View Full Version : Is Scientific American Liberal?


Pangloss
06-19-04, 07:20 PM
I'm a long-time subscriber to Scientific American, and lately (year or so) I've begun to notice that the magazine has begun to take on a strikingly liberal bent.

In the July issue, currently hitting news stands, there's an article on Page 35 called "Undercutting Fairness". Right away the title is a bit of a red flag, but if you go through the article the guy is clearly biased towards on side of the issue.

If that issue were scientific in nature, I wouldn't have a problem with it. In fact I think he has some interesting points -- certainly his numbers seem to indicate that at the state and local level taxation is slanted in favor of the wealthy. We've been hearing a lot lately about how the *Federal* tax system is heavily in favor of the poor (clearly the author is aware of this, referring to that as "progressiveness" in his opening paragraph), and it's interesting if that's not reflected at the state and local level when taking all taxation into account.

Interesting, yes. But is it science?

Last month SciAm, one of the great historical bastions of scientific reporting, ran an editorial entitled "Bush League Lysenkoism", ripping the administration for its position on stem-cell research. Here I don't have a problem -- in fact I expect SciAm to take an editorial position and they clearly marked this as editorial. They may even have a valid point. But I wonder if this indicates a definitive bias on the part of the magazine when it comes to reporting scientific *news*.

spuriousmonkey
06-21-04, 03:25 AM
Since when is science not biased?

Dr Lou Natic
06-21-04, 03:48 AM
What I find odd is that rotten.com appears to be liberal now :bugeye:

spuriousmonkey
06-21-04, 04:30 AM
Why is that?

Are they only showing mutilated corpses of right wingers?

zonabi
06-21-04, 01:41 PM
Last month SciAm, one of the great historical bastions of scientific reporting, ran an editorial entitled "Bush League Lysenkoism", ripping the administration for its position on stem-cell research. Here I don't have a problem -- in fact I expect SciAm to take an editorial position and they clearly marked this as editorial. They may even have a valid point. But I wonder if this indicates a definitive bias on the part of the magazine when it comes to reporting scientific *news*.


the thing is, my friend, that the magazine SciAm believes this crap-ass administration is limiting and holding the scientific community back from advancing in new areas of theorums and science.

yes, i understand that this article was not scientific, but it is related to science.

they are trying to point out FLAWS of the bush administration, just like many people are doing at this time- including that new movie by micheal moore, and the reports coming out on 9-11, bla bla bla ...

see, its about being FAIR, which they (SciAm) feels is NOT HAPPENING.

I think its good for the magazine to have an opinion as well as data.

buffys
06-21-04, 02:25 PM
It's interesting, from the beginning of the iraq war to about 5 months ago, I stopped reading sci am because of what I perceived as a right wing tendency. They, from my perspective, dropped interesting science in favor of endless articles about the "new military". Every cover for months looked more like gun's & ammo than a scientific magazine. ""Super stealth fighters", "Hi-tech soldier", etc... it was endless, so in liberal outrage I gave it up.

I guess my point is we as readers tend to exaggerate the line between "liberal" and "conservative" media (excluding the extreme elements on both sides). For the most part, science or otherwise, the media tends to look out for it's own interests. I think a fair argument can be made that bush is not exactly a patron of the arts and sciences so of course they'd be critical of him. I suspect if a democrat shows a similar lack of interest in promoting and utilizing science they will also become a focus for unfavorable editorializing.

Facial
06-21-04, 04:10 PM
Scientists, on average, are more likely to be liberal.

I've seen a poll on college professors a long time ago in the LA Times, and those in the field of science & engineering are anywhere from 60% to 70% liberal (in terms of population proportion).

wesmorris
06-21-04, 05:06 PM
I'm a long-time subscriber to Scientific American, and lately (year or so) I've begun to notice that the magazine has begun to take on a strikingly liberal bent.

