I don’t normally do end-of-the-year lists — except for my annual list of year-end lists, which will be happening again, I can assure you — but as a self-described internet bottom-feeder, I do have one area of expertise: blogs. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s a list of ten science and skepticism blogs that, if you haven’t checked out already, you really should.
The Skeptical Raptor posts pretty regularly about the latest occurrences at the intersection of science and skepticism. Whenever a study hits the news on anything from vaccines to e-cigarettes to the so-called “paleo” diet, SR has what you’re looking for when you see an outlandish headline with a biology or chemistry pseudoscientific bent and you find yourself in need of a little sanity.
Respectful Insolence is the blog of Orac (aka surgical oncologist David Gorski) whose pseudonym is taken from the computer on the perpetually underrated Blake’s 7. He posts from time to time, usually when some medical quackery is taking place or someone’s (once again) very wrong on the internet. If you like your skepticism with a healthy dose of science-fiction references, or if you just can’t help but be friends with a man whose catchphrase seems to have become “the stupid, it burns,” then this is definitely the blog for you.
Bad Astronomy is the Slate-hosted blog of writer and astronomer Phil Plait, and I really can’t recommend this one enough. It’s not all skepticism — sometimes it’s just beautiful pictures or stories about climate change — but if you ever need someone to tell you it’s probably not aliens, or that that asteroid really isn’t going to hit us (or cause earthquakes), you need to be reading Bad Astronomy.
Skepchick is Rebecca Watson‘s brainchild (formerly of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, which I’m not counting here because it’s more of a podcast — but which you should very much listen to), which started as just one blog in 2005 and has now expanded into the Skepchick Network which includes Skeptability, Queereka, and many more. They’ve got a ton of writers and so keep up really well with everything that hits the airwaves when it comes to the intersections of science, religion, skepticism, and (very importantly) feminism. Definitely worth exploring if you’ve somehow missed it up til now.
NeuroLogicaBlog is the personal blog of Dr. Steven Novella, who, if we’re being honest, is probably one of the most famous skeptics alive today. He’s the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS), one of the hosts of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, and a neurologist at Yale’s school of medicine to boot. NLB’s great if you want a deep-dive into a specific issue on a wide-range of topics of interest to skeptics, be that astrology or conspiracy theorists and theories, or more general philosophical positions on the need for critical thinking anywhere and everywhere. If you’re not reading NeuroLogicaBlog yet, you should give it a go.
Not Exactly Rocket Science is the National Geographic-hosted blog of one of my favourite (and possibly one of the most prolific) science writers, Ed Yong. While not a skepticism blog, it’s just such a wonderfully educational one that you really need to check it out. Would you think you’d have any interest in non-monogamous voles? Or how about non-extinct squash? They don’t sound like the most titillating of topics, but Yong really makes them so easy to understand and so interesting that you’ll wonder why you never thought to ask about them before. He even does a weekly newsletter (The Ed’s Up) that you can sign up for (I recommend that, too).
Bad Science is the blog of anti-pseudoscience crusader Ben Goldacre, a physician, journalist, and leader in the evidence-based medicine movement. He doesn’t post very often — his latest is from August, on the habit of the company Cyagen to give money to researchers who cite them in their studies — but they’re always insightful and worth the read when they do appear. He’s always got the back of anyone sued for libel by a bunch of crackpots with an association.
This is the only one on the list that’s more of a public service than an outright blog. Retraction Watch was founded by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky back in 2010 because they were concerned that the retraction process — when a peer-reviewed journal decides to pull back a piece because they think it shouldn’t have been published in the first place — wasn’t transparent enough. Now they have a MacArthur Foundation grant and a staff and they provide a valuable resource, documenting all the studies that would otherwise go quietly into the night without anyone noticing. It also notes when journals update pertinent interests — like today, when a study in PLoS One on what children in Malaysia eat for breakfast had to be adjusted to note that the researchers received funding from cereal producers Nestle and General Mills. They keep people honest. They’re very good.
Doubtful News has, until very recently, covered all the latest and most absurd things in the news, from that stuff about the “nazi gold train” to last week’s story about people who didn’t want a solar farm in their town. Unfortunately, Doubtful News might not be one you can check out in 2016. As of December 13, 2015, they’ve gone “on hiatus.” According to their Twitter feed, they “simply can’t keep up with all the very doubtful news. And, it’s rather depressing to boot.” So whether this means the end of DN or just a well-deserved vacation, I do hope it returns in 2016. In the meantime, their Twitter feed seems to still be up and running!
I don’t think any list of science and skepticism blogs could be complete without mentioning Science-Based Medicine. SBM is a group blog (and another place you’ll find writing by Dr. Steven Novella) dedicated to providing a scientific alternative to “alternative” medical theories. Together, they take apart the latest scientific and pseudoscientific news with detailed analyses that will leave you feeling smarter and more knowledgeable about how science works. Generally speaking it’s one of the best things you can read if you want to stay informed.
As I said, I haven’t presented these in any particular order, because I think they’re all pretty amazing and I think you’ll think so too. If you have others you think should be added, drop me a line over at our Facebook page or at Twitter @TWITomorrow. Thanks for reading and have a great day.
Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.