Media Science

Scientific American bloggers quit rather than face Orwellian censorship?

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Some readers may remember “Scientific American may be owned by Nature but it is now run by Twitter,” about how Ash Jogalekar (Curious Wave Function) got dumped from Scientific American on clearly trumped up charges. But in reality probably due to his favourable comment on Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance (For Wade’s revival of Darwinian racism, go here.)

Our best guess is that Scientific American can’t denounce the book directly because its conclusions are reasonably derived from a Darwinian approach to evolution, whatever leading denunciators with jobs in science might say. That is not a can of worms the mag wants to open. So Jogalekar, who never saw it coming and maybe didn’t understand what was up, took the chop instead. Nice.

And now, in the meantime, the mag seems to have moved to make sure that blogs sound like the usual Science Correctness column. As Jogalekar tells it,

So I hear that SciAmBlogs is undergoing a radical overhaul and shedding no less than half of its bloggers, many of whom have been with the network since its inception. This includes many whose thought-provoking writings I respect – even though I don’t always agree with them – like Janet Stemwedel and Eric Michael Johnson. It’s a shame really, because I think the network had really distinguished itself as one of the few blogging networks in the world whose bloggers had vibrant, independent voices and who were not afraid to write provocative posts. That being said, I don’t have a problem seeing the logic of this move at all: after what happened during the last one year, it is clear that the network wants to repair what it sees as a broken image, wants to avoid dealing with even ten clamorous voices on Twitter, wants to stay away even from interesting controversy and – the importance of this aspect of any issue can never be underestimated – wants to please the lawyers. The rigors of maintaining a hundred and fifty year old organization’s image are apparently much harder than the rigors of sustaining a diverse set of opinions and the accompanying freedom of speech.

Cue funeral dirge for The New Republic …

However it is equally clear that by embarking on this new identity the site has picked safe over interesting and independent and has lost its reputation as a vibrant and diverse community of independent voices which you may not always agree with but whose views always provided food for thought. This is abundantly obvious from the new “guidelines” issued by the network – a veritable school headmaster’s list of dos and donts combined with a palpable dash of Orwellian doublespeak – which prohibit its bloggers from hosting guest posts or writing “outside” their areas of expertise without consulting with the editors. In doing this SciAmBlogs has reduced its bloggers to – in physicist Sean Carroll’s words – underpaid journalists and effectively dissuaded them from exploring new horizons. A blogger who gets paid a paltry sum of money every month for writing “safe” posts that won’t get even a handful of people on Twitter riled up and are considered kosher by the editors is indeed no longer a real blogger, and I can definitely see why many of the network’s previous writers quit instead of relinquishing their independence. More.

So … just like at The New Republic, lots of writers just quit, despite today’s economic hardships?

You can listen to the new sanitized bloggers (some may be good but all will sense the circling thought police). Or you can listen to a variety of independent media, like us.

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18 Replies to “Scientific American bloggers quit rather than face Orwellian censorship?

  1. 1
    Learned Hand says:

    Our best guess is that Scientific American can’t denounce the book directly because its conclusions are reasonably derived from a Darwinian approach to evolution, whatever leading denunciators with jobs in science might say.

    Your best guess is a very bad guess. Actual, factual scientists–including geneticists–have been excoriating Wade’s book since it was published. They don’t seem to feel that its absurd conclusions, such as that Jews are adapted for banking, are “derived from a Darwinian approach to evolution.” You seem to have invented that to form a cupful of mud for slinging.

  2. 2
    anthropic says:

    Darwin would have disagreed with you, LH. So would his followers, such as Francis Galton.

  3. 3
    Learned Hand says:

    Darwin would have disagreed that geneticists don’t have any trouble criticizing Wade’s work? He would have been wrong. As a matter of empirical fact, they are panning it on the basis of its shallow approach to the science. And so, contrary to News’s characteristically casual and shallow aside, it’s fantastically unlikely that Scientific American is refusing to criticize Wade because of some ideological conflict that actual scientists don’t seem to be experiencing.

    Would Darwin have agreed with Wade? I have no idea. I’m rather skeptical of the opinions of committed creationists who have an ideological bias towards demeaning him. But since Darwin was a scientist, not a god or idol, it doesn’t matter very much what his opinion of the book would have been (were he alive to read it).

