Category Archive 'Scientific American'

06 Dec 2021

Another Writer Purged

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I quit reading Scientific American decades ago. The Gramscian Long March Through the Institutions included that venerable and formerly much respected serial that far back.

Things apparently. however, can always get worse.

Michael Schermer is now another journalist of distinction who has been canned for insufficient fidelity to the radical left’s party line, reduced (like Matt Taibbi and Andrew Sullivan) to samizdat publishing, and rattling a contribution can, on Substack.

“In April of 2001 I began my monthly ‘Skeptic’ column at ‘Scientific American’, the longest continuously published magazine in the country dating back to 1845. With Stephen Jay Gould as my role model (and subsequent friend), it was my dream to match his 300 consecutive columns that he achieved at ‘Natural History’ magazine, which would have taken me to April, 2026. Alas, my streak ended in January of 2019 after a run of 214 essays.

“Since then, I have received many queries about why my column ended and, more generally, about what has happened over at ‘Scientific American’, which historically focused primarily on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), but now appears to be turning to social justice issues. There is, for example, the August 12, 2021 article on how ‘Modern Mathematics Confronts its White Patriarchal Past,’ which asserts prima facie that the reason there are so few women and blacks in academic mathematics is because of misogyny and racism. …

“Then there is the July 5, 2021 ‘Scientific American’ article that ‘Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy.’ Because we are all from Africa and thus black, the author Allison Hopper avers, evolution deniers (AKA creationists) are ipso facto white supremacists. …

The most bizarre example of ‘Scientific American’’s woke turn toward social justice is an article published September 23, 2021 titled ‘Why the Term ‘JEDI’ is Problematic for Describing Programs that Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.’ The JEDI acronym is clearly meant to be uplifting and positive. It isn’t, opine the authors of this piece that is clearly not in the satirical spirit of ‘The Onion’ or ‘Babylon Bee’.” …

My.. December 2018 [column] was rejected entirely.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to reject your December column. It’s not really well argued, and leaves a couple of enormous holes that any critic could drive a large truck through.

    You say, essentially, that things are better, especially for minorities of various kinds, than ever in history, your evidence being, basically, “you can look it up.” It may be true in a relative sense—there are fewer lynchings these days, and a man generally can’t beat his wife to death and get away with it as easily as he once could—but you ignore the question of where these and other historically powerless groups stand in relation to those with hereditary privilege. “Driving while black” is still a thing, as is getting shot by cops for failure to be abjectly respectful enough, as is casual, thoughtless racism. Income inequality is larger than it’s been in a long time, which also impacts minorities vastly more than it does privileged groups. Women still suffer constant indignities and violence at the hands of men. And worldwide, fascist and authoritarian regimes are on the increase. …

    I’m not looking for a revise here; we need a new column.

Shortly after the December 2018 column I was given my walking papers.


12 Nov 2019

Scientific American: Study Attributes Western Individualism to Incest Taboo

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David Noonan, in Scientific American, surprisingly enough, has positive things to say about the influence of Christianity and the Church of Rome on Western Civilization.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, this article treats Individualism as a positive and implicitly acknowledges the inferiority of other cultures.

In what may come as a surprise to freethinkers and nonconformists happily defying social conventions these days in New York City, Paris, Sydney and other centers of Western culture, a new study traces the origins of contemporary individualism to the powerful influence of the Catholic Church in Europe more than 1,000 years ago, during the Middle Ages.

According to the researchers, strict church policies on marriage and family structure completely upended existing social norms and led to what they call “global psychological variation,” major changes in behavior and thinking that transformed the very nature of the European populations.

The study, published this week in Science, combines anthropology, psychology and history to track the evolution of the West, as we know it, from its roots in “kin-based” societies. The antecedents consisted of clans, derived from networks of tightly interconnected ties, that cultivated conformity, obedience and in-group loyalty—while displaying less trust and fairness with strangers and discouraging independence and analytic thinking.

