Friday, August 26, 2011

Misleading science headlines

I just read this headline "Fossil redefines mammal history" and after reading the article, I think the title is completely misleading. The fossil does nothing of the sort. In fact, as is stated in the article:
"The Liaoning specimen is especially significant because it means the fossil record now sits more comfortably with what genetic studies have been suggesting about the timing of the emergence of the different mammalian lineages."
There is some grey area in exact dates based on fossils (because not every individual that ever lived was fossilized), that we are now able to fill in with genomic data. Certainly, there will still be specific timepoints that scientists will debate, but many of the major divergence times between mammals (likely further out, but I'm most familiar with mammals) are generally accepted across the board.

Science and results are interesting, but by propping them up on misleading headlines the press will hurt, rather than help promote general scientific education. We live in a soundbyte era, and so many people will read the headline, then stop, retaining only that one, shockingly inaccurate misinformation.

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