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    Its a prophecy coming fulfilled.
    Since wW11 there has been a determined movement to control what is right and wrong and good and evil in civilization.
    So they must control thoughts and speech.
    The empire grew and in extension of its boundaries STARTED to turn allies against each other.
    Decades ago the prophecy would be the empire will destroy its credibility.
    They now censor eveyone about everything.
    creationism being censored and punished was absurd as it touches on religion.
    Religion was the origin of free speech concepts.
    The control of conclusions that matter must not be in the hands of unelected powers. We denied it to elected powers.
    The media is a power. It has the trust of the public.
    It could hide its evil designs. Yet now its eating itself.
    it will happen more.
    thought/speech control is not only now directed at the common people but at those who expected to be the controllers of conclusions.
    it really is like the beheaders in the French revolution.
    Yet we don’t want a napoleon to take over.
    Oppose the Wade’s of this world with reason and love and truth.
    Not censorship. i’m sure however Wade would oppose us.

  5. 5
    groovamos says:

    LH @3:

    But since Darwin was a scientist…

    In a VERY loose sense of the term. No advanced degree in a rigorous field. No esteemed position at university. No supervision of Ph.D candidates.

    …not a god or idol, i

    Seen His name on bumper stickers? Inside one of those fishy things with legs? Right up there wid Jesus?

    He is raised on high. He is the saint of scientific materialism. He is the premier figurehead of the cultists. They cannot imagine a world without Him, without praise of Him.

    …some ideological conflict that actual scientists don’t seem to be experiencing.

    You post a falsehood. Maybe you can atone for it by finding out if Shapiro and Coyne, at the same university, are on friendly terms: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/james-shapiro-goes-after-natural-selection-again-twice-on-huffpo/

    Speaking of scientists, I’ll listen to molecular biologists any day of the week on this conflict, on their problems with evolutionary biologists. Especially those with terminal degrees, which Darwin lacked.

  6. 6
    Zachriel says:

    Learned Hand: But since Darwin was a scientist…

    groovamos: In a VERY loose sense of the term.

    No, in the strict sense of the word, someone who does scientific research.

    Z: Perhaps you forgot that Darwin made an historic voyage around the world collecting evidence nearly thirty years before he published Origin of Species — one of the greatest scientific adventures of all times! Then he spent years collecting and publishing additional evidence to support and develop his nascent theory, long before he was willing to put the theory before his peers. Darwin’s incremental approach allowed him to build and refine his argument, on a solid evidentiary basis.

    Darwin’s intensive, multi-year study of barnacles was sufficient to establish his reputation among scientists, while his study of earthworms was sufficient to establish his public reputation; and the sheer volume of his scientific studies, including observations of moths, orchids, bees, beetles, coral reefs, as well as related studies of geology, made him one of the most important scientists of his age even without including Origin of Species.

    Here is a partial list of Darwin’s primary scientific output:

    * The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle
    * Natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle
    * The Breeding of Animals
    * The structure and distribution of coral reefs.
    * Fertilisation of British orchids by insect agency
    * On the agency of bees in the fertilisation of papilionaceous flowers

    As well as published observations on living and fossil Cirripedia, animal intelligence, insectivorous plants; cross breeding hybrid dianths; the effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom; the different forms of flowers on plants of the same species; the effect of seawater on seeds; mouse-coloured breed of ponies; bees and the fertilisation of kidney beans; cross-breeds of strawberries; flowers and their unbidden guests; the power of movement in plants; the formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms; nectar-secreting organs of plants, Rhea americana, Chiasognathus Grantii, Carabus, Geospiza, Camarhynchus, Cactornis and Certhidea, Sagitta, planaria; Lizard’s eggs; observations of proofs of recent elevation on the coast of Chili; the geology of the Falkland Islands; on certain areas of elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian oceans, as deduced from the study of coral formations; on the connexion of certain volcanic phenomena, and on the formation of mountain-chains and volcanoes, as the effects of continental elevations; vincas, frogs, geese, butterflies, teasel, ants, holly berries and their bees, primrose, black sheep, mosquitoes, cherry blossoms, gladioli, penguin ducks, fumariaceae, influence of pollen on the appearance of seed, phototropism, etc.

    Without the Theory of Evolution, Darwin was one of the greatest empirical scientists of his age. With the Theory of Evolution, he revolutionized biology, a revolution which is still spawning entire new areas of research today. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, has thus far been a sterile dead-end.

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/contents.html

  7. 7
    wd400 says:

    Lol. I guess we better give up on statistics, after all Fisher pretty much invented moderns stats and he had no PhD so wasnt’ a real scientist.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    No, in the strict sense of the word, someone who does scientific research.