Man I was thinking the same thing and it's QUITE annoying. I LOVE sciam and it' sad to see it slip into politics. I think it will blow over though. Leftists have their panties all bunched up about the administration, so maybe the editors are just pandering a smidge to whom they perceive to be their base. Perhaps the editors themselves are lefties (which would be amusing to me, since IMO, anyone who is rich and leftist is just plain funny) and they just couldn't keep their trap shut about it anymore. I dunno, but I hope it blows over soon. I'd hate to see sciam in the dumps because of shit management.

I think they'd do better to stay out of the game of politics, period... unless of course it's a scientific assessment of it, like that cool thing they did on voting a while back.

invert_nexus
06-21-04, 06:00 PM
Is it any wonder that a science magazine should turn against an administration that is attempting to destroy science? How many positions are there where qualified scientists have been removed so that Bush can put in "scientists" that will quack like a duck and repeat the conservative viewpoint ad nauseum?

zonabi
06-21-04, 08:51 PM
well said invert_nexus, this is why i fully support what Sci Am is doing.

wesmorris
06-21-04, 10:18 PM
Is it any wonder that a science magazine should turn against an administration that is attempting to destroy science?

That's a pretty harsh accusation. Can you back it up or do you just hate the administration?

Oh and I gotta say, I expect Sciam to stay out of politics. I find it horribly annoying that a science magazine isn't sticking to science.


How many positions are there where qualified scientists have been removed so that Bush can put in "scientists" that will quack like a duck and repeat the conservative viewpoint ad nauseum?

I don't know. You would probably have a better argument if you did. Regardless though, I think any administration does pretty much the same shit. It's politics, so shallow appearances, mouthpieces and nepitism is par for the course. Your accusation sounds again to be rooted in your disgust for the administration rather than a well thought out argument.

invert_nexus
06-21-04, 10:25 PM
I'd expect Sciam to stay out of politics as well. But, all I was saying is that I don't blame them for their attitude.

As to proof, I'll dig around and see what I can dig up. Probably have to look no farther than Sciam... :D Seriously, man, I'll bring back what I find, but there were numerous examples of real scientist's being replaced by "quacks" where ever it was I heard about it from.

invert_nexus
06-21-04, 10:31 PM
That was easy. Just searched for Bush and science and voila...
http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience/method_committees.htm
http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience/example_yellowstone.htm
http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience/example_oil_and_gas.htm

Notice that this is a .gov site... There's a lot more. Check out the links on the page.

invert_nexus
06-21-04, 10:34 PM
Here's an interesting one:http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience/example_condoms.htm


USAID then substantially altered its web site. The document The Effectiveness of Condoms in Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections is no longer available.

No rubbers for the Bush camp. :p


Edit: With all that said, I would also like to see scientific publications steer clear of politics, but it appears that they are fighting for their lives...

Pangloss
06-21-04, 10:37 PM
Interesting comments, thanks. I thought it was just me, but I guess there's more to it than that, although I enjoyed Buffy's post as well, saying that she thought it came across as conservative for a while. Something to be said for perspective, perhaps.

I don't think one or two articles or editorials make an entire case for bias, but I agree with many posters above that they really should just stay out of it. EXCEPT for the editorial page, where I think it's fine. Just my opinion, of course.

I will say this: I reserve the right as a reader and subscriber to send them my thoughts in a letter, and I've done so regarding their June editorial, titled "Bush-League Lysenkoism". My letter is shown below. I'm hoping they'll run it.

---------
I respect your position and share your concerns regarding the Bush administration’s approach to science. Valid points have been raised in this discussion, and I believe we all benefit from an open debate and discussion. But my concern at the moment is your characterization of anyone who disagrees with your conclusions as being a “blind loyalist” to the President. You even went so far as to compare the man to fraudulent Communist ideologues! I find this comparison disturbing and inappropriate. How can we hope to have a debate and discussion if we dismiss and insult those on the other side of the issue?

