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Further to “Moderator for ‘DNA studies shake tree of life’ article bans discussion of ‘whether evolution is true’”: Mid-last year we began to pick up a trend to popular science media thinking it their duty to simply ban discussions sparked by news stories from their pages.

Popular Science shut down comments. because “the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.” In short, readers dumb enough to waste their time on PM are not able to judge for themselves. As I said at the time,

One way of understanding this editorial tantrum is to relate it to the transition from old to new media. … It used to be that commenting on stories could only be done privately. That was old media. Today, a popular medium can gain a large population of new readers with new voices, with the only cost being the staff time expense created by the need to boot trolls.

As we know, science is not in the business of “scientific certainty,” but of replicable evidence. The reader input the editors are complaining of would not be happening if the subject areas were not in a state of contention and flux, commonly called “news.”

But at New Scientist, a social media researcher’s article cautiously supported Popular Science’s new policy of not allowing comments (too many of the wrong peop-le are heard from). L.A. Times started banning opposing views on climate change (at least) from the letters page. (Yet Pub Med decided to allow user comments for the first time.)

The bans are always invoked, of course, in situations where readers disagree with what the science journalists were told was—and conveyed to others as—the approved view. Interesting that the phenomenon roughly coincides with a 2013 world science journalists’ panel getting themselves worked up into a snit over “science denial.”

In short, many current science writers want to be taken seriously as investigators while behaving as cheerleaders. And if the public can’t process that thought, something is allegedly wrong with the public, not with the thought or their overall approach.

Recently, others have begun to notice the problem, and sure enough, the 1970s called, wanting us to immediately change everything back to a point where no one would really have had enough information to know where the bodies are buried.

If they picket, we’ll try to get you pix. Psychedelic, man.

– O’Leary for News

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