To the Editor:
I was glad to discover from Jeffrey Marsh’s “Politicizing Science” [May] that I was not alone in detecting the steady march toward political-adversary status of Scientific American. One disturbing feature of this decade-long trend toward producing anti-defense articles, in lock step with each trendy new topic of public protest as it comes to the top of the radical agenda, is that it has increased at the same time that other articles in Scientific American have decreased in their intelligibility and accessibility. So that now, despite the glossy art work, articles in Scientific American are little more digestible by the layman than reports in Science.
On the other hand, not to be outdone by the popular media, Science has taken on an even more overtly oppositional stance to the strengthening of national defense than Scientific American, to which it adds a reflexive skepticism about the views of any spokesman for the present administration, and a rudeness of tone that prevents it from referring to the President of the United States in any other terms than simply by his last name.
While Scientific American has the right to publish what it pleases and suffer the consequences in the marketplace of magazines as well as ideas, the performance of Science is a more serious matter. The devotion of large amounts of space to articles written by journalists, not scientists, attacking the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, discussing the politics of nuclear power, casting doubt on State Department claims about “yellow rain,” etc., is hard to explain in a journal meant, by the society that owns (and subsidizes) it—the American Association for the Advancement of Science—to be a vehicle for timely reports of scientific findings. The preoccupation with blackguarding the government is even more disturbing in light of the serious backlog of scientific papers by scientists shunted aside from week to week in order to publish the political opinions of journalists.
Syracuse, New York
To the Editor:
“Politicizing Science” has been a long time coming. I thought I was the only one who believed Scientific American was politically oriented. . . . About four or five years ago I wrote to the magazine about its bias and pointed out that it was publishing political, not scientific, articles. The articles I cited were written by civilian “arms experts” and dealt with anti-submarine warfare and other weapons systems. Each article concluded that we should not pursue these systems, for to do so would “annoy” the Russians and whatever consequences ensued would be our fault. Never a word about the Russians “annoying” us and the consequences being their fault. Needless to say, my letter was never published.
I congratuate Mr. Marsh on his much-needed article. Scientific American might be a wonderful magazine in the sciences, but not in politics.
To the Editor:
Thank you for Jeffrey Marsh’s excellent article on Scientific American. My father, a biochemist, has had a subscription to the magazine almost since the beginning of the Gerard Piel era, and the brilliant graphics attracted me long before I was able to have any real comprehension of the text. The magazine has great sentimental value for me because of the important role it played during my formative years. You can thus imagine my personal disappointment when the articles on the arms issue began appearing. Where there should have been rational, realistic thought I found instead unscientific appeasement ideology. Having access to classified material on the strategic-arms situation confirmed to me that many of the facts and suppositions these articles built on were way off-base. . . .
Albert S. Zeller
San Francisco, California