spiked article

Wolfgang Wuster bss166 at clss1.bangor.ac.uk
Tue Apr 4 03:07:43 EST 1995

On 2 Apr 1995, Thomas Boyce wrote:

> >On Wed, 22 Mar 1995, Richard Milton wrote:
> >
> >>  
> >> In article <9503292308.AA14532 at spider.ento.csiro.au>,
> >>  Thomas Boyce (thomasb at SPIDER.ENTO.CSIRO.AU) writes:
> >> 
> >> >
> >> >I sympathise with your objections to censorship, and I do not think
> >> >irrepairable harm would have been done by the publication of the article.  
> >
> >The problem with publishing stuff like this is that there are people
> >around with a political agenda (i.e., your friendly neighbourhood
> >creationist group) who pounce on this kind of stuff, especially because it
> >is written by a non-creationist. Headline: "Leading evolution expert 
> >dismisses Darwinism in respected Publication".
> I am not ignorant of the nature and history of this issue.  I also still
> think its true that no great harm would've been done.

No great harm by itself, agreed. Just yet another addition to the steady,
eroding trickle of nonsense which undermines public confidence in 
science, and yet another piece of ignorance that has to be discussed just 
to try and convince Joe Public that evolution does have foundations in 
fact, despite the attempts of some to denigrate it for personal or 
political reasons. 
> >Censorship must never get in the way of publishing new ideas or 
> >criticisms of old ideas IF THEY ARE BASED ON SOUND SCIENCE.
> Ergo, if its bad logic and mistakes we are not only entitled to keep it out
> of our professional journals but we are entitled to clense the popular
> press as well??  MY!  What wonderful powers we have!
To clarify this: I did not mean to imply that we should censor the popular
press or anything else. However, if there is an opportunity to make an
editor think again and not publish something which is demonstrably
nonsense, then I see no reason not to do just that. If Milton wishes to
write a book or pamphlet on the topic, that is up to him, and I certainly
support his right to do so. Controlling quality in other media is a
different matter. This is what happened in this case. I certainly don't
see the point of "equal time" arrangements for everyone who thinks they
have something important to say. 

I certainly do not wish to deny the *right* of anyone to publish their

> Sorry, my concept of freedom of the press is just that.  While Milton's
> stuff may be vacuous and sophomoric, censorship is a sure way to fuel the
> fires, not put them out. 

However, that does not mean that we should encourage him. Certainly,
pointing out to an editor of a serious publication that his article is
full of basic mistakes strikes me as entirely sensible (so long as it 
does not involve slander unrelated to the quality of the article itself)

> I agree there's no need to post Milton's stuff to the mol.evol group. 

Actually, it is probably better off here, where a fair proportion of the
audience is likely to perceive the flaws of the article, and read the
responses, rather than in a popular publication, where the vast majority
of readers will have no knowledge of their own to judge such articles by. 
> But generally we really have to put effort into making the facts of
> evolution known and accepted throughout most of society, or else we're
> doomed to these continual skirmishes.  You may want to spend all of your
> time uncovering wonderful details of evolution, but if the rest of the
> populace doesn't believe you, so what?
Amen to that!

Wolfgang Wuster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor

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