“When Biblically Inspired Pseudoscience and Clickbait Cause Looting”

A team of anthropologists argues that flawed research linking biblical Sodom to an archaeological site led to media hype that harms science and encourages illegal excavations, By Morag M. Kersel, Meredith S. Chesson, and Austin “Chad” Hill.

Give it a read.  It’s great stuff.

For myriad reasons, and like many other scholars working in Southwest Asia, we were profoundly disappointed when Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal operating under one of the world’s leading scientific journals, Naturepublished pseudoscientific research about a supposed ancient cosmic airburst destroying the Tall el-Hammam site in what is today Jordan. The authors speculate that this putative event may have been the basis for the biblical story of Sodom, in which a city was allegedly destroyed by stones and fire sent from the sky.

As of today, the original Scientific Reports story has been accessed 348,000 times and has generated nearly 20,000 tweets (including a retweet by astronaut Chris Hadfield, who has more than 2 million followers). It has been covered in 176 news outlets (including major scientific outlets, such as Smithsonian magazine) and was ranked 55th of the over 300,000 tracked articles of a similar age in all academic journals.

And that’s just the opening!