It’s hard enough in this day and age to find ANY source of news or information that isn’t tainted by bias of one form or another. The thought that Scientific American, the very bastion of objective thinking and reasoning, might be just another slanted member of the “liberal media” is almost too much to endure. Nobody says that the editors of Scientific American cannot have opinions, or provide them to their readers. But please consider your words more carefully. Other people besides you have valid points of view.
-------

invert_nexus
06-21-04, 10:44 PM
One more.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 19, 2004 (ENS) - More than 60 of the nation's top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, and former federal agency directors, as well as university chairs and presidents, issued a statement Wednesday calling for regulatory and legislative action to "restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking."

They say President George W. Bush has suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, subjected government scientists to "censorship and political oversight," and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.

http://www.oneworld.net/article/view/79763/1/

It's not so much that Bush is attempting to destroy science. It's that he wants to reign it in to spout his propaganda. But, if successful, he will destroy science (american science) as surely as though it were his original intent.

wesmorris
06-21-04, 11:09 PM
I'm with your letter. Well stated.

spuriousmonkey
06-22-04, 01:28 AM
Let us get one thing straight though...sciam is not a science journal. It is a popular science magazin. It is out there to sell copies of itself for the benefit of its owners and not to promote science.

Pangloss
06-22-04, 08:03 AM
Let us get one thing straight though...sciam is not a science journal. It is a popular science magazin. It is out there to sell copies of itself for the benefit of its owners and not to promote science.

Actually I've always seen SciAm as riding the fence on that one. Just my opinion, of course -- I think you're point is valid -- but I've always seen them as a cut above the Science/Popular Science/Discovery crowd.

Nature seems to have a similar niche. The point being that you do see serious scientific articles in these magazines, and it's prestigious for scientists to get their articles published in these magazines. Wheras publishing in Popular Science isn't something they would brag about on their CVs.

zonabi
06-22-04, 10:08 AM
i still think its perfectly fine for them to voice their opinions about this corrupted administration, and that has to do ALOT with science, or should i say the administration has nothing to do with science, and thats their point.

cant you guys see what they are doing(bush admin) ? they are deteriorating any possible advances in human science, and limiting where we can go.

Pangloss
06-22-04, 10:15 AM
Any?

*Any?*

Defend that assertion.

buffys
06-22-04, 10:24 AM
My letter is shown below. I'm hoping they'll run it.

I haven't read the article you are talking about but I agree with the spirit of your letter.

I've also found sciam to be a cut above the other science mags. As spuriousmonkey pointed out it's not a journal but I don't think anyone is claiming that. I think of the comparison like this: if we think of a true journal as a scientist then sciam is a talented amateur.

btw - is the article that bothered you available on-line yet? if so could you link it? I'd be interested to read it. thanks.

Pangloss
06-22-04, 10:54 AM
I'm afraid that the article on tax progressiveness is still in "digital" (subscribers-only) mode.

The editorial on Bush's position on stem-cell research may be read here:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa004&articleID=0001E02A-A14A-1084-983483414B7F0000

weebee
06-22-04, 10:56 AM
The history of the ‘journal’ is quite interesting (look under the websites about us)…


In 1986 Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, a German-based publishing group, bought Scientific American, Inc. http://www.sciam.com/page.cfm?section=history

But I doubt that this has much to do with the ‘liberal’ slant. (I don’t read it so won’t comment if that option is well founded) rather I believe that the articles sell, on a global market. ‘
The magazine publishes 15 foreign language editions and has a total of more than 1,000,000 copies in circulation worldwide.’

i.e.
100,928 copies (International Edition)
569,207 copies (Domestic Edition (U.S.))
670,135 copies (Worldwide Edition)
(ABC Jan - June 2003) http://www.huttonmedialimited.com/scientific_american.html

:p

spuriousmonkey
06-22-04, 11:03 AM
These publishers are all after money.

