Weekly Roundup

Amid the hopes and horrors in Libya, a controversy over Saif Gaddafi plagiarizing his PhD from the London School of Economics (apparently supervised by Nancy Cartwright) has been brewing.

Brian Leiter asks whether philosophy departments are being specially targeted for cuts.

Why is the science media so focused on the Fukushima nuclear saga rather than other aspects of Japan’s earthquake?

What’s a bigger threat: nuclear power or coal production?

Michael Ruse compares the New Atheists to the Tea Party.

Students and professors at Imperial College, London will be meeting in April to discuss how to use Wikipedia.

Ashley Brosius at Age of Engagement argues that there needs to be more focus on adaptation to climate change rather than just on prevention.

House Republicans voted against amendments to a bill stating that Congress acknowledges “basic” facts about climate change.…

Can We Trust Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is increasingly becoming the first and often only source to which many people refer for getting information on many subjects. It has several features that distinguish it from traditional sources of knowledge: It is democratic, collaborative, and constantly changing.

But can we trust it? The aim of this post is to review some of the arguments for and against trusting Wikipedia, and arrive at some tentative conclusions.

Are Academic Boycotts Ever Justified?

Since the early 2000s, academics, particularly in the United Kingdom, have advocated and attempted to implement a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or academics themselves. This boycott has been compared, by both its advocates and detractors, with a similar boycott targeted at South Africa in the early 1990s.

Twice this year debates have erupted on PHILOS-L, the European philosophy listserve, related to the academic boycott. The first, in early January, was prompted by a call for applications to a new Israeli educational institution. The second, in early March, was prompted by a link to Judith Butler’s recent talk as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week” in Toronto. A common point in both of these threads was the special nature of academia in relation to boycotts. There is, the argument goes, something intrinsic to the nature of academic freedom that makes academic boycotts, separate from economic boycotts or sanctions, particularly problematic.…

Weekly Roundup

Simone Lewis-Koskinen, guest blogging for Age of Engagement, reports on a recent AAAS panel on communicating science “outside the box”.

Will Thomas continues his series on “Neglected Connections Between the Histories of Science and Economics“.

Climate scientist Isaac Held has started a new blog explaining his science.

A Texas state senator is promoting a bill that would outlaw workplace discrimination against creationists.

Eugene Raikhel has a fascinating post on a method of treatment for alcoholism in Russia: convincing alcoholics that they have been injected with a drug that will severely harm or even kill them if combined with alcohol.…

Big pharma, at home and outsourced

When I was in college, a friend told me something that sounded too good to be true: I could get paid forty dollars for a blood test. And if I didn’t have a history of a certain symptom, they would pay me forty dollars every month for the next two years in exchange for more blood tests. They were in the last year of signing up subjects for a clinical trial (something I’d read about in my biochemistry classes) on a common, as-of-yet uncured disease for which a bigger pharmaceutical company had developed a vaccine. There were no abnormal reactions worse than those of a flu shot, and I might get the placebo, making the whole thing even more of a walk in the park. The first nurse I talked to assured me that during the trial, anyone contracting the disease would receive immediate and free treatment for as long as it was required, even if they had been on the placebo.

If the above sounds like your dream job, you can be a guinea pig, joining the ranks of many familiar faces from Western popular culture. Medical test subject was the entry-level occupation in the first version of The Sims, and is featured a few times on the Simpsons. When Bart gets expelled, he imagines a future testing dangerous food additives; the “2-4-dexoxypropaniramine” in Nature’s Goodness, a new diet soft drink, mutates him into a hulking beast (whereupon the lead scientist remarks “pleasing taste, slight monsterism”). In a different episode, Homer signs up to be a guinea pig at the “Screaming Monkey Research Lab” where he goes blind from a diet pill.…

Weekly Roundup

Images of the future from history.

Evolutionary psychologists on the adaptiveness of homophobia: what could possibly go wrong?

Documentary film maker Errol Morris has a series of blog posts this week on his interactions with and thoughts about Thomas Kuhn.

Science journalists Jamie Hansen and Julia James experiment with “real -time science reporting“.

Science communication in Kenya: is there too little science to communicate?…