Placebo Buttons?

A recent article suggested that many of the buttons/toggles that we experience in our daily lives...

The Development Of Social Monogamy In Mammals

Two papers published this week have proposed explanations regarding the evolution of social monogamy...

Easy Answers To World Problems

After reading another article by Alex Berezow ["The Arrogance of a Well-Fed Society"] insisting...

The Precautionary Principle Review

There is an interesting series of articles published by the Guardian discussing various aspects...

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Gerhard AdamRSS Feed of this column.

I'm not big on writing things about myself so a friend on this site (Brian Taylor) opted to put a few sentences together: Hopefully I'll be able to live up to his claims. "I thought perhaps you... Read More »

A recent article "These fish are evidence that humans aren't the only evil animals" began from the presumption that these fish were intentionally injuring others to avoid predation against themselves.

One problem with this article was the initial silly use of terms like "evil" or "selfish" when clearly that is not what this behavior involved.  As mentioned in the paper, there is nothing cognitively intentional about this behavior so to assign these terms is just more sensationalist nonsense.
By now everyone is familiar with some of the more controversial topics in policy discussions featuring scientific topics, so that GMO foods or climate change are readily recognized as "hot button" items.  Without getting into those discussions, one of the arguments that is often made against a particular position is that the data is wrong, or that scientists are doing something wrong.  In effect, the implication is that science has been known to be wrong in the past and therefore we can expect that it could be wrong in its assertions now.
There was a recent article discussing the observation of death and the chimpanzeesattitude towards it.

Of course, this gave rise to the usual round of questions and points regarding human interpretations of these actions and raised the question of anthropomorphism.  Yet, this was precisely one of the more absurd elements that was involved in these discussions.
Why is it that so many scientific stories seem intent on debunking and end by demonstrating that they are just rehashing opinions and have no actual data?

A recent article purported to debunk the story of the Candiru, which supposedly would be attracted to urine in the water and swim up the urethra to anchor itself into a penis to suck the host's blood.
The candiru, apparently cannot get back out of a human host, and cannot be removed because of the spines – so this little fish does horrendous damage, leading to laceration, hemorrhage, bladder destruction, penis amputation, even death!
In several posts the question of biological costs is invariably mentioned in discussing evolution.  These costs are normally of the metabolic or fitness type.  Metabolic costs are associated with the existence of a particular trait and the energy necessary for the trait's existence, while fitness costs are those that have an impact on the organism's ability to survive and reproduce (1).

In most instances, these concepts are taken from economic analogies, yet, like economics, the concept of cost is meaningless without a context.  The two defining elements that must be considered are value and affordability.
Increasingly one can't help but notice the tone of many of today's hot button science topics have decidedly left the realm of science and become firmly entrenched in advocacy.  My choice of discussion is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods.

While I don't intent to pick on Steve Savage, since he is clearly a very knowledgeable individual, I couldn't help but be struck by his recent article which seemed to cross far over the line into advocacy.  Moreover, I certainly don't intend to impugn anything about Steve as anything other than that we have a disagreement on this topic.