Popular Science magazine has decided to shut down comments on their website, saying they can negatively affect funding and scientific progress.
Popular Science associate editor Dan Nosowitz says there has been a lot of spam, misinformed writing, racism, sexism, and “basically unsourced nonsense, garbage” in the magazine’s online comment section.
Blaming “trolls” and “spambots”, the website’s online content director, Suzanne LaBarre, wrote “Comments can be bad for science…”; wait a sec, doesn’t that seem ass-backwards? Science, the pursuit of new truth and discovery, wants to cut off conversation?
While I agree there are lots of morons out there, and the comments section on many websites seem to attract misinformed redneck morons with lots of time on their hands, is this really the right way to go? End conversation entirely?
Insulting comments and marketing spam had diminished the site’s ability to foster “lively, intellectual debate,” the website director said, apparently missing the hypocrisy of embracing the theory of debate while shutting down the reality of debate. LaBarre says that the consensus surrounding scientifically validated topics, from climate change to evolution, had been “eroded” thanks to a “politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise.”
So why not try to fix or moderate the comments? Or have an outside third party moderate? Or let the morons look like morons? Popular Science is 141 years old and will survive this, however I think we will see a fast retreat or rethink… this is not good for science or for the website’s popularity.