A Failure to Communicate

27 July 2015

Poster image for the movie *The Day After Tomorrow*. 20th Century Fox
Poster image for the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Have you heard about the coming ice age? You may have seen articles with titles such as “Thanks To Reduced Solar Activity, We Could Be Heading For A Mini Ice Age In 2030.” and “‘Mini Ice Age’ Not a Reason to Ignore Global Warming.” Of course such sensational headlines led to rebuttal articles such as “No, We Aren’t Heading Into A ‘Mini Ice Age’” Once again, a hyped headline is used to drive page views, and which only serves to mislead readers. Hence a follow up article on how “The ‘Mini Ice Age’ Hoopla Is A Giant Failure Of Science Communication.” Here’s the thing, though. All of these articles are from IFLS also known as “I’ll use profanity in my website title so people will think I’m edgy and cool.”

You might think IFLS just made a mistake and then made an honest effort to correct it. They didn’t. After their first article hit the press, there were soon legitimate science communicators writing rebuttals. It was clear from the get-go that the research presented did not support a mini ice age in 2030, but IFLS printed it anyway. They published their second article to double down on their hyped claims. Of course, once it was crystal clear that IFLS was wrong, they could have made a correction in the original article and linked to one of the better rebuttals. They didn’t. Instead, they retitled their second article “There Probably Won’t Be A “Mini Ice Age” In 15 Years” and linked to that at the bottom of the page. To this date, they still haven’t made clear that their first article is in error. Why correct your “mistakes” when your lies get you nearly 76,000 likes on Facebook? The last two articles aren’t even ones IFLS wrote. They were actually written on The Conversation and then reprinted on IFLS. Heaven forbid you direct traffic to another site.

This isn’t a failure in science communication. It is the willful promotion of ignorance. So I think a new name for the site is in order: “We’re Just Interested In Pageviews. The Science Can F Itself.”

HT to Yvette d’Entremont for pointing these articles out. You can also read a follow up on this topic.