Some Links #9: Sowing the Seed of doubt

This isn’t the first time Seed has sacrificed editorial independence. A worrying article about scienceblogs’ parent company, Seed, and how they restricted the publication of a column on the basis of it being critical of Dow Chemical — someone they were seeking an advertising contract with. As Gaia Vince points out in an email she received from Seed:

We’re not running the bhopal piece, and we’re passing on the Maldive shark ban (a bit late now… Too bad it got caught up in prod week… ). As for Bhopal, it’s a cautionary call on our part as we’re in the midst of advertising negotiations with Dow (who have been inspired by Seed’s photography in their own brand campaigns). RE: the payment, as you’re on a scheduled direct-payment, the bhopal fee covers the Kerry/Carbon trading news piece fee that was outstanding. Let me know if that’s clear.

It’s a great article that’s not only revealing about Seed, but the underlying motivations of the journalism industry in general. I never thought I’d find myself linking to Chomsky’s politics, yet, given the nature of this article, maybe it’s time I dug out my copy of Manufacturing Consent.

Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods (SCAMs): Science and the politics of doubt. H/T: Ben Goldacre. A good paper looking at what happens when science and politics mix, and how the two have different expectations of what science is. Here’s the abstract:

At least since the time of Popper, scientists have understood that science provides falsification, but not “proof.” In the world of environmental and technological controversies, however, many observers continue to call precisely for “proof,” often under the guise of “scientific certainty.” Closer examination of real-world disputes suggests that such calls may reflect not just a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science, but a clever and surprisingly effective political-economic tactic—”Scientific Certainty” Argumentation Methods, or SCAMs. Given that most scientific findings are inherently probabilistic and ambiguous, if agencies can be prevented from imposing any regulations until they are unambiguously “justified,” most regulations can be defeated or postponed, often for decades, allowing profitable but potentially risky activities to continue unabated. An exploratory examination of previously documented controversies suggests that SCAMs are more widespread than has been recognized in the past, and that they deserve greater attention in the future.

The secret history of X and Z. An excellent article from Ed Yong on Chromosome evolution in humans and birds. Key paragraph:

Why the similarities? It’s possible that both X and Z evolved from autosomes with features that made them more likely to become sex chromosomes. Perhaps, for example, their genes were already sparsely distributed. But Bellott ruled out this idea. He compared X to its closest counterpart in chicken, and Z to its equivalents in humans – none of these relatives had any structural features that made them stand out among other autosomes. There’s nothing that singles them out as ideal candidates for the role of sex chromosome.

You are not authorized to see these pictures of the oil spill, citizen… Do not look. Washington’s Blog has some fairly harrowing photos of the recent gulf oil spill and the damage it’s doing to wildlife. Here’s one example:

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