The fall of Scientific American

City Journal reports:

n continuous publication since 1845, Scientific American is the country’s leading mainstream science magazine. Authors published in its pages have included Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk, and J. Robert Oppenheimer—some 200 Nobel Prize winners in all. SciAm, as many readers call it, had long encouraged its authors to challenge established viewpoints. In the mid-twentieth century, for example, the magazine published a series of articles building the case for the then-radical concept of plate tectonics. In the twenty-first century, however, American scientific media, including Scientific American, began to slip into lockstep with progressive beliefs. Suddenly, certain orthodoxies—especially concerning race, gender, or climate—couldn’t be questioned.

Once upon a time scientists welcomed debate, but now many scientific institutions seek to suppress it.

The following month, Shermer submitted a column discussing ways that discrimination against racial minorities, gays, and other groups has diminished (while acknowledging the need for continued progress). Here, Shermer ran into the same wall that Better Angels of Our Nature author Steven Pinker and other scientific optimists have faced. For progressives, admitting that any problem—racism, pollution, poverty—has improved means surrendering the rhetorical high ground. “They are committed to the idea that there is no cumulative progress,” Shermer says, and they angrily resist efforts to track the true prevalence, or the “base rate,” of a problem. Saying that “everything is wonderful and everyone should stop whining doesn’t really work,” his editor objected.

Progress can’t be celebrated or even acknowledged!

In 2021, SciAm published an opinion essay, “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” The article’s five authors took issue with the effort by some social-justice advocates to create a cute new label while expanding the DEI acronym to include “Justice.” The Jedi knights of the Star Wars movies are “inappropriate mascots for social justice,” the authors argued, because they are “prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic light sabers, gaslighting by means of ‘Jedi mind tricks,’ etc.).” What all this had to do with science was anyone’s guess.

Vomitous nonsense.

Shermer believes that the new style of science journalism “is being defined by this postmodern worldview, the idea that all facts are relative or culturally determined.” Of course, if scientific facts are just products of a particular cultural milieu, he says, “then everything is a narrative that has to reflect some political side.” Without an agreed-upon framework to separate valid from invalid claims—without science, in other words—people fall back on their hunches and in-group biases, the “my-side bias.”

Traditionally, science reporting was mostly descriptive—writers strove to explain new discoveries in a particular field. The new style of science journalism takes the form of advocacy—writers seek to nudge readers toward a politically approved opinion.

Sadly this is correct.

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