uh, no, not exactly

Science reporting isn’t an exact, um, science.

In this article,”Japan Scientists Develop Fearless Mouse,” my jaw dropped when I read this:

Scientists at Tokyo University say they were able to successfully switch off a mouse’s instinct to cower at the smell or presence of cats showing that fear is genetically hardwired and not learned through experience, as commonly believed.

I’m sorry, the correct phrase—and it makes a world of difference—would be “…showing that some fear is genetically hardwired and not learned through experience, as commonly believed.” Plenty of fear is unquestionably learned through experience, and every single person you ask on the street could probably give you a few examples off the top of their heads.

Also: “commonly believed” by whom? Lazy and/or stupid science journalists?

folks before you had this to say:

  1. Gramma and Grampa Lifford

    That was unbelievable…goes to show, of course, that you can’t believe everything you read…especially when it makes no sense at all!!! BTW I’m thrilled with the “Feeds” you set me up with and having fun using them …as you can see from my unusually prompt reply. Thanks,Son…mom

  2. Jon

    Science reporting has always been abysmal. I’m reminded every time I read an article about a scientific topic I know a lot about – astronomy – and simply extrapolate to all other subjects (including, unfortunately, non-science ones).

    Luckily, the Web is fast becoming a source of intelligent people writing intelligent things about science. Granted, there is a lot of noise, too. I guess the Web just makes it easier to access things that were heretofore locked away in print somewhere.

    I love that you set your mom up with “feeds”. :-)

  3. Pete

    I’m genetically hardwired to be afraid of Garfield.

  4. Michael Zuschlag

    “Mice with certain nasal cells removed through genetic engineering didn’t display any fear [of cats].” In other news from genetic engineering research, scientists produced a man with no eyes, proving that stopping for red lights is genetically hard-wired, not learned.

    You also gotta love “‘People have thought mice are fearful of cats because cats prey on them, but that’s not the case,’ Kim said.” No, it is because cats prey on mice, or, more specifically, cats preyed on any mice that were genetically unable to smell them. Maybe something was lost in translation.

  5. Chris K

    Of course they neglected to mention this particular mouse was out partying with the cat the night before and they really hit it off. Which proves, as “commonly believed”, alcohol and Karaoke can make anyone friends.

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