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Forrest Mims (who should know) on Scientific American’s recent PC police swoop

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Further to “Scientific American blogger gets fired for stating facts about Feynman, with context,” where we suggested that people remember this when they next hear Scientific American’s bold advocacy of the multiverse and Darwinian evolution: Darwinian evolution indeed.

Commenter Querius wondered, “Didn’t they fire a popular columnist some years back when they found out he was a [gasp!] Christian?”

Yes indeed, That would be Forrest Mims, accounted by Discover in a 2009 list to be one of the 50 best brains in science. There was a minor controversy at the mag over his pro-design views but the mag decided to stand behind their choice. As we said at the time:

Science motors along on facts, so political correctness is not one of the branches of science.

As a scholar pointed out to me years, ago, political correctness is typically the refuge of third- and fourth-rate academics. It can reduce a discipline that was once a source of knowledge and understanding of our world to dense, frightened babble. The further the mag stays away from it, the better.

Mims, probably best known for his electronics work, is also a keen environmentalist and supporter of amateur science as a support to professional science. Forrest also offered a link to this video account of the “Scientific American” affair (in which he was refused a column years ago – though that seems to have been patched up, as he has written for them since).

Mims wrote in to that news item last night, to say,

Scientific American has forgotten the lesson it learned about the “public relations nightmares” (their phrase) that can occur when they dump a writer with an opposing view. (In my case they at least published several of my letters to the editor and even a news story about some of my research for NASA in Brazil after I was dismissed as a columnist.) Today’s staff has continued the ruination of the legacy of a once great magazine. The staff would do well to carefully review the history of Scientific American. Perhaps in doing so they will come to respect the Christian views and writings of Rufus Porter, the magazine’s founder. Porter was an authentic scientist and writer who knew both his Creator and his responsibilities to his audience. He was definitely not a journalism school widget trained in political correctness.

Note: A Nicholas Wade connection? Given the overall strangeness of science writer Nicholas Wade’s largely unopposed efforts to revive Darwinian racism in Troublesome Inheritance, it is tempting to speculate that Jogalekar’s cautious praise in Scientific American for at least discussing his ideas was a catalyst. The bosses might not want to draw more attention to that biohazard. So they pretend to fire Jogalekar over some transparently stupid kerfuffle instead, preventing him from using the occasion of his dismissal to attract more attention to the smouldering stinkpot.

Also, others are now warned away from even discussing it.

From UD News to SciAM editors: How about less multiverse, more diverse?

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9 Replies to “Forrest Mims (who should know) on Scientific American’s recent PC police swoop

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Forrest Mims, did you know that you have been quoted favorably by Stephen Meyer?,,

    In a footnote on the same page, Meyer references a letter submitted to the journal Science in 1994 by pro-ID scientist Forrest M. Mims III. The letter, which was rejected by the publication, suggests that looks can be deceiving when it comes to nonprotein-coding DNA:

    “They have always reminded me of strings of NOP (No OPeration) instructions. A do-nothing string of NOPs might appear as “junk code” to the uninitiated, but, when inserted in a program loop, a string of NOPs can be used to achieve a precise time delay. Perhaps the “junk DNA” puzzle would be solved more rapidly if a few more computer scientists would make the switch to molecular biology.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....87941.html

    if you had any hope of reviving your career,,,, mmmm well,,, perhaps you can learn the Portuguese Language and move to Brazil??? 🙂

    Just kidding. (sort of) 🙂

  2. 2
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    Forrest Mims was absolutely right when he alluded to the Christian views and writings of Rufus Porter, the founder of Scientific American, whose first issue, on August 28, 1845, included an essay he wrote on “Rational Religion,” in which he declared that as “rational creatures,” we should “be ever ready to acknowledge God as our Creator and daily Preserver,” and that we can know that petitionary prayer is rational “even without the aid of revelation.” Here is his essay:

