Woke has taken over Scientific American: what's the next domino to fall? (doom style)

C C Offline
Scientific American publishes misleading and distorted op-ed lauding Palestine and demonizing Israel, accompanied by a pro-Palestinian petition

INTRO (Jerry Coyne): Well, the latest scientific journal or magazine to go to hell in a handbasket is Scientific American, which under the editorial guidance of Laura Helmuth has published a putrid piece of pure pro-Palestinian propaganda. It’s an op-ed piece apparently written by a group of Palestinian BDS activists (one author wishes to be anonymous). purveying the usual distortions, omissions, and outright lies. If there were a counter piece refuting those lies (there is below, but not at Sci Am), it would be somewhat better, but not much. Instead, the op-ed is linked to a Google Document petition (surely not posted by Sci Am) that you can sign in solidarity with Palestine.

First of all, a science magazine has no business taking an ideological stand like this, particularly one replete with lies and distortions. What was Scientific American thinking? Do they fancy themselves to be Mother Jones? Read for yourself.


The article has the usual palaver, but its biggest distortion is accusing Israel of war crimes and targeting civilians, when the truth is precisely the opposite: during the recent skirmish, the Palestinians fired 4,360 rockets deliberately targeting civilians, while Israel avoided civilian killing to the best of its ability while trying to disable Hamas. Israel issues warnings before attacking; does Palestine do that? No, because their aim is to kill civilians without warning. How come nobody, least of all these authors, mention that?

The article decries the “disproportionality” of deaths, when many Palestinian dead (perhaps more than half) were Hamas fighters, and the op-ed seems almost regretful that more Israelis did not die (the “disproportionality” argument makes little sense when one side has an Iron Dome and the other side fires rockets and has no defense). There is no mention of Palestinian war crimes, which include not just the targeting of civilians but the use of human shields that guarantee civilian deaths... (MORE)
Syne Offline
Like anti-science pro-abortion or atheistic arguments, this doesn't help the credibility of science in general. If anything, this gives the informed an impression that, if this is actual science, science is evil.
Yazata Offline
(Jun 9, 2021 03:20 AM)C C Wrote: First of all, a science magazine has no business taking an ideological stand like this, particularly one replete with lies and distortions. What was Scientific American thinking? Do they fancy themselves to be Mother Jones?

I agree with Jerry Coyne that Scientific American is almost unreadable today.

Decades ago the magazine was extraordinarily good, filled with long articles about cutting edge scientific work written by the scientists doing that work. Its readership was heavily university students in the sciences and scientists trying to keep up to date on work outside their own fields.

But it was family owned and after some deaths in the family, the heirs decided to sell it. So today it belongs to Springer, the German scientific publisher. I guess that they thought that they were selling it to a publisher that promised to keep its tradition alive.

That sale brought about a dramatic transformation of the magazine. It's visually and typographically old-fashioned style was replaced by a very graphics-heavy style that was probably thought to be more up-to-date, fashionable and attractive to a younger generation of readers. Long articles written by actual scientists were replaced by shorter articles written by something called "science writers" (which has apparently become a profession while nobody was looking). The content of the stories has changed from mini-tutorials on exciting research topics to stories with almost no real scientific content at all. You can read one of their articles, then ask yourself what you know afterwards that you didn't know before you read it, and often the answer is 'nothing'.

But by far the worst change is how politicized the whole thing has become. At least half the stories in a typical issue are more about the editors' vision of political morality than about science. There's Jerry Coyne's example of the magazine going on about how Israel sucks. (Which isn't really a scientific issue at all.) There's the cover story that takes up half the March 2021 issue lauding the 'black lives matter' movement. There's the February 2021 issue whose cover story was all about the agenda that the magazine's editors thought that the new Biden administration should take up and embrace.

Scientific American content is seemingly all about 'right', 'wrong', and ideas like 'should', which strictly speaking aren't scientific concepts at all. (Just try to find a scientific instrument that can detect and quantify the amount of 'good' some abstract idea contains.) The magazine is filled with features like "Science Agenda", described as "opinion and analysis from Scientific American's board of editors", and "Forum", described as "commentary on science in the news from the experts" which is more of the same.

It's all about repackaging science as the sharp, piercing point of the "social activism" spear.

Unfortunately, repackaging science as social activism feeds precisely that public skepticism about the truth and objectivity of science, that the Scientific American editors so shrilly condemn and insist they are trying to combat.
Syne Offline
"Science writers" or "science journalists" have been writing articles and even whole books on science for decades now. Somehow people have come to believe that people who don't understand the actual science are better than those who actually work in science at communicating science to the public at larger. More of an intermediary to disseminate and thereby inherit some authority from the elite.

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