To the Editor:
The process of politicization of supposedly scientific journals, noted by Jeffrey Marsh in his article “Politicizing Science” [May], and illuminated further by several letters in the September issue, can be traced back, in the case of Science, to at least as long ago as 1978. In an article in that journal’s issue of August 11, 1978, entitled “Human Issues in Human Rights,” Robert W. Kates, a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Human Rights, quoted remarks made by Iranian, Argentinian, and Soviet critics of the conventional Western view of human rights. . . . These remarks all sounded the standard note, “Yes, but what about economic welfare, full employment, education?” that is so regularly heard from those trying to distract attention from torture chambers and forced-labor camps. . . . Kates was not content simply to report these charges; he actively endorsed them, taking the occasion not only to deplore the 6-7 percent unemployment rate in the U.S., but to contrast it unfavorably with the “remarkable employment record” of the Soviets.
I wrote to Science to protest this gratuitous political statement by Kates, with its “progressive” tendency to equate our real or imagined sins of omission to (for example) the Soviet Union’s very real sins of commission, but neither my letter nor any other letter of protest was published; the editors of Science forwarded my letter to Kates, but he did not respond, either.
The most disturbing aspect of this incident is the evidence it affords that in much of the scientific community, Left-progressive views, long standard in the literary world and academia, are now no longer felt to be political opinions, subject to controversy, and different in kind from scientific results; they are apparently seen as the merest common sense on which all parties should be happy to agree. Curiously, the letters columns of Science are full of sharp and prolonged controversy on matters scientific; it is apparently only leftish political views that are thought so well established as to be beyond controversy.