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In this month's issue of Scientific American, the editors announce that they have finally given in to their critics' demands and will no longer continue their politically biased reporting on issues such as global warming and evolution.  Formerly proud members of the reality-based community, Scientific American now enters a new realm - the world of fair and balanced reporting.  

More below the fold...

From the April, 2005 issue of Scientific American
Okay, We Give Up

There's no easy way to admit this.  For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science.  They pointed out that science and politics don't mix.  They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense, and global warming.  We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican.  But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there's no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.

In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided.  For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies.  True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it.  Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism?  Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon?  Blame the scientists.  They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.  As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.

Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists.  Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea.  But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells.  That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details.

Good journalism values balance above all else.  We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scienfically credible arguments or facts.  Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do.  Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction.  To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong.  In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.

Get ready for a new Scientific American.  No more discussions of how science should inform policy.  If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can't work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and imperil national security, you won't hear about it from us.  If studies suggest that the administration's antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that's not our concern.  No more discussions of how policies affect science either - so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed?  This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science.  And it will start on April Fools' Day.

- THE EDITIORS editors@sciam.com

Originally posted to mediaddict on Fri Mar 18, 2005 at 07:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I normally wouldn't... (4.00)
    ..post the entire article without a link, but it isn't online yet.  If you've enjoyed this wonderful piece of political satire, worthy of the best of the Daily Show, consider subscribing to Scientific American here.

    To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level - Bertrand Russell

    by mediaddict on Fri Mar 18, 2005 at 07:15:16 AM PST

  •  Ha ha April Fools!!! (none)
    I believe the term is "sarcasm."  They'd no sooner give up as I.
  •  Prejudice vs. postjudice (none)
    This reminds me of a statement from Carl Sagan:

    "...Another writer again agreed with all my generalities, but said that as an inveterate skeptic I have closed my mind to the truth. Most notably I have ignored the evidence for an Earth that is six thousand years old. Well, I haven't ignored it; I considered the purported evidence and then rejected it. There is a difference, and this is a difference, we might say, between prejudice and postjudice. Prejudice is making a judgment before you have looked at the facts. Postjudice is making a judgment afterwards. Prejudice is terrible, in the sense that you commit injustices and you make serious mistakes. Postjudice is not terrible. You can't be perfect of course; you may make mistakes also. But it is permissible to make a judgment after you have examined the evidence. In some circles it is even encouraged." - Carl Sagan, The Burden of Skepticism, Skeptical Enquirer, Vol. 12, pg. 46

    I'd like to put some followup of my thoughts on this, but his statement sums things up pretty well.

  •  Albert Einstein (Young Einstein) (none)
    "God does indeed have a pair of fuzzy dice on her/his rear-view mirror"

    The Cognitive Dissonant... "Bringing Marshmallows to the Firestorms of Freedom!"

    by Dood Abides on Fri Mar 18, 2005 at 07:50:08 AM PST

  •  LMFAO (none)
    Since the election, I have been criticising myself for having become far too earnest.  I really did believe that if we all worked hard, and believed harder, that we could stop the GOP juggernaut in its tracks.  That didn't work as planned, and ever since my head has been exploding on a daily basis.

        The lesson I have learned is that provocation works.  Outrages keep us off balance, reacting to one crisis after another in place of organising for the long term in support of a worthy goal.  So I applaud SciAm for turning this around and poking back.  We know that the bad guys in this story are plenty self-righteous, that they hate being laughed off as stupid and lazy and weak.  So smack a bonehead, where it hurts!  

  •  April Fools! (none)
    I love it!  They always do something funny like that in their April issue and I get taken EVERY TIME!!!!

    Editors of Scientific American have their own blog, so go and thank them:
    http://sciam-editor.typepad.com/weblog1/

    "Knowledge is Power"! Visit me at my blog, or go to the White House

    by coturnix on Fri Mar 18, 2005 at 09:06:10 AM PST

  •  Damn. They had to add that last sentence... (none)
    ...for the dead-of-brain out there.  I'll be willing to bet that if they hadn't tossed that in, the IDers would have been jumping for joy and trumpeting this all over the place.

    Hmmmmm.  Matter of fact ... come to think of it ... I'm willing to bet that a fair number of ID/creationists will plaster this all over and say: "See, we told you so!  Now even the staid Scientific American is on our side!  How's about them peer-reviewed apples!" (never mind that, strictly speaking, Scientific American isn't peer-reviewed -- that being said though, the articles they publish aren't new reports for the most part and cover matters covered previously in peer-reviewed articles, and the articles selected are ofttimes from the most respected workers in the field).

    I'd say that we can look forward to the more dishonest folks out there in ID-land selectively quoting from the editorial, followed by a spate of simply ignorant folks quoting the quoters and passing it around the Internet attributed to SciAm.  And not a single one knows that this is a spring SciAm tradition, and that the IDer have been honoured as the target for this year's fun-poking (I remember fondly their announcement one year that Richard Greenleaf's computer program had proved through exhaustive search that a certain first move for white was a forced win in chess...).

    Then there's the hard-core folks out there that, even with that last give-away sentence, will be so excited that it whizzes 30,000 feet over their heads....

    LOL.

    Cheers,

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