Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Popular Science mag: Wimping out on debate?

Popular Science has announced it will no longer accept online comments to its articles. The editors say,

"A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. "  And, they complain, many commentators are nasty and mislead the public.

OK, that happens.  In the era of spambots and political polarization, it happens a lot.  But the ability to challenge science - a necessary component of finding the truth - includes the ability to challenge well-established, near-consensus science.  I have an uneasy feeling that every generation convinces itself of something like this: "Well, the consensus against continental drift or in favor of stress-induced ulcers may have been wrong, but science TODAY is immune to that kind of error." Only it isn't, because despite all our advances in tools and techniques, science is still done by fallible human beings. 

Popular Science is a private entity and can do what it likes, but it is an influential entity, and I think the editors accepted a certain responsibility when they created an online presence and invited comments.  So is the publication bowing to reality or shirking its duty? My gut says the latter.

1 comment:

omegaman66 said...

Political activism rearing its ugly head. They have an agenda and will no longer allow opposition to their positions.