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[flagged] First time in 175 years, Scientific American endorses a presidential candidate (scientificamerican.com)
99 points by rbanffy 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 93 comments





I'm very disappointed that Scientific American endorsed a political candidate.

The reason is that this act adds to the polarization of this country. It does nothing but add more hate to the world. It brings politics into an area of life which has previously been apolitical.

Worst of all it normalizes the idea that one political party is smart and rational, and another is stupid and illogical. Every time this idea is repeated, and this article will lead to the idea being repeated more, another swing voter who could go either way clings tighter to the Republican party.

Sure, it feels good to claim superiority in this manner, but it has the opposite effect from what was intended.


> Worst of all it normalizes the idea that one political party is smart and rational, and another is stupid and illogical

I think the entire point of their endorsement is that they are not saying anything about parties at all, but rather that a singular candidate is dangerous for reasons relevant to their purpose and readership.


I hear you. I agree that what they wrote is limited to just the candidate and not the voters. I even agree that Trump is unscientific, illogical, fear mongering and dangerous. Wait. I went beyond what you said. Sorry.

But what is the corollary to Trump "rejects evidence and science"? It's that anyone who votes for Trump does the same thing.

You're right that they did not spell this out. But many people who hear the endorsement will immediately jump to that conclusion.


> But what is the corollary to Trump "rejects evidence and science"? It's that anyone who votes for Trump does the same thing.

Naturally. In what reality would voting for a candidate not indicate at least some level of support for their platform, values, etc., and wanting to see more of it in government? That's quite literally what voting is designed to do.


> The reason is that this act adds to the polarization of this country.

Taking a position in favor of a candidate is not hate. Democracy is powered by civic engagement. People who professionally write bear a joint responsibility to be civic, to make cases, explain them.


True civic engagement is inherently bipartisan or nonpartisan; it pursues moderation and consensus. Taking a position for or against a candidate (as in, not just e.g. a few policy positions from any given campaign) is the very opposite of actual, genuine civic engagement.

I don’t know why you believe this, but it is false.

> True civic engagement is inherently bipartisan or nonpartisan;

Semi true. When both sides are engaging civically yes. If one side is acting partisanly or in bad faith, using demagoguery & deceit, civics is to call out the dis-ingenuousness & descent from reason.

> it pursues moderation and consensus.

Including moderation of bad actors & fanatics when necessary.

> Taking a position for or against a candidate (as in, not just e.g. a few policy positions from any given campaign) is the very opposite of actual, genuine civic engagement. reply

Obviously [insert explitives here]. Entirely bogus conclusion that in no way follows from some weak & very partial but slightly somewhat true origins.


My take is that they don't want people they disagree with to speak up.

You make a good point. But take an objective look at all the other responses on this page. How many of them contain the hidden assumption that Republican voters are stupid? I see a few. You might not be able to see it right away. You have to read them a certain way. Some have been downvoted and are light gray. But they are there.

And conversation here on HN is very restrained. When this news hits other social media, there will be more claims that Trump is stupid, Republicans are stupid, and any independent who is considering voting for a Republican is stupid.

So, yes, this article has unleashed a new wave of hatred in the world.

I have nothing against professional scientific writers writing a letter to the New York Times, or even writing an editorial there. In fact they should. I agree with you that it's good when they correct a specific claim with scientific evidence.

This is something else.

This is the whole Scientific American organization putting their stamp of approval on the idea that Republican voters are stupid.


> But take an objective look at all the other responses on this page. How many of them contain the hidden assumption that Republican voters are stupid? I see a few. You might not be able to see it right away. You have to read them a certain way. Some have been downvoted and are light gray. But they are there.

I'm not going to accept a couple of downvoted outbursts as evidence of a problem. it's hard to guess who might leave such comments & whether they are even authentic. I'm not even going to judge a lot of these people even if they are authentic & being mean. I don't know what they have experienced & perhaps they have some good reasons to be so upset as to have become uncivil.

> So, yes, this article has unleashed a new wave of hatred in the world.

That you don't like how they feel & seem scared of it is not what civics is about.

You are right though, that mentioning this kind of deeply politicized mistreatment of science will stir anger in some people, often anger people already harbored. Perhaps some of that hate is due. Perhaps uncivil forces are acting with greed & profiteering, destroying earth's resources & legacy, plundering our shared inheritance.


Do you mean that people in general should not accept evidence of a problem that is literally right in front of their eyes?

I must have misunderstood what you meant.


Republican voters aren't stupid, they are grossly misinformed. This fact is supported by multiple studies of the subject, and is hardly controversial.