    What is true and rational religion? In answering this important question, we shall come to the point at once, without prejudice or sectarian influence; and laying aside all traditionary superstition, which has had its origin in clerical policy, inquire what is now the will of the blessed Deity, with regard to the conduct of the children of men. What course of conduct, in us, frail, erring human creatures, will now, under all the present existing circumstances, be acceptable and approved by our divine Creator, who continually watches over us, and observes our every act, and the thoughts of our hearts? We have so diligently examined the answer which we are about to give to these questions, and so attentively viewed the subject in all its bearings, and with all its evidences and demonstrations, that we can not think it possible that there is any ground to doubt its correctness. First, then, let us, as rational creatures, be ever ready to acknowledge God as our Creator and daily Preserver; and that we are each of us individually dependant on his special care and good will towards us, in supporting the wonderful action of nature which constitutes our existence; and in preserving us from the casualties, to which our complicated and delicate structure is liable. Let us also, knowing our entire dependence on Divine Benevolence, as rational creatures, do ourselves the honor to express personally and frequently, our thanks to him for his goodness; and to present our petitions to Him for the favours which we constantly require. This course is rational, even without the aid of revelation: but being specially invited to this course, by the divine word, and assured of the readiness of our Creator to answer our prayers and recognize our thanks, it is truly surprising that any rational being, who has ever read the inspired writings should willingly forego this privilege, or should be ashamed to be seen engaged in this rational employment, or to have it known that he practices it. Next to the worship of God by thanksgiving and prayer, we should repel and banish all feelings of anger and bitterness toward our fellow beings, and cherish love and kind feelings towards them. This course is also rational, having the example of God in his kind dealings towards us; and conduces at once, to the glory of God, the happiness of mankind in general, and to our own individual happiness and prosperity in particular. It is also a rational duty to be ever reconciled and resigned to the dispensations of Divine Providence; and to trust in the goodness and benevolence of God for the present and future, and to feel willing to have it known amongst our associates, that we follow a rational course. This is rational religion.

    The first issue also included a Letter from the Editor which stated in its third paragraph:

    In conducting this publication, we shall endeavour to avoid all expressions of sentiment, on any sectional, sectarian, or political party subject; but shall exercise a full share of independence, in the occasional exposure of ignorance and knavery, especially when we find them sheltered by arrogance and aristocracy. We shall present no gloomy catalogues of crime and depravity, believing that the cause of neither happiness nor morality will be thereby promoted;–our object being to please and enlighten. We shall advocate the pure Christian religion, without favouring any particular sect; and shall make it a point to adhere to reason and common sense, independently of the opinions of those, whose interests and popularity depend on their rigid adherence to traditional doctrines, and church creeds.

    There were poems, too (can you imagine?), including this one:

    “FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”
    BY PHAZMA.
    A blind old beggar, with his hat in hand,
    Neglected by the lazy passers-by,
    I noticed shyly at the corner stand,
    With moisture falling from his sightless eye.
    A child came by–a laughing little creature–
    With joy and innocence in every feature–
    Skipping forth gaily to an apple-stand,
    She saw the beggar, and became less gay;
    Then flung the bit of silver in her hand
    Into the old man’s hat, and ran away!

    The first issue of Scientific American can be read online here:

    http://web.archive.org/web/200.....issue.html

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, then there is this gem also:

    Second Adventism
    A gentleman writing from England, states that a religious excitement similar to American Millerism, has commenced in that country, under the auspices of late ministers of the established church, who preach the approaching second advent of the Saviour; but that the preachers have all been suspended by the established church. It could not be expected, that the dignitaries of that church would tolerate the preaching of the probability of an event, by them dreaded as one that would destroy all their fair prospects with their enormous salaries, and honours of this world.
    ===========
    It seems ‘their enormous salaries, and honours of this world’ has drastically tempered the religious fervor of the subsequent editors of Scientific American.

    Can you imagine the fit of rage that atheists would have if a science journal published an opinion of the second coming today?

  4. 4
    awstar says:

    We shall advocate the pure Christian religion, without favouring any particular sect; and shall make it a point to adhere to reason and common sense, independently of the opinions of those, whose interests and popularity depend on their rigid adherence to traditional doctrines, and church creeds.

    Alas; where goest all those who got the meaning of “separation of church and state”

  5. 5
    Forrest Mims says:

    The Scientific American affair jump-started my career doing serious science as an amateur (my degree is in government). During the controversy, I told my wife Minnie that I planned to take off the next year to demonstrate that a Christian who rejects Darwinian evolution can do serious science worthy of publication not just in SciAm but in peer-reviewed journals of science. Scientific American published only three of my columns. The fourth was to have been a sun photometer that used LEDs as wavelength dependent photodiodes. Though they did not publish that column, the LED instrument led to a series of peer-reviewed papers and became the nucleus of the GLOBE program’s aerosol monitoring protocol and publications by many others, including a column in SciAm about my project by Shawn Carlson (who took over after me and who almost lost the assignment after he published this).