The engine of that evolution, the authors propose, was the church’s obsession with incest and its determination to wipe out the marriages between cousins that those societies were built on. The result, the paper says, was the rise of “small, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility,” along with less conformity, more individuality, and, ultimately, a set of values and a psychological outlook that characterize the Western world. The impact of this change was clear: the longer a society’s exposure to the church, the greater the effect.

Around A.D. 500, explains Joseph Henrich, chair of Harvard University’s department of human evolutionary biology and senior author of the study, “the Western church, unlike other brands of Christianity and other religions, begins to implement this marriage and family program, which systematically breaks down these clans and kindreds of Europe into monogamous nuclear families. And we make the case that this then results in these psychological differences.”

In their comparison of kin-based and church-influenced populations, Henrich and his colleagues identified significant differences in everything from the frequency of blood donations to the use of checks (instead of cash) and the results of classic psychology tests—such as the passenger’s dilemma scenario, which elicits attitudes about telling a lie to help a friend. They even looked at the number of unpaid parking tickets accumulated by delegates to the United Nations.

“We really wanted to combine the kinds of measures that psychologists use, that give you some control in the lab, with real-world measures,” Henrich says. “We really like the parking tickets. We get the U.N. diplomats from around the world all in New York City and see how they behave.”

The policy has since changed, but for years diplomats who parked illegally were not required to pay the tickets the police wrote. In their analysis of those tickets, the researchers found that over the course of one year, diplomats from countries with higher levels of “kinship intensity”—the prevalence of clans and very tight families in a society—had many more unpaid parking tickets than those from countries without such history. Diplomats from Sweden and Canada, for example, had no outstanding tickets in the period studied, while unpaid parking tickets per diplomat were about 249 for Kuwait, 141 for Egypt and 126 for Chad. Henrich attributes this phenomenon to the insular mind-set that is characteristic of intense kinship.

While it builds a close and very cooperative group, that sense of cooperation does not carry beyond the group. “The idea is that you are less concerned about strangers, people you don’t know, outsiders,” he says.

The West itself is not uniform in kinship intensity. Working with cousin-marriage data from 92 provinces in Italy (derived from church records of requests for dispensations to allow the marriages), the researchers write, they found that “Italians from provinces with higher rates of cousin marriage take more loans from family and friends (instead of from banks), use fewer checks (preferring cash), and keep more of their wealth in cash instead of in banks, stocks, or other financial assets.” They were also observed to make fewer voluntary, unpaid blood donations.

In the course of their research, Henrich and his colleagues created a database and calculated “the duration of exposure” to the Western church for every country in the world, as well as 440 “subnational European regions.” They then tested their predictions about the influence of the church at three levels: globally, at the national scale; regionally, within European countries; and among the adult children of immigrants in Europe from countries with varying degrees of exposure to the church.


The thesis of this study, unfortunately, is a classic case of mechanistic scientism. It would make much more sense to point out that Christianity fosters Individualism through ideas, that recognition of the value of the human individual is rooted in Christianity’s teaching that everyone has a soul and consequently possesses human dignity, and that each individual needs to pursue his soul’s salvation.

12 Apr 2006

How Can We Tell That Global Warming Is Rubbish? Pt. 1

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I think there are several very obvious ways.

MIT Climate Scientist Richard Lindzen, in the Wall Street Journal, discusses one of the ways you can tell: by the ongoing pattern of intimidation of dissenters and stifling of debate associated with Global Warming in the scientific community.

If it wasn’t bunk, they wouldn’t have to punish dissent and censor debate, would they? If they weren’t liars and opportunists, they wouldn’t act with the ruthlessness and dishonesty which have become characteristic features of Global Warming orthodoxy enforcement.

A “for instance” seems obligatory, so I’ll just point to Scientific American‘s threatening to sue Björn Lomborg for daring to quote the special hatchet job they published on his book The Skeptical Environmentalist in a web-published reply to their attack.

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