> The group who names MSNBC as their main news source is far more likely than the Fox News group to answer correctly that the coronavirus originated in nature rather than a laboratory and that it will take a year or more for a vaccine to become available. On both questions, the portion in the CNN group to answer correctly falls between the MSNBC and Fox News numbers.

> About three-quarters (76 percent) of those who name Fox News as their main source are conservative Republicans and Republican leaners, while 57 percent who name MSNBC are liberal Democrats and Democratic leaners.

https://www.journalism.org/2020/04/01/cable-tv-and-covid-19-...


> to answer correctly that the coronavirus originated in nature rather than a laboratory

That hasn't been proven either way, and probably never will be.

And journalism.org's linked source is not scientific evidence, but rather a "Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19". I guess they mean "answer politically correctly".


Does it not signal something, that in all of the publication's history, all the world events it has existed through, that now is the time they decide make an endorsement? Instead of bemoaning that they made an endorsement, maybe it would be better to discuss why now? What's different about our current times that the publication has made such an out-of-character move?

I understand what you're trying to get at. I listened to the DNC. They kept repeating that this moment is more critical than any other in history. I don't buy that. After Japan annihilated our fleet in Pearl Harbor, and Nazis were rolling over one country after another in Europe... that must have been a very scary moment, and critical. Today... important, but not as much.

But I digress. My honest answer to what you're asking is:

The difference is that at this point in time, the staff of Scientific American is in a media bubble more than at any time in the past. They have lost touch with the common man. The man on the street who does not have a college degree. They don't realize how negatively that man is going to react to this endorsement.

That's honestly why I think they did it now, and not over the last 175 years.


Even if you're assumption is correct (which I don't agree with), it's not the job of Scientific American or even the media to be concerned about polarization. Scientific American should provide objective information about matters within its domain expertise, of which the candidate's impact and leverage of science is appropriate.

FYI I also don't agree that it leads to "another swing voter who could go either say cling tighter to the Republican party." This kind of thinking is what leads to creating the false equivalence that both parties are relatively equal, which significantly benefits any party that acts in an extremely polarized and deceitful manner, since it can rely on the media to launder their actions to look roughly equivalent to the other party.


Let me put it this way. I'm having a disagreement with my wife. Her voice starts to get louder. A logical course of action would be to point out that she is not currently calm, and that she should calm down or resume the conversation at another time.

That's logical.

And yet, that's not the best course of action.

Sometimes, you have to go beyond logic, and take into account how others will react to your statements.


When one candidate is _clearly_ anti-science, ignoring scientific consensus and by doing so harms the country, why wouldn't a magazine that celebrates it endorse the other candidate?

This seems like one of those bad faith argument that is just trying to muddle the water.


> Worst of all it normalizes the idea that one political party is smart and rational, and another is stupid and illogical.

Donald Trump is a single politician, and not the entire Republican Party. Having an opinion on one is not the same as calling an entire party stupid and illogical.

> the idea being repeated more, another swing voter who could go either way clings tighter to the Republican party.

If someone is a swing voter, and unsure which side to pick, why would reputable sources offering well reasoned advice lead them to cling tightly to the opposite (you said “tighter” here, which I assume was a typo, since you previously claimed they were a swing voter and so Therefore wouldn’t be clinging to either side yet).


Thanks for correcting my typo. Yes.

I've read first hand accounts about what happened in Venezuela. About twenty years ago, Chavez turned a democracy into a dictatorship. How could this possibly happen?

Well, one ingredient was that the people who were against Chavez repeated over and over that the dictator was not logical.

In Venezuela, this type of argument did not persuade Chavez voters. It did the opposite. Chavez won and the country is now a dictatorship.

I see the same thing happening here. Trump supporters with a high school diploma are personally insulted when a bunch of PhD's get together and declare that their candidate is not scientific.


I really didn't explain it yet. Did I? Let me try this. The battle is asymmetric. One side, Trump, is using fear. The other side, Scientific American, is using logic.

Fear actually gets voters off their couches and into the voting booth.

Logic gets people to nod their heads, but doesn't translate into actual votes.


Well, they definitely could have bumped the fear component up more, but perhaps Scientific American feels their subscriber base is more likely to respond to reasoning than to fear.

“This was a mistake because they weren’t fear-mongery enough” is definitely an interesting take, though.


Haha. I can't imagine them jumping on the fear bandwagon.

I am hoping they back Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camach in 2024.

I'm hoping he's not the best (or least bad) option then...

While I would have preferred that science publications not have explicit political bias, I am not surprised and in some sense even supportive of this move considering the current administration's explicit denial of science and disdain for scientists.

