The mystery of New Scientist’s gradual tabloidization


I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled Cosmos on Youtube marathon to post briefly about something I thought was really deserving of more exposure. Granted, the big bloggers have already covered this, but I have a teeny tiny sphere of influence comprised of my friends, family and those few people drawn here by pingbacks from all the blogs I link (promoting other blogs has its advantages on the interwebs!), so I figure I should say something too. Every voice in the crowd is just a voice, but in aggregate, we can make a lot of noise.

New Scientist has been over the past few months increasingly irritated those of us who fight on the side of science education and proliferation. First, they publish an article explaining how Darwin’s theory of evolution has itself had to evolve over the years, which is correct in and of itself, but they hand the creationists a shit-ton of grist for their ever-churning mill in their cover in the process: “Darwin Was Wrong“. Okay, he was wrong in that the tree of life isn’t really shaped like a tree. More like a scraggly bush, maybe a spheroid, expanding in every direction from the centre point (being abiogenesis, however it happened). And he didn’t have the benefit of genetics or the vast fossil record we have today in creating the theory. Regardless, New Scientist, in publishing this, has handed religious anti-science zealots support for a talking point that will take years to refute, if we ever can — that science has lost “faith” (if you’ll pardon the pun) in evolution.

Later, they rubbed salt in the wound, by including the specific controversial cover in an advertisement intended to attract subscribers. It kind of seems at this point that the new scientists they intend to attract as subscribers are “Creation Scientists”, doesn’t it? (By the way — you too can get a state-recognized degree in Creation Science if you move to Texas and a certain law passes!)

Then Amanda Gefter wrote an article for New Scientist that might have acted as a bit of an olive branch to those poor scientists on the front lines of the neverending debate of Science and Reality vs. Imaginationland, entitled “How to Spot a Hidden Religious Agenda“. Nearly immediately after being posted on the New Scientist website, it was pulled due to a “legal complaint”.

My question is, WHY? Why is New Scientist such a shrinking violet that the mere exposure of the fact that the Intelligent Design movement might have an agenda, and a known one at that, is pulled after the first hint of a legal action? And who the hell (out of the three possible suspects mentioned in the article — my money’s on Ben Stein) actually threatened them? Additionally, why the hell didn’t they hire Something Awful’s crack legal staff to defend themselves against these spurious threats? Seriously, those guys are the shit. Or maybe just shit. I can’t tell.

Mysteries abound!

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