Science & Society

Recent research has shown an alarming number of peer-reviewed papers are irreproducible and it isn't just social sciences surveys or weak observational studies. It's in fields like biology.

In times of easy access to the Internet and cheap travel, we consider ourselves part of a global society, but how connected this really makes us will surprise many of us.

Numerous studies have concluded that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests and perform better in school.

Why would that be? Is it the mother-baby bonding time, something in breast milk or other attributes of families that have mothers who breastfeed their babies?

Sociologists from Brigham Young University think they have the answer and pinpoint two sources of this cognitive boost: Responding to children's emotional cues and reading to children starting at 9 months of age. Breastfeeding mothers tend to do both of those things, said lead author Ben Gibbs. 

To sane people, parents who kill their kids are both horrifying and tragic, though levels of acceptance and blame flow with cultural trends. Once upon a time, when a mother in Texas killed her children in a bath tub, celebrities like Katie Couric blamed everyone but the murderer. Today, there is a lot less exculpatory rationalization about killers.

A new paper in Forensic Science International invokes correlations to psychology and biology and therefore might be used to make filicide exculpatory once again - with enough data, epidemiology can prove anything. 

If you ask aging environmental activists, the worst thing that can happen to nature is to have people step onto it.

This is the completely wrong approach, but one adopted by their corporate leaders in the last two generations when they found their donor base becoming increasingly urban. While it was once recognized that hunters, hikers and other sportsmen were obviously the most in love with nature, gradually they became treated like the enemy of environmentalists.

Politics always make strange bedfellows. When George W. Bush was president, the claim of his political opposition was that Iraq was 'no harm to anyone outside its own borders' and so we should not be involved there, much less do any nation building. Yet when his political opposition gained control of the White House, the calls to do that same thing in Libya, Egypt, Syria and other places have been quite vocal. They just rationalized that they were helping an Arab Spring to flourish by removing the military power of despots. 

Scientific institutions and organizations can improve their communication and outreach with the public by addressing people's strongly held beliefs about science and its role in society - and using less demagoguery. Or at least hiding it.

Lead author of a new paper and American University professor Matthew C. Nisbet made his name claiming that Republicans engaged in deception about science and that communicators needed to master "framing" to show how they were wrong, so a paper advocating less partisanship is important, in a sort of 'only Nixon could go to China' way.

If we see or read about a child on a life-sustaining medical device, such as a ventilators or breathing or feeding tube,  we naturally think about the child

And when it comes to parents, we use platitudes like 'strong' but the physical and psychological distress of juggling treatments, appointments, therapies and daily family pressures doesn't get much consideration.

A small minority of religious and scientific communities insist the two can't get along. If you see 'scientocracy' or 'Galileo' invoked, you can be sure rationality has left the discussion.

Almost 50 percent of scientists consider themselves religious and almost 50 percent of Evangelicals, the religious demographic least likely to accept evolution, say that science and religion get along just fine.

But among the general public, only 38 percent feel that way.

While each American political party has positions that are determined to undermine science (food, medicine and energy for Democrats, evolution and global warming for Republicans) their constituents still respect scientists overall, even if they don't accept the legitimacy of some fields.

While most Americans could be a bit more knowledgeable in the ways of science, a majority are interested in hearing about the latest scientific breakthroughs and think highly of scientists.

The National Science Foundation's biannual survey of over 2,200 people is part of their Science and Engineering Indicators that they do for the president and Congress.