Last bit about New Scientist

March 22, 2009 • 6:40 am

Before we return to science, one last note. Those of you who have been following the intellectual gyrations of New Scientist are probably aware that they pulled a piece by Amanda Geftner from the online magazine.  (I put the piece below, which was thoughtfully archived by Tony Sidaway at Lambda Delta.)  I wrote to New Scientist’s editor, Roger Highfield, asking why.  Here is his response:

Subject: RE: Amanda Gefter’s piece
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:05:39 -0000
Thread-Topic: Amanda Gefter’s piece

New Scientist has received a legal complaint about the contents of this
story. At the advice of our lawyer it has temporarily been removed while
we investigate. All the best, Roger

Reading the piece, I find it straightforward, hard-hitting, and truthful, but don’t see anything  that is grounds for legal complaint.  But judge for yourself by reading it on Tony’s blog.

Even in America’s litigious society, I can see not a single phrase that could prompt a legal “complaint.”  What gives?

The New Scientist has no shame–again!

March 21, 2009 • 5:27 am

When  New Scientist published its “Darwin was WRONG” cover a few months ago, several of us wrote in to complain about the distortion of Darwin’s work. (The cover referred to how gene transfer might blur the branches of phylogenetic trees, something that Darwin had no inkling of.)  The editor, Roger Highfield, appeared to be chastened.  Since then, the cover has been waved about by creationists in the US to show that evolution really is on the skids.

Well, apparently Roger Highfield is not repentant: he has used that cover AGAIN in advertising his rag (see below).  The man has no shame; this is obviously a deliberate decision, and one he approved.  Letter writing doesn’t seem to have sufficed — perhaps it’s time to boycott  New Scientist (n.b., by “boycott,” I mean to refuse, as scientists, to write for them or have anything to do with them).


(Thanks to Richard Dawkins for forwarding this.)

Note that Graham Lawton, who writes for New Scientist, admitted in a post on Pharyngula that this was deliberate sensationalism:

. . . .

As for public understanding. Well, the cover is designed to sell the magazine. If we run very straight, sober covers, we sell fewer mags, we get fewer clicks and nobody blogs about us, so fewer people read what we produce. Now, I’d argue that this week’s cover has got us a lot of attention, and as a result lots of people will read my story. Many will learn something about evolution. Public understanding will increase. So which way do you want it?

Or look at it this way. Nature is a very educational read. Many people could learn a lot from it. It’s widely available and really quite entertaining and accessible. But very few members of the public read it. Why? They don’t sell themselves.

And yes, the ToL [Tree of Life] is still quite useful in places. I say as much in the article.