Pro-science is a political bias as soon as you want to do something in the world. The only unbiased attitude is the one which is content to do nothing for humans and society, like a rock in the desert.

Dunno - rocks in the desert are pretty laissez faire.

Otherwise known as evidence-based policy making.

This is contrasted with policy-based evidence making, which is practiced exclusively by Trump's coterie of conmen, grifters, and swindlers.


Expressing an opinion or a position is not the same thing as having a bias.

May fate be more gentle to your submission than it was to mine. [0]

It was flagged in no time despite being a thing that actually seems worthy of discussion even if one does not agree with either the decision to endorse someone at all or the choice of candidate.

Let's see if I can get the comment I wanted to write posted in here at least.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24482213


Sorry about your submission. I too felt it could, and should, be discussed in objective terms. I was uncertain about posting it, however, because I feared it could trigger the worst behaviors in our community.

At what point does being non-partisan become less professional/respectable than being partisan?

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

-Desmond Tutu


I don't think there is a single "point" where that crossover occurs. However, there are definitely times where you can confidently state that it has occurred, and I believe that we're living in those times.

How many voters could this possibly sway? Regular readers of Scientific American, a generally pro-science camp, made their choice long ago. The anti-science camp won't be listening.

I'd like to know what really sways voters as it is?

I suspect that question is as murky as it gets on almost every topic.


In a sea of militarized disinformation, this editorial is an island of sanity.

You might be surprised by the number of professional scientists and engineers who voted for Trump in 2016. Yes, my anecdotal experience shows they're in the minority, but they're not zero and it's a lot higher than you might imagine. I'm not going to go into the politics of why these folks supported Trump in 2016, though I personally know smart people who made good arguments for Trump in 2016, but an editorial such as this may definitely sway them.

There seems to be a lot of comments here that think Scientific American (and the media in general) should strive to be nonpartisan and treat both parties equally. For those that think that way, I would like to know how you think we should handle a scenario where one political party is legitimately acting in a non-equal, extreme manner. Consider:

- Candidate A lies 95% of the time.

- Candidate B lies 5% of the time.

For the media to objectively/truthfully call out candidate A would be to act, inherently in a partisan, unequal manner. There's no way to both accurately report the difference between candidates A and B while also pursuing moderation and consensus.

This is essentially the dilemma faced by the media, and is why we're in this situation where despite the fact there is overwhelming evidence that the majority of what Trump says is a lie[1] - the media treat it as the truth, which is an enormous advantage to Trump (candidate A). A democratic system that relies on informed voters selecting their political representation breaks down when one candidate is allowed misinform voters, at will, by the media.

This is the same sort of situation with climate change, where the outlier scientific view (climate change denial) is given equal weight and validity in the media.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veracity_of_statements_by_Dona...


Utter garbage get that pol crap off of HN

This is another once-in-a-lifetime event. It seems they are happening more and more often.

Why is this flagged?

It's politics. Political posts get flagged here unless they're particularly relevant to the community (business, technology). This is an endorsement of a candidate, admittedly with a view based in part on attitudes towards science, but still an endorsement of a candidate. It's not on topic for HN. American politics get flagged even faster because the discussion is usually fruitless. Non-American politics sometimes survive and make the front page because it's framed more as a discussion on economics or general human rights (still OT in general, but the discussion is usually less divisive).

I fear climate denial and the anti-science attitude of the current administration will have enduring negative effects in the American economy.

I am sure we can and should discuss politics in objective terms. This is not about political parties, but about a single person.


In principle, I agree with you. In practice, the discussions end up devolving too rapidly here. For what it's worth, I did upvote your submission and intended to read and engage in the discussion. But mostly saw things I didn't want to engage in or saw (essentially) my points made by others.

Yet another Chesterton’s Fence torn down without regard

I don't see any indication that they took this step lightly. Chesterton's Fence teaches that, if you don't know why it's there, don't remove it. It doesn't mean to never remove the fence. If you understand what purpose it served, and the reason to remove it is more important than the reason it was there, then removing it is the right thing to do.

Do Scientific American really think that Biden is more important than Lincoln? Or why else would they say that they refused to endorse Lincoln but now endorse Biden? I can understand them endorsing Biden, but saying "First time in 175 years" just makes it ridiculous. This election is not nearly as important or divise as the 1860 election.

Edit: My point is that 175 years ago the paper was run by other people. So to me it seems more likely that the people at this paper got more and more political over time until now that they fully endorse one candidate. It is fine to endorse one candidate, but talking as if this is a once in 175 year election is not honest.


