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Sometimes there is such an ‘obvious’ way for a science story to be told that it more or less tells itself. Scientists themselves are (allegedly) taught, however, not to believe what they are told—nullius in verba, as the Royal Society puts it—and so in such cases it behoves us to look askance at the reporting.

One recent publication has provoked endless variations on a headline at the same time both tidy and astonishing: “We can inherit fears”. “Scared of spiders? It could be genetic”, the Daily Mail advised. “Phobias may not be simply down to unpleasant child [sic] experiences, but…

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