Guess what. I just wrote a chapter for a stem cell book. And do you think I will get a copy for free? No, I just wrote for them for free a chapter. What do I get? I might get a discount.

wonderful.

weebee
06-22-04, 11:09 AM
hmmmm...isn’t it the editors of the book which are taking the money? not that you'd have better luck with them... :rolleyes:

spuriousmonkey
06-22-04, 11:32 AM
I don't know, but it seems to me rather rude to not give an author a free copy.

I got one for another chapter in another book.

wesmorris
06-22-04, 11:43 AM
These publishers are all after money.

Guess what. I just wrote a chapter for a stem cell book. And do you think I will get a copy for free? No, I just wrote for them for free a chapter. What do I get? I might get a discount.

wonderful.

That is a testament to your apparent lack of negotiation skills.

Why would you write a chapter for their book if they weren't going to compensate you? Because you're a student? If so, then maybe that's a fair deal, especially if you get credited in the book. That could really help you post-doctorally I'd say.

Whiner.

:D

You should have demanded a free book though man, what the hell are you thinking? Hehe.

cosmictraveler
06-22-04, 05:56 PM
They have the rights to say anything they want.

Stokes Pennwalt
06-25-04, 09:28 PM
They have their biases.

Two of the most notable ones that could be considered to be left-leaning would be their lambasting of Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist (including personal attacks on Lomborg himself) comprising a preponderance of an entire issue. In a subsequent issue Lomborg was afforded only two pages to defend himself.

The other bias would be their extravaganza entitled "Why missile defense won't work", in which a multitude of categorically unqualified quasi-experts ruminated about a technology they clearly had not even a modicum of understanding of. I was particularly miffed by that, as that happens to be my area of expertise (and the asshats in the articles got nearly everything dead wrong).

It's still good reading though, and I can't see myself canceling my subscription. Politics prevades science: Film at 11.

Mr. Chips
06-29-04, 08:39 PM
I think Scientific American remains pretty conservative. The tone of the articles has run counter to what many see as the "conservative" agenda but I think this is due to a corruption of the term. Being conservative used to mean being fiscally responsible. It used to mean cherishing and preserving resources through striving to ever greater efficiencies. Now, I believe that something quite radical and violent, something that is neither conservative nor respectful of science has gained a foothold within the bastions of the elite and powerful. Their propaganda campaigns have been ruthless and many have succumbed to the growing insanity.

No, I don't find the Scientific American magazine to be presenting a liberal view. I just think that so many are acquiring a very extreme view that even that which is quite conservative appears liberal to them.

Stokes Pennwalt
06-30-04, 11:07 AM
Mr. Chips, good points about the perversion of conservatism.

I still call myself a conservative, because I still embody all of what classic, true conservatives should. Fiscal responsibility, social freedoms, state's rights, etc. Don't confuse the current Administration with conservatism - it is anything but.

I guess that's the difference between conservatives and neoconservatives, but I'm not sure.

Mr. Chips
06-30-04, 12:15 PM
I think you will find those who claim to be neoconservatives have a different definition than what I have learned, basically borrowing from a definition by Noam Chomsky, that neoconservatives feel a totally free market equates to sound policies. I kind of find that being an allusion to the idea that the law of the jungle works, that might makes right.

I think you could get into a debate about that specifically with some of those who are well immersed and part of those who control the greatest strengths as they like to think of themselves as beyond doing any wrong. If they can spend enough to cover up atrocities, to have the best lawyers and a bag of dirty tricks to avoid any kind of prosecution than that makes them innocent (in their eyes). I'm not saying that I believe that any one is guilty but many processes now tend to favor the fostered ignorance of the monetarily wealthy over the integrity of information or science. Thus a growing chasm between the powers that be and those who recognize that conservative and liberal are really both sides of the same coin called, science. Need I elucidate as to how "liberal" has also been corrupted from its utilitarian interpretation?