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Eric Price

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Do Scientists Need to "Silence" un-Scientific or Subjective Debate to Protect Truth?

A "Popular Scientific" magazine recently published an article stating, "Comments can be bad for science. That's why...we're shutting them off."

Further quotations: "...even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests." "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself." "Another...study found that just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science."

Bottom line..."If you carry out those results to their logical end--commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded--you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch."

In other words, to further truth science must ensure that "truth" is not swayed by erroneous public opinion, whether by emotion, firm statements or otherwise.

I find the conclusions deeply disturbing. If a magazine must resort to a position of dogma treating their material like a sacred text not to be questioned, then it becomes tantamount to propaganda - even if the content is scientifically sound. Must scientists be the gate keepers of truth, having no confidence that commoners can reason, question ideas and be objective to learn truth for themselves? I still believe that people can be taught to use intelligence and reason to process information. To lose that belief is to lose hope in a civil society.

If what the article states is true, what must naturally follow is the suppression of free thought and dialogue, a division in social position between those who can discern truth and those who do not or can not, and a further risk that the unenlightened can only become greater targets for erroneous beliefs.

World changing ideas have never come easy. Do you agree with the conclusion and action to surpress discussion for the sake of science?

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    • Oct 10 2013: They are not suppressing discussion!! They're choosing not to offer a platform for it. There is a difference. And they are not obligated to offer a platform to anyone!

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