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Monday, May 11, 2009

Darwinism: Scientific American in trouble?

In "Scientific American’s Editor and Its President to Step Down", (New York Times, April 24, 2009), Stephanie Clifford notes
In a shake-up at Scientific American, the longtime editor John Rennie and the magazine’s president, Steven Yee, are leaving.
Rennie had been around since 1994, and was associated by various people I talked to with an aggressive slant toward Darwinism and multiverse theory.

This article by Max Tegmark, promoting four layers of multiverses - essentially to avoid the implications of the fine tuning of the only universe whose existence we can verify - may have been the oddest moment in the history of a magazine that dates back to 1845.

I've heard various figures quoted about the staff reductions, ranging from 5-30%. But it's hard to say because many staff may have gone freelance (or, as the elite would prefer it, "became consultants") or been reassigned to other divisions of the parent company, MacMillan.

Some friends have supposed that the decline was due to the ideological slant of the mag, which was increasingly at odds with that of the public. I think it had more to do with the recent 18% drop in ad revenue. A friend remembers glossy car ads, but these days that may even be politically incorrect.

Some of my friends cancelled their subscriptions to Scientific American, when it became increasingly political. However, most readers probably did not stop reading media like SciAm because they became more ideological. The process was actually the opposite. Magazines like SciAm became more ideological when they became less necessary for the purpose of delivering information.

In general, the more necessary a news source is, the less ideological it can afford to be.

If there is only one local weather forecaster in a rural county, he better not be using his forecast to stump at length for some odd cause. The farmers will make short work of him.

And I wonder how often air traffic controllers are allowed to bug pilots with their opinions about the government or the economy?

It is now so easy to get news from so many different sources that the readers scattered, and major media could no longer maintain their ad rates.

This is happening at major media worldwide. Some commentators are calling for government bailouts, and many journalists’ lists sound like a shearing shed somewhere in Australia [bleat, bleat, bleat].

(I can’t think of a worse solution than a bailout, of course, because the change is a natural one, caused by the redundancy of information sources. Should the government have rescued companies that sell carbon paper and whiteout in the 1990s? Why?)

Anyway, we shall see.


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