The Worst Websites for Science in 2016
Two weeks ago, we revealed our picks for the top science websites of 2016. Whether you seek quality coverage of the latest discoveries, have questions about the validity of the latest fads or diets, or are simply looking for a place to sate your burning curiosity, you can count on those outlets to deliver solid, evidence-based content.
We cannot say the same for the organizations we'll be mentioning today.
The Internet is full of misleading, incorrect, or even blatantly fake information. While optimistic futurists once hailed the Internet as an egalitarian source of knowledge – information for all – it has instead proven to be an equally powerful source of misinformation. The following websites are some of the worst contributors to this disconcerting trend.
(Note: We will not be directly linking to these sites or reproducing their logos.)
#6. Answers in Genesis (https://answersingenesis.org/)
Formed by Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis is an organization that espouses a literal interpretation of The Biblical creation story. Their science coverage regularly distorts and rejects modern science that counters the erroneous notion that God created the Earth less than 10,000 years ago. Frequent disciplines they target include evolutionary biology, geology, and anthropology.
#5. The Food Babe (http://foodbabe.com/)
Since her meteoric rise in 2014, Vani Hari, a.k.a. the Food Babe, has not attracted the widespread media coverage she once did. That's a good thing, because she's still spouting the same misleading chemophobic nonsense to her tens of thousands of followers. Hari's recipe is simple: pick a foreign-sounding food ingredient, label it a "toxin", then demonize it relentlessly. While you will find plenty of fearmongering in her weekly witch hunts, you won't find sound science.
#4. InfoWars (http://www.infowars.com/)
Alex Jones, the creator of InfoWars, may be America's leading conspiracy theorist. So it's no surprise that the science section of his website regularly hosts articles that label global warming a "hoax", insist that chemtrails could cause Biblical floods, and question the safety of vaccines. What's worse, these inane articles are interspersed amongst legitimate science articles republished from quality outlets, lending them a semblance of validity. How are laypeople to tell what is real and what isn't?
#3. Age of Autism (http://www.ageofautism.com/)
Age of Autism, "The Daily Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic," says it best themselves: "the autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause." Rates of autism absolutely have increased, and the causes are up for debate, but the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that vaccines do not play a role. (A shift in diagnosis likely accounts for much of the rise.)* Evidence does not factor into Age of Autism's reporting, however. Either ignorantly or willfully, they misconstrue science and mislead their readers into believing that vaccines are dangerous.
#2. Mercola (http://www.mercola.com/)
Dr. Joseph Mercola calls his self-titled website "The World's #1 Natural Health Website". While that claim is debatable, it cannot be debated that Mercola.com is exceedingly popular, receiving roughly the same number of views as the National Institutes of Health's website. That's disturbing, because visitors to Mercola's site frequently read health information not supported by scientific evidence, like that homeopathy is effective and that supplements can improve general health. Dr. Mercola capitalizes on this disinformation by selling the questionable products that his website directly or indirectly promotes.
#1. Natural News (http://www.naturalnews.com/)
Science blogger and surgical oncologist David Gorski has called Natural News "one of the most wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet." As of 2016, we believe that it is by far the worst. Founder Mike Adams and his slew of contributors spew all sorts of conspiratorial, anti-science slime on a daily basis to their more than seven million monthly visitors. Examples include labeling the HPV vaccine Gardasil the "most dangerous vaccine in America", claiming a "mass chemical suicide" is underway in the U.S. from contaminated drinking water, and comparing pro-GMO science writers to Nazis. Natural News has possibly done more to popularize conspiracy-oriented and pseudoscientific beliefs than any other news outlet this century.