    The unpublished fifth column was to have been a hand-held instrument that measured the ozone layer(TOPS–Total Ozone Portable Spectrometer). That instrument found a significant drift in ozone measured by the TOMS instrument aboard NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite, and that finding became the subject of my first publication in Nature. TOPS also earned a Rolex Award, which provided the funds to hire fellow Christian and engineer Scott Hagerup to design a microprocessor-controlled version of TOPS that we called Microtops. Microtops closely tracked the ozone measured by an EPA Brewer spectrometer placed in my field for 60 days. This attracted the attention of the Solar Light Company, which acquired rights to develop a more sophisticated version called Microtops II. I have just returned from 2 weeks at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, where the original TOPS was compared against the station Dobson and 2 Canadian ozone spectrometers each year from 1992 to 1996 and the first Microtops II at least once each year since 1997. That Microtops II is still yielding ozone amounts within 1-2% of those far larger and much more costly instruments.

    The Rolex money also provided funds for developing several other instruments, most notably 16 miniature UV-B sensors with attached Hobo data loggers. After all 16 of these units were deployed around the Big Island of Hawaii, I found a 15 to 20% increase in UV-B measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory when cumulus clouds were near the sun. This finding became my second paper in Nature. I could go on with a series of other instruments and findings, but I simply want to point out that Scientific American’s dismissal of my column assignment, though depressing at the time, led to not just one year but 25 years and counting of doing serious science.

    My latest project is the most exciting: a series of ultrasensitive twilight LED photometers with gains of up to 11^10 that measure the altitude profile of aerosols up to 100 km and the ozone layer up to 45-50 km. This project would likely never have been conceived had I not lost the Scientific American column. These and various other projects have led to many articles, papers and books–with more on the way.

    Jonathan Piel was the editor who was so worried about the public relations nightmare that would occur if it was discovered he had hired an advocate of creation. His nightmare came true but only after my assignment was terminated. Some of his staff were in total support of my position, but one who was not asked me if I believed in the sanctity of life. (To which I replied, “Of course I do. Aren’t you glad your mother did?”) Another asked if I read the Bible. They were unhappy when the Rolex Award was announced, for Rolex advertised the winners in Scientific American. I was later told that the advertising staff vetoed the editorial team when the ad arrived, and the rejected TOPS finally made it into SciAm in a photo of me holding TOPS by my face.

    As a pastor once told me, all’s well that ends well. Thanks, Scientific American, for transforming my rather mundane job as a freelance science and electronics writer into an absolutely fascinating career doing science. Thanks also to my supporters at SciAm and the subsequent staff that did not object to my faith when they printed three of my letters to the editor and wrote a news story about my hypothesis that dense smoke in Brazil (where I conducted many measurements on assignment from NASA) might protect infectious bacteria from solar UV-B and lead to an increase in respiratory distress in the population.

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    Forrest Mims,

    Thank you sir, for sticking to your principles and for your many outstanding contributions to science.

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    Yes, Mr Mims, thank you for your many contributions!

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Upright Biped, in case you’re lurking:

    This is the dilemma which has persisted to mock information theorists since Shannon’s original paper in 1948. Despite an enormous amount of effort (Peterson, 1961) spent since that time in quest of this Holy Grail of information theory, a deterministic method of generating the codes promised by Shannon is still to be found. – Abramson, 1963

    Has this changed in the decades since?

  9. 9
    Robert Byers says:

    It sure seems there is a secret motivation to control and stop people from position or jobs in sciency things iF they are creationists in one way of another. A CONSPIRACY.
    Why would this be so important?
    Is it possible its a part of a bigger agenda in the establishment. Liberal or whatever but its a option.
    We must demand that all positions in ones nation belong to the people because the people created the nation.
    Any unjust interference with people based on big interference with common beliefs is immoral and illegal.
    creationism is just another target by these rulers.
    Creationism can earn credit by making ourselves a public victim.
    Its not just us.

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