If the children are the future, the future might be very ill-informed

A new study out of Stanford evaluated students ability to assess information sources and described the results with words ranging from “dismaying” to “bleak”

Middle school, high school and college students were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. They were consistently unable to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information.

In fact, most middle school students couldn’t even distinguish ads from articles.

As I’ve spoken about before, I refuse to believe that we live in a fact-free world, or post fact world, or any of that non-sense. But this kind of study is disheartening.

But I’m choosing to think that knowing this information should be a call to educators (like me) to redouble our efforts rather than give up! I’m also open to suggestions about how to combat this alarming trend.

Read about it here! 

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The Altered Arctic Food Chain

Food chains are complicated. That simple idea of a direct line from primary producer, to primary consumer, to top of the food chain is just that, overly simplified.

And given the complexity of these interactions (who eats who) it’s hard to predict what happens when the menu suddenly changes.

Which is what is happening right now in the Arctic, due to the effects of climate change.

Read about it over at the NYTimes!

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For Some, Scientist Aren’t the Authority on Science

A new study coming out in the journal Public Understandings of Science finds that many people believe that university and industry scientists are the authority to trust about sciency things (risks and benefits of technology and its applications).

However, among evangelicals, the pattern is very different. Rather they see religious organizations as the authority on science.

Which could play into the “fact free” society we are living in.

I don’t know how to change this conundrum. I don’t know how to make it clear that facts are facts. I’m open to suggestions.

Read about it here!

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When talking about phylogenies, don’t use words like “basal”

Over at the blog “For the love of treesStacey Smith has recently posted an interesting (and somewhat twitter controversial) post about how to correctly talk about evolution and phylogenies.

For starters, don’t use the word basal. She states that by her estimation the term “basal” is misused ~90% of the time, and it perpetuates a number of misconceptions about how evolution works.

Intrigued? Go check out the post. Or enjoy this phylogeny of basil posted by Maggie Schedl (which is the most basal basil?!?)

The Basil-Lineage problem: which is the #mostprimitivebasil

The Basil-Lineage problem: which is the #mostprimitivebasil

 

How Women Are Harassed Out of Science

I had someone tell me the other day that if women were less extreme as feminists then people might not write them off as quickly. If we were quieter then things might change.

I so completely disagree with this statement that I will continue writing about the problems facing women in science indefinitely.

So, there is another new article about how women in science face consistent, ingrained, societally approved sexism and harassment in the workplace. Enjoy!

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How to write Science for the Public (Non-scientists)

One of our reasons for starting this blog was to write a biology blog for the general public. I think one of the biggest concerns in the US is scientific illiteracy, and we as a collaborative group, wanted to combat that.

My friend recently posted this comment on facebook, and it really stuck me:

“Tritrophic is not a real word. Your reader does not know the words tritrophic, ecological assemblage, genomics or parthenogenesis. That is not because your reader is dumb. It is because scientists made up those words and never told anyone but other scientists. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your readers. Readers can be very clever, but it is not their job to know all of the words that you and the twelve people you call colleagues made up.”

Rob Dunn

This caused me to seek the source, and it’s an EXCELLENT blog post about how to write science for the public. We tend towards dry, complex sentences that convey information. While we shouldn’t necessarily be making things up (please) we as scientist should do a better job of conveying our passion and enthusiasm. And Rob’s blog post is an excellent set of rules for how to do that. CHECK IT OUT HERE!

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Pokemon GO- bad for evolution education?

There are many reasons Pokemon GO is great. People are getting outside, exercising more, and generally becoming more engaged with their communities.

But it’s not great for the public’s understanding of evolutionary biology.

Why you might ask? Read about it over at Forbes.

And if you want a studio that is working on making a game that’s good at teaching evolution, check out Polymorphic Games. It’s a collaborative effort to develop games that teach evolution, but are as fun as Grand Theft Auto.

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