Andy Coghlan could learn a lot from the late Stephen Jay Gould. For all his contributions to the fields of paleontology and evolutionary biology, Gould is perhaps best known as a prolific science writer. An ambassador of science to the general public, he wrote his many books and magazine articles with a lay audience in mind, yet never compromised the science behind the story for the sake of petty sensationalism.
In his 1984 essay, “Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs,” Gould wrote, “My greatest unhappiness with most popular presentations of science concerns their failure to separate fascinating claims from the methods that scientists use to establish the facts of nature. . . .If the growing corps of popular science writers would focus on how scientists develop and defend those fascinating claims, they would make their greatest possible contribution to public understanding.”
Some of today’s science writing lives up to Gould’s exacting standards; much of it falls short. Andy Coghlan’s article, “Dying for Some Peace and Quiet,” from the August 25, 2007 issue of New Scientist, fails so dismally that it merits special attention. » More... »3 Comments »