Confirmation bias from the editor of Scientific American

January 9, 2023 • 9:15 am

I almost never engage in Twitter wars, or in slagging people off via tweets, but the laws of physics compel me to highlight these two from Scientific American’s editor, referring to the article I discussed yesterday. It’s a good example of the circular “fallacy of opposition.”

There was so much pushback against that article, and criticism of the journal’s direction, that Helmuth issued the second tweet, which is very odd for someone engaged in science journalism. No, Dr. Helmuth, pushback against wrongheaded editorials doesn’t prove anything except that readers didn’t agree with it. And if you follow the comments on the tweet, you’ll find, as I did, at least 98% of them take the article, the editor, or the journal to task.

This is, I think, a staple of the illiberal Left: the claim that criticism of an idea just “proves” that it was correct all along. Oy, my twisted kishkes!

Apparently Helmuth turned off replies to that comment except from those whom she follows on Twitter. I happen to be one of those blessed people, but chose to reply here rather that make a tweet.

This isn’t science, or even rationalism: it’s a form of religion.   Oh, one response came from a man with “lived experience”: Tony Dungy, a former football safety and then head coach of two NFL teams.


Oh, a reader wanted to know if this tweet was a parody or not.

It didn’t take long to find out that this was not a parody; see here.

20 thoughts on “Confirmation bias from the editor of Scientific American

  1. This makes me more satisfied that I did not renew my subscription. I subscribed to Scientific American for more than 30 years, but I didn’t renew for 2023. I emailed them to let them know why I didn’t renew, but I suspect I am just one more voice falling upon ears that are not open to information contrary to their beliefs.

    1. I am in a similar position except my subscription expires this year. It will not be renewed.
      And the reason is not that I am a conservative person it’s that I am progressive and can’t stand the lame scholarship they are bringing to important issues that ends up discrediting many important issues by their distortions and bias.

    2. Same here. What’s more, dissatisfaction with what Scientific American has become is how I discovered Jerry Coyne.

    1. I hope that was a parody, Jez. 🙂
      We can’t spare ya. We need ya here. [Imagine John Wayne accent.]

  2. Her editorship has been and continues to be a disgrace. Eventually the editorial board will get rid of her—once they wise up.

    1. It may well be too late. Credibility takes years to build up, and relatively speaking just minutes to lose it.

      This is why I think of wokism as parasitic- on their own, the postmodernists just sound silly, a target of jokes by scientists like Alan Sokal. But having taken on the mantle of social justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world, armed with social media, and with power to cancel and destroy the livelihood of anyone who stands in their way, they have appropriated the credibility of institutions like SciAm to foment a war on science itself. The various hosts (e.g. SciAm) are left weakened and sick, possibly fatally.

      1. We used to dismiss postmodernism as a harmless affectation, like wearing an Edwardian cape. But then, as you say, there was a fusion of pomo with performative leftism, creating a parasite with vastly expanded host range. The fusion was already under way in the late 20th century; then, in about the 2010s, the parasite escaped from the lab and began infecting everything. We need a detailed timeline, and a parasitological study of the way this process developed.

          1. Tfhe Trots have been doing this for decades, but with very limited success. so we need more analysis of the life cycle of the latest parasite. Its initial host was the grievance studies departments in academia, from which it emerged to infect much larger human populations. Maybe some features of the initial host explain how it was able to make this zoonotic jump.

    1. Not quite, Coel. If you deny you’re a witch and don’t confess, we chuck you into a well with your arms and legs bound. If you drown, Oops, I guess you weren’t a witch after all. But at least your soul will go to Heaven.
      So they taught us in Grade 9. Not as a religion, but what ignorant people did in the name of religion once upon a time.

      1. The woke do even better: if you drown you are a witch and if you don’t drown you are a witch. (After all, no accused person can ever be regarded as innocent, just as no white person can ever be not racist.)

        1. The dogma of “wokeism”, like Gaul of yore, can be divided into three parts:
          1. All whites (and only whites) are racist.
          2. Racism is ubiquitous.
          3. Racism explains everything.

          There exists little (if any) evidence, sadly, of an imminent end to the influence of such moralizing zealots and such anti-rational fanatics.

  3. I haven’t followed the NFL closely since I quit betting serious money against the point spread a couple decades ago, inasmuch as it was taking up too much mental energy week in and week out. But Tony Dungy always struck me as a straight shooter, and it’s good to see he called out this nonsense.

  4. I wonder if there’s data on subscription rates of late. I’d expect that with all this negative commentary, they’d start to circle the drain.

  5. Shades of Sigmund Freud’s reaction formation! Reminds me of back in the day when men accused women of wanting a penis and if one denied it, well, that just proved it!

  6. Oh I REALLY despise the trick of labelling any disagreement with the current narrative as being “racist” or some kind of phobia. Charges requiring no proof, offering no real defense and yet entirely damaging. It is emotional blackmail and despicable.

Leave a Reply