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Popular Science Ends Comments - Here's One More

Joseph McKeating

badscienceNot only did Popular Science put an end to online comments yesterday, it delivered the news in an unstructured, terribly misinformed, illogical article that made me question the 141-year-old science and technology magazine’s credibility altogether.

“Comments can be bad for science,” it began.

Our understanding of science, which has only been made possible through collaborative thought, and only threatened by censorship, is in danger because of people sharing their thoughts?

But wait, “we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.”

Oh, so it’s about the trolls and spambots, not people actually debating the topics at hand? I understand, I can’t stand them either. Carry on then.

But they couldn’t stop while they were ahead. Instead, they continued, “But even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story, recent research suggests.”

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about trolls and spambots anymore, are we? We’re talking about people with opinions. And why is that a bad thing? Wasn’t Isaac Newton in the minority? Weren’t Einstein, Darwin, Galileo, da Vinci, Tesla, Bohr and Curie all in the minority as well? It has always been a fractious minority who shape science and the world we live in.

But wait, you didn’t let us finish. “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.”

No, I don’t. I think that, in the spirit of science, you should filter out the trolls, spambots, ad hominem and other uncivil comments, and let the rest of the community intelligently debate whatever topic is being discussed. This has always been and will always be the way we progress.

Besides, only allowing the author to have a voice reduces any debate to the smallest possible minority, debunking your whole premise. End of Story

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