Sunday, March 15, 2009


Steady ... Steady ...

New Scientist really wants to trash whatever reputation it may have once had.

First it was the "Darwin Was Wrong" cover that did not match the contents of the (over-hyped) story of long known issues about the "tree of life." The author, responding to numerous criticisms, defended the sensationalism all over the blogoshere on the basis of selling magazines. It worked, of course, at least in one corner of Texas, where people trying to gut science education in the state and, by extension, all across America, were quick to exploit it at the state Board of Education hearings. Others have followed suit.

Afterwards, in the way of a small compensation, New Scientist published an article by Amanda Gefter, a book reviews editor at the magazine, on "How to spot a hidden religious agenda" in "so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives."

However, as the Examiner's Dylan Otto Krider is reporting, if you click on the link to Gefter's story, you get this message (as of 1:45 p.m., EDT):

New Scientist has received a complaint about the contents of this story. It has temporarily been removed while we investigate. Apologies for any inconvenience

My, my. Numerous legitimate complaints were made about the "Darwin Was Wrong" cover and there was no yanking it off the web, as far as I know. I'm sure that the complaint about Geftner's story must be much more serious. The editors will doubtless let us know the details as soon as they are finished "investigating."



Update: The message at New Scientist has changed:

New Scientist has received a legal complaint about the contents of this story. At the advice of our lawyer it has temporarily been removed while we investigate. Apologies for any inconvenience.
I'm no expert in British defamation law (though it is, to an American lawyer's mind, draconian) but there are only three authors and/or works mentioned by name that could possibly make a "legal" complaint: James Le Fanu and his book Why Us?; the ever-ridiculous Denyse (accent on the "Deny") O'Leary; and the "documentary" (Gefter's scare quotes) film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. It'll be interesting to find out who threatened or brought a suit ... if anyone.

Update II: Denyse denies it was her.

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