Ten Things Science Did Not Say in 2017

Science denialism, clickbait headlines, and absurd pseudoscience: Our favorite science debunkings from 2017.

Published Dec 30, 2017

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A “Peer-Reviewed” Study Did Not Find That “All Recent Global Warming” Was Fabricated by Climatologists

The primary thesis of nearly all of Breitbart News climate coverage in 2017 was that a new blog post has documented “proof” that all of global warming is a fraud. In a July 2017 article, that site used a non-peer-reviewed wordpress blog post to make the unsupported and wide-reaching claim that “nearly all” global warming is fabricated by scientists.

New Research Did Not Suggest That a Massive Yellowstone Eruption May Occur Sooner Than Expected

Preliminary data presented during a professional talk at a volcanology conference were reported correctly by the New York Times in an October 2017 article. Subsequently, however, the Times story was mischaracterized in reports from USA Today and Fox News. Those accounts incorrectly suggested the research had found evidence that the Yellowstone supervolcano would erupt sooner than previously thought.

Turmeric Is Increasingly Unlikely to Prevent Dementia

Turmeric’s alleged health benefits were a popular topic in 2017, and many memes and supplement sellers suggested the spice has the ability to prevent dementia. The research such claims rest on, however, is increasingly seen as flawed.

Women Do Not “Retain DNA” from Every Man They Have Ever Slept With

Although it is primarily an outlet for divisive political fake news and outlandish conspiracy theories, Your News Wire is no stranger to fake science either. A June 2017 story by the site alleged that a “new study” had proved that women absorb and retain DNA from every man they ever ever slept with. The study was neither new, nor were its results or significance accurately reported.

Over 400 Papers Published in 2017 Did Not Prove That “Global Warming Is a Myth"

Breitbart News pushed this story twice in 2017, first as the June claim that “58 Scientific Papers” published up to that point proved that global warming was a myth, and second as the October claim that “400 papers” now proved the same. Both posts were based on the extremely flawed commentary of a climate change denial blog.

A Widely Publicized Study Showing Supposed Harm from Vaccines Is Junk Science

This is another story Snopes reported on twice. Here, the same paper was “preliminarily” published in one journal in 2016 before being pulled after a backlash from the scientific community, and it was then published in nearly identical form by an even less selective journal in May 2017. As we described in detail, the study (wherever it was or is published) remained politically motivated junk.

Scientists Were Not Caught “Tampering” With Data to Exaggerate Sea Level Rise

Similar to aforementioned claims about climatologists' allegedly making up data that documents global warming, this Breitbart story also had its origins in the same flawed skeptic blog as the "400 papers in 2017" series. Its inclusion in this list would be redundant, then, if not for the fact that the study highlighted by Breitbart also highlighted an absurd tale of academic dishonesty and assumed names.

Putting a Raw Cut Onion in Your Sock Does Not Cure Any Known Medical Ailments

David “Avocado” Wolfe has for years been a well of scientifically dubious claims for Snopes to debunk. We analyzed his assertion that putting an cut onion in your sock can provide a host of medical benefits. It does not.

The Covert Sonic Weapon Used Against Diplomats in Cuba, As Described, Is Unlikely to Exist

One of the most mysterious science stories form 2017 came in reports from diplomats in Cuba who alleged they had suffered harm from a largely inaudible sonic weapon. Snopes analyzed the symptoms tied to these attacks and the scientific plausibility that a covert device could produce them, in a September fact check.

A “Massive Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami” Predicted by ESP Did Not Occur

One of the most commonly searched for science stories at Snopes in 2017 concerned claims that a scientists had predicted a massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami would occur before the end of 2017. However, this prediction was from a man who may or may not exist, and was allegedly produced using ESP. We ranked it as false — and it looks like we were right, too.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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