ideologues and trolls that just want to stop or stifle the conversation!
In the Age of Propaganda, as the Western democracies struggle to overcome the parasite of Progressivism, or cultural Marxism, the free flow of speech and ideas is more important than ever!

Climate believer
April 22, 2021 11:59 pm

Moral of the story… do your homework.

That unfortunately takes time, and not everybody has that luxury, or for that matter the inclination to do the leg work and compare different sources.

The anecdote Kip of your friend is shocking, I find it incomprehensible that the most basic of facts could pass someone by like that, but apparently so.

To the point made in your article, here’s a biased headline if I’ve ever seen one from todays

Toxic masculinity: Y chromosome contributes to a shorter lifespan in male flies
a study by Doris Bachtrog of the University of California, Berkeley.

I bet she’s a lovely lady.

M Courtney
April 23, 2021 12:14 am

1. It is the journalists’ responsibility to do good, honest journalism – to tell the truth without bias.

It is the journalist’s responsibility to make their employer a profit.

If that means mis-informing their readers to demonstrate to advertisers that the readership is gullible… That’s the job.
If that means sensationalising a story to thrill and attract… That’s the job.
If that means ignoring stories that detract from the culture of the readership and so dilutes the advertising pitch… That’s the job.

Truth has nothing to do with what they are paid for. It’s basic economics that employers only employ employees if the employees provide a return.

The only return that truth might give is “reputation”. But that’s hard to maintain and will be destroyed by those who don’t want to hear uncomfortable truths. Therefore truth is not a part of any journalist’s job.

Climate believer
Reply to  M Courtney
April 23, 2021 12:59 am

“truth is not a part of any journalist’s job.

But what about “CNN-facts first!” ……. oh, I see what you mean.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  M Courtney
April 23, 2021 10:12 am

That is a very short-term viewpoint! If it gets to the point that what were considered reliable sources of information can’t be distinguished from check-out stand tabloids, then the only thing that will save their probability will be journalists and editors that can recreate the trust once held.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 23, 2021 10:20 am

I would go so far as to define unethical behavior as doing something for a short-term gain that has the potential for a long-term loss.

That is, petty theft carries the risk of being caught and convicted and then having a criminal record. However, the story of the boy who cried “wolf” is the best example.

Last edited 1 year ago by Clyde Spencer
April 23, 2021 6:20 am

What I really don’t want to hear is “science journalism is hard” excuse making. It’s difficult to get any writing complete and accurate and not misleading. I do agree that the general audience has been dumbed-down, but over-simplified story telling is not helpful and more often than not just makes it worse.


Reply to  Bad Andrew
April 23, 2021 6:25 am

For science journalism to work, it also takes an audience willing to be educated and willing to be objective about information, not just the journalist.


Reply to  Bad Andrew
April 23, 2021 6:28 am

And none of it will work if the scientists themselves aren’t honest and objective.


Jim Whelan
April 23, 2021 8:17 am

However, anyone at all familiar with the educational system in the United States is aware that this level of education is seldom achieved except for the top-tier level STEM students. And in many cases, not even for them.  

I fear that even the STEM students are being trained to think that science is entirely about doing the math and getting the right answer and that experiments are only about getting the same answer as predicted by the calculations.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 10:15 am

Kip – I share the same fear, and worry that the outlook you describe will lead to a second pre-enlightenment type of “dark age”. We seem to be rather close already.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 23, 2021 11:24 am

Nor even question their assumptions.

Laurence Zensinger
April 24, 2021 9:54 am

“tell the truth without bias”

Factual Truth is a provisional human concept. The discovery of new “facts” invariably results in the discarding of previously adopted facts”.

This is a concept greatly overlooked today, except when the old facts are inconvenient. Jounalists are uniquely unequipped to understand this. Unless you realize that science is the process of pursuit of truth, and not the outcome of some study that we should all now follow (Joe Biden: “follow the science”) you are going to have a hard time writing about the world.

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