Author Archives: jenkins

Becoming an ecologist: A detour makes a difference

Note: I started this blog to update stories in my 2015 book, Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology, as new research was reported. This posting doesn’t serve that purpose, but instead is a reflection on the circuitous route that led … Continue reading

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Why I worry about climate change

In recent discussions, several friends have described why current events make them deeply pessimistic about the future. I usually respond that I’m an optimist; for example, I believe that our democratic institutions are strong enough to withstand assault from partisans … Continue reading

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On climate science, the New York Times blows it

Bret Stephens is a right-wing journalist and climate-science denier who spent most of his career writing for the Wall Street Journal. He was hired as an opinion writer by the New York Times in early 2017, and wrote his first … Continue reading

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“This is a sad day for the children of the U.S.”

Howard Mielke is a toxicologist at the Medical School of Tulane University in New Orleans. He described March 21, 2017 as “a sad day for the children of the U.S.” in response to news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) … Continue reading

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Monarch butterflies, milkweed, and migration: The law of unintended consequences

I described the magic of migration by monarch butterflies in Chapter 1 of Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology. These tiny animals fly from breeding areas in the northern US and Canada to overwintering sites in high-elevation forests in central … Continue reading

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Medical use of marijuana revisited

I described two experimental studies of the use of marijuana to reduce pain in Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology and discussed two technical reviews of the medical value of marijuana in a subsequent blog posting. The gist of these … Continue reading

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Storytelling in science: What can we learn about critical thinking from stories about mountain lions and sea otters?

Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology is a book of stories about doing science. Most of these stories are incomplete because science is a work in progress, therefore one of my great pleasures is learning about new research that extends … Continue reading

Posted in Ecology, Evaluating evidence, General material, Long-term study, Observations | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Careful readers are a writer’s best friends

Writing for publication entails many drafts and many reviews of these drafts by friends, colleagues, copyeditors, and critics. The credibility of science depends on peer review, as explained by Frederick Grinnell in The Everyday Practice of Science and by me … Continue reading

Posted in Causation, Correlation & Causation, Ecology, Ethics, Evaluating evidence, Evolution, General material, Probability & Statistics, Twins | Comments Off on Careful readers are a writer’s best friends

More politicians talking science

I wrote about politicians talking science for a blog hosted by Oxford University Press in June 2015. In that posting, I focused on statements by Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz illustrating their misunderstanding of the scientific consensus about climate change. … Continue reading

Posted in Argument mapping, Climate change, Science and politics | 1 Comment

Research on medicinal uses of marijuana: Is the cart before the horse?

I describe two studies of medicinal uses of marijuana in Chapter 4 of Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology to illustrate why experiments are considered the gold standard for research. In June 2015, two months after the book appeared, the … Continue reading

Posted in Experimentation, Medicine | 1 Comment