An apology from 'Science News'

On March 26, the prestigious American magazine “Science News” published an essay that confirms one of the most important characteristics of scientific activity, its ability to self-correct.

This is something that is not found in pseudoscientific activities such as Tarot, Horoscopes, Pyramidology and Astrology, among many others. For example, you will never find an article reporting horoscope casters apologizing for assuming Aries people would have a “great day” when an Aries reader was diagnosed with a devastating and deadly cancer on the same day. . The magazine “Science News” is celebrating its first century of existence and is acknowledging the enormous mistakes that the magazine made during these hundred years, particularly during its first years, by publishing articles with clearly racist and sexist content.

Journalism magnate Edward W. Scripps and zoologist William E. Ritter founded the company “Science Service” to provide science news to the general public.

Founding editor Edwin Slosson wrote in 1921: “The success of democratic government as well as that of individuals depends on the ability of the people to distinguish between lies and true science.” Now, one hundred years later, the magazine’s editorial team has searched its more than eighty thousand original files to painfully discover that, in particular, between 1920 and 1960 there were frankly racist, xenophobic and sexist articles allegedly supported by scientific explanations to justify behaviors unethical and immoral.

With honesty, the editorial team carried out a transparent and honest examination of the magazine’s past, ending with the expression: “We are deeply sorry” (tr. We are deeply sorry).

The most notable flaw was the coverage of support for eugenics, that is, the belief that humanity can be improved only if people with the best characteristics are allowed to reproduce. Eugenics, it was thought, “would give the more capable races a better chance of prevailing over the less capable.”

Founding editor Slosson and several members of the journal’s executive committee advocated eugenics, which was widely used in the United States during the early years of the twentieth century. Modern science now rejects these types of claims as having no scientific basis yet eugenics was used to justify racial and ethnic discrimination as well as the sterilization of over 60,000 people in the United States including immigrants, blacks, indigenous people, differently abled people, people in prisons and simply poor people.

It should not be surprising that in the thirties of the last century scientists from Nazi Germany argued that society should be “cleansed” of people who put the “genetic health” of the population at risk. Finally all this ended with the murder of millions of people during the Holocaust.

The treatment given to the LGBTBQ community in many articles from the beginning of the last century is now uncomfortable. Essentially it was thought that these people needed to be “healed”. The title of an article at the time was “Homosexuals Need Help” and it clearly reflects this approach.

The analysis of the errors made by this journal is recognized by its current editors as a reflection of the prevailing ideas of that time, which came to penetrate a large part of society, including the scientific community.

We know that scientific knowledge is increasing and more precise and it is very likely that these errors will be avoided in the future.

In this note:

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