Why is this being flagged?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html Off-Topic: Most stories about politics...

I’m not an American but I’m curious if it’s really ok for any voter to publicly admit they’re voting for Trump these days, especially if they aren’t politically active in general. From my own experience, media tends to blow things out of proportion and spend inordinate amounts of time focusing on trivial nonsense. So I wonder where the truth lies.

Aside this, isn’t it so funny that more hyper connected we’ve become with 24/7 news, feeds, and social media etc, the more clueless we’ve become.


There are a lot of people known as "shy Trump supporters" who won't publicly admit it. A recent survey found that 70% of Republicans lie to pollsters:

https://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/515198-pol...


> There are a lot of people known as "shy Trump supporters" who won't publicly admit it. A recent survey found that 70% of Republicans lie to pollsters:

That's not what that survey said:

> About two in three voters say they think it is likely that a significant number of people are not truthful when responding to political surveys, a new Hill-HarrisX poll finds.

It didn't ask if they lied, but if they thought other people lied. Maybe that's a proxy for figuring out if the polled person lied themselves, but that's not at all clear.


I agree it’s unclear but I would guess it’s probably a more accurate way to see if they lie then asking them directly.

Even if the real number is 7% instead of 70% that could be enough to swing the election.


In southeastern North Carolina I have yet to see a single sign for Biden in any yard. I see signs and flags for Trump in most yards in the rural areas and in many yards in suburban areas. In addition you see numerous land and boat parades for Trump. You never see a parade for Biden.

SciAm tweeted that the 2020 election is ‘literally a matter of life and death’. I can never take Scientific American seriously again. Literally.

[..] Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now.

The 2020 election is literally a matter of life and death. We urge you to vote for health, science and Joe Biden for President.[..]


I see a ton of people making what I'd consider a pretty false assumption that the probability of any scientific american reader is pro trump is zero.

The link below is a pretty awesome, counter intuitive use case of Bayes Therom that I saw which made me question statements like this. What the actual makeup of Scientific American's reader base is is probably lower than 50% but it isn't 0% either. That's a lot of wriggler room for me to be technically assertion that yeah, they probably didn't lose half of their reader base. But is it possible they lost 1/3, 1/5, 1/10? Those all affect the bottom line of a company like this in much different ways. I'd assume that the leaders made an educated decision, and weighed their pros/cons.

Also, just because you voted for Trump doesn't mean you'd unsubscribe to SA just because they endorsed the other candidate. What I'd like to read is some analysis that SA did on their readership base to determine how many people they'd lose based on this decision and then the results of their experiment. I mean what better way for a scientific journal to make a decision like this than to also follow their hypothesis up with some analysis.

I have nothing meaningful to contribute to whether or not they should/shouldn't have endorsed Biden, so I'll just say, it is not a zero consequence decision.

https://paulvanderlaken.com/2020/01/21/bayes-theorem-probabi...


> What I'd like to read is some analysis that SA did on their readership base to determine how many people they'd lose based on this decision and then the results of their experiment.

Even if it causes a drop in subscriptions, it's a long vs short term result analysis. If Trump is reelected and civilization collapses because of it, the number of subscribers will be a relatively minor problem...


How high on legal weed do you have to be to believe that Trump being re-elected is going to cause civilization to collapse?

Hyperbole was, probably, not the best language to use, but you need to agree that his election fueled racial anger, he has lent support to conspiracy theories and openly racist groups, that his policies have a destabilizing effect on global trade, that his science denial has had nefarious health consequences, substantially damaged US's position on international negotiations and that his economic policies are largely ineffective, with soaring public debt and an unclear message about job security. The US is being right now accused of terrible human rights violations in the ICE centers and he just accused his opponent of being a paedophile.

I understand voting Republican, but voting for him is hard to justify.


I dont "need" to agree with you on anything, and I dont agree with you on much at all.

There's also the fact that making this unprecedented political endorsement forces the SciAm name into the forefront of online discourse, quite possibly prompting a wave of traffic and maybe even subscriptions from people who viscerally agree with the SciAm article. Pragmatically speaking, this article is insta-viral free advertising at the cost of Trump-supporting subscribers.

Yeah I'd really love to see an analysis on this, that'd be really interesting to me.

BTW, I'm happy this was brought up. I'm subscribing.

And just because you downvoted me, I'm algo gifting my older son with a subscription.

Title of real post says “Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden”

What a huge mistake.

Why?

> Why?

I personally don't believe this is a mistake, but the only problematic thing I can think of is that this might encourage Trumpers and Trumpworld to view science as a Democratic constituency, and thus withdraw their support for things like government science funding (thus making it more partisan and unreliable). However, that's probably already happened to a significant degree. Staying neutral towards someone who's already hostile to you is not a very tenable position.

See also Republicans and labor unions: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/06/opinion/labor-unions-repu...

> It is often forgotten that Eisenhower and many other Republicans used to support labor unions, if not always enthusiastically....

> It was Ronald Reagan, with his firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, who sent the Republican Party’s relations with labor into a tailspin. Despite the party’s shift to the right under Reagan, there continued to be many pro-labor Republicans in Congress well into the 1990s, like Representatives Jack Quinn of New York and Bob Ney of Ohio. They often bucked party leaders, for instance, to support a higher minimum wage.

> The decisive break came in 1996 when Speaker Newt Gingrich was struggling to retain control of the House. With Gingrich openly hostile to unions, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. endorsed Democrats over many longtime G.O.P. allies.

> At the time, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political director justified the move, saying, “Anybody who stands with Gingrich as often as they do is not standing with working people.” But the spurned Republicans said labor had turned its back on the G.O.P. That ended a 120-year stretch during which unions had always been able to maintain some level of bipartisan support.


Are there even any Scientific American subscribers who would vote for Trump? Looks like they're just trying to capitalize on his crazy by getting new subscribers.

Anecdotally, a lot of the sorts of people I've met who would subscribe to SciAm are not particularly politically conscious and subscribe to the "enlightened centrism" / "both sides" kind of philosophy.

So people who believe in nuance?

Why did you reframe what the parent said? This tone is usually used to make an implicit point beyond or in contrast to the original statement, but I can't identify it in this case.

Or their motivations are as they say they are ...

> Looks like they're just trying to capitalize on his crazy by getting new subscribers.

Who would pay money for a magazine subscription because of a political endorsement?

Maybe the editors just thought this was the right thing to do right now.


Trump has a 50% approval rating, so I would guess there is some level of overlap between the two groups.

Probably a fairly small overlap, but it almost certainly exists.


43%, i believe. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

he's been <50% approval, >50% disapproval since January 21, 2017.



the values i gave are the weighted means of many pollsters.

Either way its pedantry to the broader point I was trying to make of "There are certainly Trump supporters who subscribe to Scientific American"

ah. that claim does seem entirely plausible, yes.


Despite what you see in social media, most people are not a stereotype.

Care to elaborate? I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at.

Trump's average is at 40%, and is currently hovering around 42%.

I mean it's good that they make official what everyone knew for a few years now: sciam is now a political organization.

I'll be voting blue in the the upcoming election as I have for years but for president I'll be voting red and because of science.

I don't trust the blue's candidate to wield the power of science properly and it will directly affect me. The blue candidate has said the he supports a nationwide lockdown "if the science supports it" as well as a nationwide mask mandate. I'm sure he has some science to back this up as well.

The red candidate wields science like a weapon but there's a difference: The actions of the red candidate do not affect me directly. The red candidate can say whatever he wants but day to day it doesn't change my life

On other hand the blue candidate has said he'll make me wear a mask and that he might make me stay in my apartment for weeks or months or years. That's not happening.

The red candidate's poor use of science doesn't affect me directly and I'm free to live my life (mostly) as I always have. The blue candidate's poor use of science may lock me in my apartment for weeks, months, or years.

With a stance like that the blue candidate has no chance at my vote.


I once thought the same thing. I am from the red party, so I vote red most of the time.

However, the current red candidate is dangerous. I'll explain why. Someone who makes arbitrary decisions, can make any decision.

Even if they agree with your principals, and on the surface Mr. Red argues for Red policies (e.g. reducing illegal immigration), their actual implementation of it is atrocious (e.g. massive concentrations camps at the border, huge budget overruns, and tacit violations of civil liberties) and the results are poor in practice (e.g. fewer deportations than Mr. Blue who came before him).

A person who doesn't have consistent core beliefs, will always release an incoherent plan.

The Blue's may not see eye-to-eye with me, but at least their practices are understandable and can simply be rolled back in the next term.

Disclaimer: I may be biased, because shortly after taking office Mr. Red was photographed smiling next to a dictator who recently murdered a student in my alma mater university.


The power to lift or enforce lockdowns is at the state level, not the federal.

Coronavirus: Power resides with the states to institute lockdowns or not

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/20/coronaviru...


I think both candidates will require you to wear a seat belt. So maybe you dont need to vote?

Because of the red candidate spreading dangerous misinformation about masks and not doing required things, the country hasn't been able be reopen and we still have to stay home, not to mention the ruined economy.



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