    Strictly speaking, a scientist is someone who does scientific research. Ok, good to know.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    I understand Fisher even developed a measure of information.

  10. 10
    groovamos says:

    wd400:

    Lol. I guess we better give up on statistics, after all Fisher pretty much invented moderns stats and he had no PhD so wasnt’ a real scientist.

    Neither did Leibniz nor Euclid. I thought this discussion was about science and scientists and would-be scientists. lol back at you.

  11. 11
    groovamos says:

    Zachriel: No, in the strict sense of the word, someone who does scientific research.

    Hey I’m glad you cleared that up for me. I remember my sister in the kitchen doing some of that for a school project.

    But in all seriousness I look at it this way. I have you to appreciate along with me the science being done by Robert Marks Ph.D, Ann Gauger Ph.D, Douglas Axe Ph.D, Richard Sternberg Ph.D x 2. Along with all those at the Biologic Institute. It seems the last in that list got fired for not being a proper scientist but I appreciate your standing up for him and the others. http://www.richardsternberg.com/

  12. 12
    Zachriel says:

    groovamos: I remember my sister in the kitchen doing some of that for a school project.

    Heh. Mrs. Darwin complained for years that Mr. Darwin left barnacles all over the house.

    groovamos: I have you to appreciate along with me the science being done by Robert Marks Ph.D, Ann Gauger Ph.D, Douglas Axe Ph.D, Richard Sternberg Ph.D

    Are they doing science?

  13. 13
    Collin says:

    Darwin was a scientist and I’m thankful for his contribution. But he was more a metaphysician than a scientist in my opinion. For him, evolution was based in part on observation and in part on a false dichotomy with young earth creationism. He was great at making observations and coming up with interesting hypotheses, some of which are very helpful to modern science. But did he do many scientific experiments? I don’t know everything about his life, but I’m not sure how many quantitative studies he did.

    On the other hand, I don’t know if I care if someone is a “scientist” or a “metaphysician.” Do they use logic and observations? Good enough for me. I’ll test Darwin’s ideas for myself.

  14. 14
    Robert Byers says:

    no such thing as scientists. jUst people who think about how nature works and can be worked. right or wrong, done well or not.
    Darwin failed too much.
    More importantly he didn’t use a science methodology. he just speculated on raw data and dared anyone to say why not.
    Science is about proving things better then the way we ususally prove things.
    Yes its about proofs. Yes it is.
    Evolution poved nothing but was welcome.

  15. 15
    wd400 says:

    But did he do many scientific experiments?

    Yes, many.

  16. 16
    REC says:

    “no such thing as scientists.”

    No such thing as science. No facts. Just belief. What a wonderfully nihilistic place this is!!!

  17. 17
    DavidD says:

    Wonderful info from the Scientific American blog section

    http://blogs.scientificamerica.....of-models/


    REC

    “no such thing as scientists.”

    No such thing as science. No facts. Just belief. What a wonderfully nihilistic place this is!!!”
    —————-

    It is curious why so many were allowed back when once kicked out. Absurdity does indeed come from both sides. I have rarely ever understood what this individual has posted during most of my lurking over this past year. I generally avoid the threads he posts in. This was an exception as this link was so interesting

  18. 18
    Mapou says:

    Paul Feyerabend, the author of ‘Against Method’ did not think that scientists were all that special. Science is just trial and error. We are all scientists in that sense. If we weren’t, we would not be able to learn anything or even function normally. Scientists can be totally and infuriatingly wrong, just like everybody else. During the second half of the last century, the entire artificial intelligence community, several Nobel laureates among them, were pathetically wrong about intelligence and the brain even though knowledgeable critics like Hubert Dreyfus and others tried unsuccessfully to show them the obvious errors of their ways. GOFAI scientists badmouthed their critics to the end. Not one of them ever apologised for wasting truckloads of the public’s money and everybody’s time for 50 years.

    We see the same thing happening with materialists who have managed to completely blacklist dualists out of business for at least a hundred years. Will we hear a mea culpa from that bunch of jackasses when they are shown to have been just as wrong as the GOFAI idiots? Don’t count on it.

    The day of reckoning is coming soon enough though. I’ll be watching the whole thing unfold with a smirk on my face, a beer in one hand and a bag of cheetos in the other. Heck, I’ll even smoke some Rocky Mountain weed for the occasion. LOL.

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