Weekly Roundup 6/11/2012

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post, June 9, 2012 (print edition: June 10)

Synopsis: The scandal that forced the only presidential resignation in U.S. history was more far reaching and more sinister than recognized at the time. That is the conclusion of the two reporters who broke open the scandal, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in: June 17, 1972. Far from a “third-rate burglary,” Watergate was actually one part of five wars that President Richard M. Nixon waged against the antiwar movement, against justice, against the news media, against the Democrats and, ultimately, against history.

Takeaway: Despite efforts by some to minimize the scandal, Woodward and Bernstein say the historical record now shows that Watergate was “a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, on the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Why We Don't Believe in Science   
Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker blogs, June 7, 2012

Synopsis: Learning science is even harder than we thought. Brain researchers say that before we learn many scientific facts and concepts we first have to unlearn intuitions that come naturally to us -- but contradict the facts. Our brains, for instance, take naturally to the notion that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Takeaway: Psychology and brain-imaging studies confirm why learning, especially scientific learning, is so tough: "Even after we internalize a scientific concept-—the vast majority of adults now acknowledge the Copernican truth that the earth is not the center of the universe—that primal belief lingers in the mind. We never fully unlearn our mistaken intuitions about the world. We just learn to ignore them."

For related reading, see our reports on Science in America (Jan. 11, 2008), Intelligent Design (July 29, 2005) and Teaching Math and Science (Sept. 6, 2002).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Amos Kamil, The New York Times Magazine, June 10, 2012
Synthesis:  Widespread sexual abuse of both boys by teachers and coaches occurred for decades at one of New York City’s elite private schools, Horace Mann, according to a lengthy report by a former student.

Takeaway:  Even before the story was printed, numerous former students posted blogs online alleging they too had been abused. The school would not comment about the accusations, only saying that there are now policies in place for people to report incidents of sexual abuse; a former Board of Trustees member told the author, "No one will talk to you. They are all lawyering up."

For background see “Sex Scandals,” Jan. 22, 2010, and “Sex Offenders,” Sept. 8, 2006.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor