Scientific Research, Books, Articles, Columns, Lectures and Photographs
The Scientific American Affair
Scientific American editor Jonathan Piel in a letter to Forrest M. Mims III, December 20, 1988: "Dear Mr. Mims: The material that you have shared with us leaves no doubt that you would write a most engaging 'Amateur Scientist' column…."
AfterScientific American editor Jonathan Piel and two other editors asked Mims about evolution, abortion and the Bible during a meeting in New York or by telephone: “There's no question that on their own merits the columns are fabulous! If you don't do them for us you ought to do them for somebody because they're great...Give me three of them and I'll run them...I'll buy them from you... Forrest, I trust you implicitly. You're a man of honor and integrity...In its own right what you've written is first rate. That's just not an issue. It's the public relations nightmare that's keeping me awake." Jonathan Piel during a conversation with Forrest Mims on October 4, 1989. Published in part in Harper’s, March 1991, pp. 28-32.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE Directorate for Science and Policy Programs Washington, DC 20005
29 October 1990
Dear Mr. Mims:
The Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has received the materials you submitted in connection with your complaint regarding Scientific American. The legal questions that may be involved in this matter are beyond the purview of the Committee. However, the Committee does wish to affirm its commitment to the principle that articles submitted for publication in journals devoted to science, technology and medicine should be judged exclusively on their scientific merit. A person's private behavior or religious or political beliefs or affiliations should not serve as criteria in the evaluation of articles submitted for publication.
We emphasize, in particular, the consensus of the Committee that even if a person holds religiously-derived beliefs that conflict with views commonly held in the scientific community, those beliefs should not influence decisions about publication of scientific articles unless the beliefs are reflected in the articles.
We wish to stress that, in expressing this opinion, the Committee is not taking any position on the particulars of your dispute with Scientific American.
Sheldon Krimsky, Ph.D., Chair Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility
[Scroll down to see a scan of this letter.]
About the Scientific American Affair
"The Amateur Scientist" was a popular column about do-it-yourself science projects in Scientific American magazine. In May 1988 I sent a lengthy proposal to Jonathan Piel, then editor of Scientific American, to propose writing "The Amateur Scientist." The proposal included topics for some three years of columns. It was reviewed at some length, and in July 1989 Piel called and asked if I would like to write the column. When I said yes, he asked me to visit New York to discuss the details. I stopped all work and a delayed a field trip to fly to New York to meet Piel and his staff on August 7, 1989. During a friendly meeting in his office, Piel expressed excitement over various scientific and electronic devices that I showed him. He repeatedly stated, "We should have hired you years ago!" He called in the editorial staff and asked me to show them the instruments and devices that I had brought.
Later, Piel frowned when I told him I had once written an article for a Christian magazine about how to organize long-distance bicycle trips for teenagers. (I am a practicing Christian). He then asked if I believed in Darwinian evolution. I replied that I did not, and he was displeased. Later staff editors Laurie Burnham and John Horgan quizzed me in telephone conversations about my beliefs concerning "the sanctity of life" and whether or not I read the Bible. Senior editors Armand Schwab and Timothy Appenzeller supported my proposal for writingthe column and provided helpful advice on how to proceed.
Scientific American eventually published three of my columns, and many readers sent the magazine and me letters about them. Unfortunately, the editor refused to publish more of my columns, because he was concerned that my personal beliefs would cause the magazine to experience what he described as "a public relations nightmare" (Jonathan Piel and Forrest M. Mims III, Science's Litmus Test, Harper's, March 1992, pp. 28-32.) His dream came true when I told a newspaper reporter how I lost the column. After the reporter's story was prominently featured in a Houston newspaper, reporters called from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. A reporter for The New York Times arrived at my office for an interview. After articles appeared in these newspapers, dozens of magazines and newspapers called. So did many radio and TV stations, including the Voice of America. The media was surprisingly supportive of my plight. For around six weeks it was virtually impossible to work due to the many media interviews. More about what transpired is given below, and I will eventually relate the experience in detail in a new memoir. Meanwhile, many inaccurate accounts about the affair have been published on the web by skeptics and atheists, hence this presentation of verifiable facts about what occurred.
Following this unfortunate experience, I told my wife Minnie that I would take off a year to do science to prove that a person who believes in a Creator, as did most scientists of old, can still do science today. That year stretched into a career doing science and publishing my findings in leading journals, none of which asked about my personal beliefs.
Note to Writers and Editors: Please notify me at forrest[dot]mims[at]ieee[dot]org if you have questions or would like to see specific correspondence. There is also a detailed contemporaneous memo for the record, which was begun when it became obvious that the editor and some staff of Scientific American were concerned about my beliefs related to evolution, abortion and the Bible.
Note to Past and Present Staff at Scientific American: Please notify me at forrest [dot] mims [at] ieee [dot] org about any verifiable errors on this page so they may be promptly corrected. Your name will not be disclosed.
The Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Mims on Friday [October 19, 1990] played for a reporter a tape he made of a conversation late last year [October 4, 1989] with Scientific American editor Jonathan Piel. “What you’ve written is first rate,” Mr. Piel said. “It’s the public relations nightmare that’s keeping me awake.” ....
In an interview, Mr. Piel said that “Scientific American has never discriminated against anyone for religious reasons,” but he wouldn’t comment further on the controversy. On the tape recording, however, he told Mr. Mims several times that he worried how creationists somehow might exploit Mr. Mims in their efforts to push creationist textbooks to schools….
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University law professor, agreed that the magazine appeared to have discriminated against Mr. Mims. The magazine’s rationale was “distressing,” he said. “A company could say we don’t want to be seen identifying with a point of view, so we don’t want to hire Jews.”
Bob Davis, “Scientific American Drops Plans to Hire Columnist Who Believes in Creationism," The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 1990. (The recording was made in accordance with Texas law and the advice of an attorney who was aware of the magazine's discrimination.)
Mims Columns Published in Scientific American
1. Sunspots and How to Observe Them Safely, Scientific American, 262, 6, 130-133, June 1990.
2. How to Monitor Ultraviolet Radiation from the Sun, Scientific American, 263, 2, 106-109, August 1990.
3. A Remote-Control Camera that Catches the Wind and Captures the Landscape, Scientific American, 263, 2, 126-129, October 1990.
These columns and those that the magazine did not publish led to many scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, the GLOBE sun photometer and the GLOBE total water vapor hygrometer (see Publications). The columns also led to an ongoing series of sun and sky observations that began on 4 February 1990.
An unpublished column was to have described the miniature Total Ozone Portable Spectrometer (TOPS) that led to a 1993 Rolex Award and the development of Microtops. In 1996 Microtops was commercialized by Solar Light as Microtops II, an instrument used by scientists around the world to measure the ozone layer, column water vapor, and the aerosol optical depth of the atmosphere arising from both natural causes and anthropogenic air pollution.
Measuring diffuse sky solar ultraviolet at Hawaii's Kilauea caldera. The yellow case contains instruments that measure the total ozone layer, the total water vapor layer and aerosol optical depth from the UV to the near infrared. These instruments were originally developed for publication in "The Amateur Scientist" column of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine. Only a direct-sun UV radiometer was allowed to be published. This instrument was paired with a second instrument to measure direct sunlight at 300 and 305 nm and thereby permit the total columnm ozone to be inferred with high accuracy. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN refused to publish a column describing this instrument (see the accompanying essay). Photograph by Eric R. Mims.
Setting the Record Straight
"When I visited Scientific American at Piel's request, he said several times in the presence of some of his staff, "We should have hired you 10 years ago!" When I said I had applied when C. L. Strong died, he said if he had known, "I would have snapped you up!"
"Members of the editorial staff congratulated me for getting the assignment. Piel and the other editors played with the various instruments I brought, including a solar ultraviolet radiometer, a radio-controlled camera for kites and balloons, various surface-mount circuits, etc.
"Even after he asked if I believed in Darwinian evolution, he took me to lunch with the editorial staff and gave me a book which he signed, 'Best regards to a great amateur scientist. Jon Piel 8/7/89.'"
Forrest M. Mims III, Setting the Record Straight about Scientific American, September 24, 1993.
“Best regards to a great amateur scientist. Jon Piel 8/7/89”
Inscription by Jonathan Piel on title page of Scientific American Cumulative Index 1978-1988 that he gave to Mims (see photo below).
From the August 1990 installment of "The Amateur Scientist" in Scientific American. The inscription (center left) on the title page from "Scientific American Cumulative Index 1978-1988 reads "Best regards to a great amateur scientist. Jon Piel 8/7/89"
Letter from the Chair of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
AAAS letter to Forrest Mims.
I do think that the study of natural science is so glorious a school for the mind, that with the laws impressed on all created things by the Creator, and the wonderful unity and stability of matter and the forces of matter, there cannot be a better school for the education of the mind.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867), an active Christian and one of history’s most important experimental scientists, quoted by Bence Jones in The life and letters of Faraday, Volume 2, 1870, p. 454.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Access Research Network Origins Research Archives
This copyrighted article is based in part on in-person and telephone interviews with Dr. Mark Hartwig shortly after Scientific American cancelled my assignment to write "The Amateur Scientist" column.
Volume 13, Number 1
Defending Darwinism: How Far is Too Far?
Mark D. Hartwig 21 November 1990
Controversy over creation and evolution has long been a part of the American political landscape. Recently, however, this controversy took a new turn with the revelation that Scientific American, America's leading science magazine, refused to hire a superbly qualified science writer because the writer disbelieved in Darwin's theory of evolution. Not that discrimination based on belief is anything new. But this time it has attracted national attention, and has greatly raised the stakes in the controversy--not only for the disputants, but for everyone.
The Scientific American affair began in May 1988 when science writer Forrest Mims submitted a proposal to Scientific American to write the magazine's "Amateur Scientist" column. Mims, a respected science writer with 70 books and several hundred articles to his credit, had long dreamed of writing the "Amateur Scientist," and in late July that dream seemed to come true when the magazine's editor, Jonathan Piel, asked Mims if he would like to take over the column. Piel then invited Mims to come to New York to discuss the details.
It was in New York that things turned sour. According to Mims, Piel at first praised Mims' work and expressed considerable enthusiasm for the topics that Mims proposed to cover. But later on, as Mims' was listing off the various periodicals in which he had published articles, he happened to mention that he had written for some Christian magazines. The editor stopped him, and asked him what he had written for the Christian magazines. He then asked Mims, "Do you accept Darwin's theory of evolution?" Mims responded that he did not. From then on, Mims says, Piel's attitude toward him changed dramatically.
Piel expressed great concern about Mims beliefs, and told him that he would not be permitted to write anything for any publication that might embarrass Scientific American. To ensure this, all of Mims' outside writings would have to be reviewed prior to publication. Piel warned Mims that if an outside article was published without review, and caused subsequent embarrassment to Scientific American, Mims would face a pay cut or dismissal.
Inquiries about Mims' beliefs were not limited to the interview with Piel. In phone conversations that took place during August, September, and October, different editors from Scientific American asked him several such questions, including whether he was a fundamentalist, and whether he believed in the sanctity of life. The editors also told Mims that his religious beliefs were a major area of concern. It eventually became clear that Mims would not get the column.
Meanwhile, Scientific American on August 30 assigned Mims a trial column for $2000. Mims submitted two articles on September 23, and another one later on. Piel's response to the three articles was very positive. In a phone converstation--which Mims taped, after determining it was legal to do so--Piel said "There's no question that on their own merits the columns are fabulous...they're great...What you've written is first rate...Give me three of them and I'll run them...I'll buy them from you."
During the call, however, Piel expressed concern about Mims' religious views being exploited by third parties, or linked with Scientific American, thereby embarrassing "the good name of this magazine." When Mims tried to reassure Piel that he would never use the column to promote his beliefs, Piel replied "I trust you. You're a man of honor and integrity...It's the public relations nightmare that's keeping me awake."
On October 8, 1990, Jonathan Piel's public relations nightmare became horribly real when the Houston Chronicle broke Mims' story to the public. The reality, though, was much worse than Piel could have ever dreamt. After two weeks, the Wall Street Journal picked up the story, followed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and coutless other newspapers across the country. Scientific American was now fully in the public eye, caught in a most unflattering light.
Many of those interviewed for the newspaper articles issued ringing condemnations of the magazine's actions. Even worse, two former editors, who had been with Scientific American when Mims was turned down, admitted to reporters that Mims' beliefs were the reason he wasn't hired. Former managing editor, Armand Schwab Jr., said "Scientific American is a science magazine; it's largely written by scientists. We're completely dependent on the good will of working scientists for those articles, so there's a question of whether or not this could conceivably threaten the credibility of the magazine. You have to understand that creationism is sort of a shibboleth for scientists." Schwab added, "My own conclusion after some time was that the creationist beliefs did not militate against his doing a column for us. I just assumed Mims was smart enough that if he dealt with animals to not say 'all of whom were created and survived the flood,' etc."
Tim Appenzeller, former associate editor for the magazine and now senior editor for The Sciences, said to the Houston Chronicle "There was concern that Scientific American might be linked to a Flat Earther or something. There was no question in anyone's mind that he would have been a good columnist for the Amateur Scientist....I was one of several people on the staff who thought he should be taken on. Without a doubt, (Christianity) led to his not being offered the job of the Amateur Scientist column, and specifically it was creationism."
In the wake of these and other revelations, opinion has run hard against Scientific American. Editorialists, liberal and conservative alike, have lambasted the magazine for its treatment of Mims. The ACLU has offered Mims its help, and, in a letter to the president of Scientific American, characterized the actions of the magazine as belonging to another era, if not another century. In short, there has been a gathering consensus that the magazine has simply gone too far, and has done Mims a serious injustice.
A Chilling Effect
Despite the support Forrest Mims has received in the national media, Mims' story does not yet have a happy ending. For one thing, Scientific American has not recanted its actions, and this has raised concerns that the magazine's position will hinder the freedom of scientists to express their personal beliefs. Lamar Hankins, acting director of the Texas office of the ACLU, stated, "Every scientist who hears about this is going to wind up saying, 'Boy, I'd better not let anyone find out what I believe or I'll end up not getting published again.' It's certainly the type of thing that has a chilling effect."
Mims asserts that he has seen the chill begin to spread: "I'm hearing that in phone calls already, not only from scientists, but from newspapers and magazine writers, and from radio people. An unexpected aspect of the controversy is that many members of the media have expressed sympathy because they may someday be asked questions about their personal beliefs."
Thus, although Scientific American has indeed experienced a public relations nightmare, the long-term result of their action could harm not only creationism, but freedom of expression as a whole.
Another disturbing development is the way in which some Darwinists have chosen to justify the magazine's actions, resorting to libelous ad hominems and displaying distressing attitudes toward freedom of conscience. One of the more egregious examples of this occurred on October 31, when Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, appeared with Forrest Mims on the CNN's Crossfire. During the broadcast, Dr. Scott made some astonishing comments.
Early in the broadcast, co-host Cal Thomas asked Eugenie Scott: "Dr. Scott in San Francisco, let me jump in here and ask you a question. There are an awful lot of Americans, not only religious Americans, who believe that you evolutionists are trying to censor and silence people who don't agree with you. Isn't the essence of scientific inquiry free and open access and debate?"
Eugenie Scott replied, "It is indeed, but I think what we have to look at is what are we--what are giving--what are we calling equally valid ideas? We're not dealing with political speech, we're not dealing with opinions on art. We're dealing with what science is..."
In essence, Dr. Scott seemed to be saying that freedom of conscience doesn't extend to science, because science deals in matters of truth--as opposed to .matters of opinion. Such a viewpoint indicates a grave misunderstanding of both the nature of science and the meaning of freedom of conscience.
Dr. Scott's manner of contrasting science with "opinion" is strikingly similar to certain passages from the California Science Framework, a document on which her organization had substantial input. In that document, the authors asserted that science was distinct from other disciplines, like history, literary criticism, and philosophy, because science aims to be objective, testable, and consistent. This is a seriously misguided view, aptly called scientism. As philosopher of science Nicholas Rescher points out:
The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end- all--that what is not in science books is not worth knowing--is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive world-view. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it....
Objectivity, testability, and consistency are the hallmark of all scholarly activity. They separate good scholarship from bad scholarship, not science from everything else. And it is troubling when an organization ostensibly dedicated to science education does not recognize this fact.
Even more troubling, however, is the apparent implication that First Amemement protections are somehow irrelevant to science, the idea being that free speech and freedom of conscience should apply to areas in which truth is relative--i.e. in matters of opinion. But freedom of conscience is not something meant to apply only (or even primarily) to matters of simple opinion. It was intended to protect people from the tyranny of "unassailable truths" imposed by those in power. After all, how many inquisitions, religious or secular, ever bothered with matters that the authorities deemed to be merely matters of opinion? What needed protecting was not "opinion," but "truth." By implying otherwise, Dr. Scott has identified herself and her organization with a viewpoint that should give everyone cause for great concern.
In addition to her disturbing remarks on science and freedom of speech, Dr. Scott also made a libelous attack on Forrest Mims. Her attack occurred during the latter part of the broadcast, in answer to another query by Cal Thomas:
Thomas: Let's put the shoe on the other foot for the moment. Let's say that you were applying to a prestigious magazine or to a university for a research or teaching position and you were asked to put down your religious preference and let's say the head of the personnel department who was deciding on which person should be hired saw that you were of a religious faith or no religious faith that was different from his or her own and decided that you should not get that position because they were afraid that your religious faith or nonreligious faith might impact upon the university of magazine. Would you be upset? Would you be angry? Would you sue?
Dr. Scott: No, I'd have to talk to a lawyer about that, but I think the issue here has been unfortunately framed in terms of science versus religion and it's not that at all. It's really a matter of scientific competency. What you might consider is that evolution is not just that man descended from apes. Evolution is a theme. It's a grand unifying principle that runs across all scientific fields. Now, I'm not defending--
Thomas: But scientific--excuse me--
Scott: Let me finish. Let me finish.
Thomas: All right.
Scott: I am not an employee of Scientific American, so, you know, I am not defending them. They can defend themselves but what I would consider if I were in this--in their position is whether you would be--whether they would be limiting the scope of this column by hiring somebody who is so far out of the scientific mainstream. This man would not be able to write about a wide variety of scientific topics because of his views which are basically religious.
The point that Dr. Scott tried to make is one that has surfaced repeatedly in the creation/evolution debate: evolution is so integral to science and so well established that disbelievers cannot possibly be competent as scientists--or science writers.
This view, however, trades on equivocation and vagueness. As Dr. Scott uses the term, evolution is a "grand unifying principle that runs across all scientific fields." Or, as she stated earlier in the broadcast, "Evolution means that change has taken place in the history of the universe." But evolution in this vague sense is irrelevant to Mims' beliefs. What Mims had difficulty accepting was not the fact that change has taken place in the history of the universe. (How could anyone object to such a trivial statement?) His objection was to a theory of biological change that is much more controversial  , and much less central to science--even biological science  --than Dr. Scott and others would have us believe.
Dr. Scott's remarks, therefore, amount to little more than a libelous, and irrational, attack on Mims. Given Mims' credentials, and the fact that his competence was never an issue with the staff at Scientific American, Dr. Scott's remarks tell us more about herself than Forrest Mims and show just how far some people will go to protect a cherished "grand theme."
Dr. Scott's ad hominem is particularly unsettling in light of her conspicuous involvement in science education. Recent reform efforts in science education have strongly emphasized teaching science as a way of knowing, and have laid great stress on getting students to apply scientific skills and attitudes to everyday situations. By eschewing a scientific attitude in favor of an ill-founded ad hominem attack, Dr. Scott has become an unfortunate role-model and has perhaps even damaged the credibility of her organization as a promoter of scientific literacy.
Although the general support for Forrest Mims in the media is an encouraging sign, the actions of Scientific American and its supporters are still a source of genuine concern. In these actions one can see a troubling disregard for important principles and ideals. In this context, the following warning seems particularly appropriate:
Recent controversies over religion and public life have too often become a form of warfare in which individuals, motives, and reputations have been impugned. The intensity of the debate is commensurate with the importance of the issues debated, but to those engaged in this warfare we present two arguments for reappraisal and restraint.
The lesser argument is one of expediency and is based on the ironic fact that each side has become the best argument for the other. One side's excesses have become the other side's arguments; one side's extremists the other side's recruiters. The danger is that, as the ideological warfare becomes self-perpetuating, more serious issues and broader national interests will be forgotten and the bitterness deepened.
The more important argument is one of principle and is based on the fact that the several sides have pursued their objectives in ways which contradict their own best ideals. Too often, for example, religious believers have been uncharitable, liberals have been illiberal, conservatives have been insensitive to tradition, champions of tolerance have been intolerant, defenders of free speech have been censorious, and citizens of a republic based on democratic accommodation have succumbed to a habit of relentless confrontation.4
Whatever we debate, then, let us do so as vigorously as the issues demand. But let us never sacrifice those things that are truly important.
 Rescher, N. (1984). The Limits of Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.
 "Until only a few years ago, the 'synthetic' or 'neo- Darwinist' theory of evolution stood virtually unchallenged as the basis of our understanding of the organic world. There were, to be sure, a few who held out against the consensus, but they had very little influence on the majority of biologists. Almost all the research that was undertaken in evolution was designed to investigate the operation of natural selection, and was seen as confirming the theory. "Today, however, the picture is entirely different. More and more workers are showing signs of dissatisfaction with the synthetic theory. Some are attacking its philosophical foundations, arguing that the reason that is has been so amply confirmed is simply that is is unfalsifiable: with a little ingenuity any observation can be made to appear consistent with it. Others have deliberately setting out to work in just those areas in which neo-Darwinism is least comfortable, like the problem of gaps in the fossil record or the mechanisms of non-Mendelian inheritance. Still others, notably some systematists, have decided to ignore the theory altogether, and to carry on their research without any a priori assumption about how evolution has occurred. Perhaps most significantly of all, there is now appearing a stream of articles and books defending the synthetic theory. "It is not so long ago that hardly anyone thought this was necessary." Ho, M.-W. & Saunders, P.T. (1984). Preface. Beyond Neo-Darwinism. (M.-W. Ho & P.T. Saunders eds.), p. ix.
 "While evolution may well be the thread that ties all of biology together, concern about the fabric of the subject seems to have had little play in much of modern biology. There are professional biologists who would be indifferent ot the title and substance of Theodosious Dobzhansky's 1973 essay "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution." Indeed, as I found the other day, when speaking with a bright, and not-that-young, molecular geneticist, there are biologists out there who have never heard of Professor Dobzhansky. One can be a successful practitioner of many areas of contemporary biology without considering how organisms, molecules or phenomena came to be or their descent relationships. A relative absence of interest in evolution prevails in a number of areas of biology, with high-tech molecular biology being the most prominent of them." Levin, B.R. (1984). Science as a Way of Knowing--Molecular Evolution. American Zoologist, 24, pp. 451-464. (p. 451).
 From The Williamsburg Charter, presented to the nation on June 25, 1988, the 200th anniversary of Virginia's call for the Bill of Rights.
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Guest Column in The Scientist
The Scientist 5:0, Feb. 18, 1991 Opinion
Intolerance Threatens Every Scientist--Amateur Or Not
By Forrest M. Mims III
For more than 20 years I dreamed of some day becoming the writer of "The Amateur Scientist," the popular column in Scientific American that inspired me to become a science writer. After my dream came true, Scientific American revoked my assignment to write the column because of my views on evolution and abortion.
The controversy over my dismissal from "The Amateur Scientist" has been characterized by irony. Were he alive today, Rufus Porter, the founding editor of Scientific American, would be fired from his own publication, for he advocated belief in "Creator God" in the magazine's premier issue in 1845. Since Porter actually wrote about God and I promised not to, his offense was infinitely more embarrassing than mine.
Another irony is that the roots of "The Amateur Scientist" can be traced to the November 1925 issue, the cover of which proclaimed, "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God." This quotation from the Book of Psalms was the title of an article by Albert Ingalls that paved the way for a column on amateur astronomy that eventually became "The Amateur Scientist."
Of course the ultimate irony is that Jonathan Piel, editor of Scientific American, continues to find himself the focus of the public relations nightmare he wanted to avoid. For more than a month, so many reporters, writers, and broadcasters called my office that sometimes both telephone lines and the fax line would be ringing simultaneously.
Neither Piel nor I anticipated the intense barrage of criticism that would be leveled at Scientific American. In an eloquent letter to Claus-G. Firchow, the magazine's president, Lamar Hankins, executive director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union, wrote that the magazine's conduct was "grounded in the intolerance of another era, if not another century." He compared the magazine's action with McCarthyism and blacklisting.
The Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science sent me a letter that stated, "A person's private behavior or religious or political beliefs or affiliations should not serve as criteria in the evaluation of articles submitted for publication. We emphasize, in particular, the consensus of the Committee that even if a person holds religiously derived beliefs that conflict with views commonly held in the scientific community, those beliefs should not influence decisions about publication of scientific articles unless the beliefs are reflected in the articles." The AAAS Committee on Council Affairs reviewed this letter and recently notified me that it states "the relevant AAAS principles."
Many other organizations as well as individual scientists have sent letters of support. An astronomer even offered to help defray the expenses of a lawsuit. Laurence Tribe of Harvard University's law school and Nobel physicist Arthur Schawlow of Stanford University voiced their concern in the press. And many editorials and columns castigated the magazine.
Prior to the magazine's revocation of my assignment to "The Amateur Scientist," no one at Scientific American ever questioned my qualifications. That's why I was surprised by the disparaging remarks about my qualifications that were made by several scientists quoted in the press.
One said that as a believer in creationism I lack the credibility to write about science. Another suggested that I was attempting to "penetrate" mainline scientific organizations. During a nationally televised debate, an anthropologist who directs an anticreationist organization questioned my competency.
To the best of my knowledge, none of these scientists read any of my works before making their judgments.
The controversy has received extensive media coverage, most of it fair and objective. Among the few exceptions was a newspaper column by Arthur Caplan of the University of Minnesota. "I think Mims deserved to be fired," Caplan wrote in his Dec. 10, 1990, column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He also wrote, "I believe Mims is not qualified to write a regular column about science for the general public."
After it received some 50 letters of protest from irate readers, the newspaper that printed this attack against my reputation responded with a Dec. 29 editorial that chastised Scientific American. The Birmingham News, another newspaper that ran Caplan's column, received so many protest letters that the editor called me to offer his apologies and then assigned a philosopher to write an eloquent rebuttal that appeared in the Dec. 19, 1990, edition. In a particularly unusual step, the wire service that distributed Caplan's column picked up a response I wrote for the Pioneer Press, which was published in the paper on Dec. 29.
I was so stunned by Caplan's attack that I called him and asked what he knew of my background and qualifications. He was totally unaware that for 20 years I have earned a living by writing more than 50 books and many hundreds of articles and papers for some 75 magazines, journals, and newspapers.
Caplan also didn't know that I have designed and assembled and have operated, virtually every day for 22 months, the only two ground-based total column ozone monitors between California and Florida at my latitude. He didn't know that my son and I have used these miniature instruments to measure the column ozone between the base and crest of several mountains, and to measure the column ozone from a moving vehicle over the width of a resolution element of the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) aboard the Nimbus 7 while that satellite passes overhead.
Nor did Caplan know about any of my other projects, including the development of miniature infrared travel aids for the blind; a photographic study of the life cycle of the black widow (Latrodectus mactans); an ongoing program to measure the sun's ultraviolet radiation every day (32 months of data to date); the design of instruments to measure the near-infrared reflectance of soil, leaves, wood, and human skin; a study to identify Africanized bees by the frequency of their wing beat; measurements of the bounce rate of the black and yellow Argiope (A. aurantia) on its web; the dozens of instrumented rockets I have built and launched; hundreds of measurements of background radiation aboard commercial aircraft; and the numerous other investigations and projects I have conducted in fields ranging from analog computers and digital controllers to optical fibers and laser communicators.
Even after learning about some of this work, Caplan still insists I should be prohibited from writing "The Amateur Scientist," since belief in intelligent design, meaning a universe created by God, means that I will selectively apply the scientific method. This sword cuts both ways, and it is Caplan who fails his own test. On what evidence does Caplan question my objectivity?
None. His claim is based solely on a religious stereotype unsupported by any evidence whatsoever from my writings. Had he taken the time to examine them, he would have found that the articles and books about the electronic circuits, instruments, and computer programs that I design, and the investigations in which they are used, clearly follow traditional scientific methods. Moreover, I describe these instruments and programs in sufficient detail so they can be duplicated by my readers. If they did not function properly, I would soon be out of the writing business.
Caplan mistakenly believes biology will be left out of "The Amateur Scientist" if I am returned to the column. He is completely unaware that I live in the country and keep sheep, photograph wildflowers, collect fossils, observe wild bees, collect spider silk, and study the effects on the local ecology of imported fire ants.
Indeed, I was so concerned by the virtual absence of the life sciences from "The Amateur Scientist" over the past decade that several biology topics were included among the 30 proposed columns that were accepted by Scientific American. My proposed topics included an ultraviolet sunburn dosimeter, a study of eyeshine phenomenon, an investigation of amber, the reflectance spectroscopy of various plant materials, the electro-optical detection of pollen grains suspended in air, an investigation of spider webs, and the design of several prosthetic devices for the blind.
Even after they learned that I believe in the same Creator God espoused by their founding editor, no one on the staff at Scientific American questioned my ability to write these and the many other columns I proposed. Instead, they expressed considerable enthusiasm, and Piel himself said more than once that I should have been hired 10 years earlier.
On what basis does Caplan conclude that advocates of intelligent design are unwilling to discuss biology in a magazine column? Is he unaware of their major contributions to biology and science over the centuries? Why is he so threatened by an amateur scientist who builds instruments, writes books, and believes in God? On my desk are many letters of support from professional scientists, some of whom are biologists. Last year, 49 New York physicians signed a public declaration entitled "All Life is of Divine Origin." Will Caplan's next column call for the resignations of these scientists and physicians?
In retrospect, it's apparent that Jonathan Piel had good reason to be worried about the Arthur Caplans of the scientific community when he canceled my assignment to "The Amateur Scientist." Now that I've been subjected to some of their attacks, I can almost sympathize with Piel's plight. Even though he anticipated their reaction and dismissed me, to his credit he never once stooped to disparage my qualifications.
My lifetime ambition to write "The Amateur Scientist" was thwarted by scientific orthodoxy, not science. History teaches that scientific orthodoxy is nothing new. Besides ruining careers and closing opportunities, its adherents slow progress by stifling academic freedom and chilling the free and open exchange of ideas. Because dissenters who are qualified to do science threaten this orthodoxy, they are labeled as heretics, are publicly castigated, and are sometimes fired, much as I was.
No matter what their views on evolution and abortion, scientists and those who write about science should carefully consider the implications for science in general and their own careers in particular if Scientific American goes unchallenged. For next their personal beliefs may be questioned, their works censored, their reputation maligned, and their First Amendment rights denied.
Forrest M. Mims III has been a professional writer of books and articles about electronics, computers, and lasers since 1970. He works out of a small laboratory and office in Seguin, Texas.
Northwest Technical College Route 1, Box 246-A Archbold, Ohio 43502
From: PSCF 45 (March 1993)
More and more frequently, those in science who are vocal about their objections to evolutionary naturalism as a universal explanation for the living world will be likely to experience employment problems in the field, as documented elsewhere by this author (Bergman, 1984; 1991). One of the latest in a recent string of cases involves Scientific American, the nation's oldest and most well-known popular science publication. The monthly magazine has an international circulation of more than 650,000 subscribers and has been publishing since the middle 1800s.
This particular affair began in May of 1988 when Forrest Mims, III, a veteran science writer from Seguin, Texas, proposed to write the magazine's popular amateur science column. Mims' background includes the authorship of over sixty books on science and hundreds of magazines articles published in journals including Science Digest, Popular Mechanics, Modern Electronics, and National Geographic (Mims, 1990a). Mims' science books have been published by Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill, Radio Shack and other mainline, respected firms (Eastland, 1991, p. 32; Mims, 1992c). He is also a regular columnist for several science magazines and is now the editor of a highly successful science magazine Science Probe! (Sidney, 1990, p. 56). Of this new magazine, a review in Nature said:
Science Probe! is a cornucopia of delights for the amateur scientist and, I suspect, of real value also to the professional. It bears such treasures as the telephone number through which to obtain graphic images, in a format compatible with your personal computer, from the Hubble telescope; how to make an electrocardiogram; and how to encounter slime moulds in their natural habitat. It is transdisciplinary and regards all science as open to the amateur.... Science is criticized by some philosophers as soulless and damaging. This may be true of that part of science which has become too serious, narrowly specialized and subject to the strictures of scientific correctness;....How did we allow dogma to become respectable and speculation pejorative? I grew up in a science thinking that our task was to reduce science fiction to practice and have done my best to do so. I hope that Science Probe! flourishes and brings back science as something interesting that can be done at home (1992, p. 436).
Forrest Mims first submitted a proposal to write Scientific American's column, "The Amateur Scientist," in 1988 (Hartwig, 1990, p. 6). He approached the magazine only after University of Cincinnati physics professor Jerl Walker gave notice that he could no longer author the column (Gardner, 1991, p. 356). Mims' great interest in this column stems from his love for science which was originally awakened by this column. While still a young man, Mims dreamed that he would someday be its author. Later, C.L. Strong, the column's long time author, told Mims before he died that Mims would someday be in charge of the column (Eastland, 1991, p. 32). It soon seemed that his dream would come true: the Editor, Jonathan Piel, phoned in late July, 1989, asking Mims if he wanted to take over "The Amateur Scientist" column (Eastland, 1991, p. 32). In late August 1989, Piel asked Mims to write several sample columns—and in three weeks, three 3000 word pieces were submitted (Mims, 1991a; 1990; 1990b; 1990c).
Piel then invited Mims to come to New York to discuss the details of doing the column. Things went extremely well, Mims recalls, until Piel asked what other publications he had written articles for. Only then did the Christian magazines that Mims once wrote for come up, provoking the question: "What did you write about for these magazines?" The answer was, "Bicycling trips and aerial photography" (Eastland, 1991, p. 34). Mims did not then know the repercussions that would ensue from the serious mistake that he made in mentioning these articles. Nothing that he had written was even remotely related to the topic of creationism, but the fact that Mims had written for Christian magazines obviously disturbed Piel (Kincaid, 1990). After the Editor inquired as to exactlywhat he had written for Christian magazines, Piel pointedly asked him his major concern: "Do you accept Darwin's theory of evolution?" (Hartwig, 1990, p. 6). Mims responded that he did not, an answer that was the beginning of the end.
From then on, "Piel's attitude toward him changed dramatically" (Hartwig, 1990, p. 6). Piel informed Mims that he would not be allowed to write anything for anypublication that Scientific American objected to. Piel was specifically concerned about articles on the subject of creation or against evolution or anti-abortion pieces. Mims was warned that if an outside article was published without Scientific American's prior review and permission, he would face a pay cut or dismissal (Sidey, 1990, p. 56). Mims pointed out in response that he has never used his writing to promote his creationist beliefs, nor would he do so in the future (Mims, 1992a). To insure that he conformed to this demand, Piel continued to insist that all of Mims' outside writings must be reviewed by Scientific American prior to their publication elsewhere.
Soon after he returned home, Mims submitted his initial three columns. Several months later, however, Mims was again questioned by Piel and another editor about his views on abortion and related topics. Actually, Mims notes, abortion and his Christianity were also major issues. He writes:
Gardner's defense of his former employer, Scientific American, is misplaced. He knows that to this day the magazine's staff remains divided over the issue ... [of if I should have been terminated and] that I was asked more about abortion and my Christian faith than about evolution. He also knows about the duplicity of the magazine's editor, who denied his promise to buy and publish three of my columns. The columns were published only after the magazine's president intervened. Moreover, in Gardner's first report about this unfortunate matter, even he cited the transcript in Harper's (March 1991) in which the following exchange appears:
MIMS: Prior to the visit to your offices, there was never even a hint that religion would become an issue.
PIEL: Forrest, come on, that's why I had the meeting with you (Mims, 1992b, p. 444).
Piel again expressed his concern that the reputation of Scientific American could suffer if Mims openly supported in some way the views of the anti-abortion movement or was critical of evolution. When Piel specifically asked, "Are you a fundamentalist Christian?" (a label he does not accept)—Mims objected to the obviously illegal question. He responded, "I will not be discriminated against" (Sidey, 1990, p. 56).
Scientific American then published the three columns that Mims had prepared, but only after the magazine's president intervened and on condition that Mims signed a written agreement waiving all of his rights to obtain legal redress from the magazine for religious discrimination (Truehart, 1990; Mims, 1992b, p. 444). The agreement with Scientific American specifically stated that Mims would not pursue legal action to rectify the religious discrimination he experienced. Mims was then dropped as a writer, and rather than risk a law suit, the editors then decided to permanently drop the column which, with the threat of a lawsuit past, has since been resumed. They probably reasoned that, in order to win a discrimination suit, Mims must show only that someone less qualified who is not of his religious persuasion was hired—and if no one was hired, a suit would not have much chance in the courts (Eastland, 1991, p. 32). The column began in 1952 when Mims was eight years old, and it seemed for several months that Mims would have the honor of having the last byline in the column's long history.
A concern over the blatant discrimination that was occurring caused Mims to surreptitiously record one of his conversations with Piel, who stated on tape, "what you have written is first rate ... it's the public relations nightmare that's keeping me awake" (B. Davis, 1990). Excerpts of the transcript of much of this now famous thirty minute call were published in Harper's Magazine (March 1991, pp. 28-332). The editor's concern was not Mims' writing, but primarily the reaction of the scientific community to Scientific American employing a non-believer in megaevolution and that the critics of evolutionism could use Mims to advance their position (Eastland, 1991, p. 34; B. Davis, 1990). In a phone call the next day and later formally in a letter, Piel then terminated all further discussions of the possibility of Mims ever being a contributor to the pages of the magazine.
Few if any of the events in this case are in dispute. However, when contacted by various reporters, Piel actually stated, "Scientific American does not discriminate on any basis. We have not and never will." Both Piel and two former editors have openly stated that the reason Mims did not continue in the assignment was not because of his qualifications, but his personal religious conclusions and beliefs. Tom Appenzeller, currently science editor of The Sciences, said that there was, "no question about [Mims'] competence." At issue was the "public relations" aspect of a creationist being connected with the magazine (Sidey, 1990, p. 56). Appenzeller stated that the magazine's concern "was specifically his beliefs about evolution and his rejection of Darwinian selection" (Sidey, 1990, p. 56). And as Jukes (1991c, p. 12) noted, in view of this conflict due to religion, might Mims "not feel at home as a member of the staff of Scientific American?" The blatant bigotry that this statement evidenced was not perceived by Jukes: would Scientific American condone not hiring a Jew, giving the reason that he might "not feel at home as a member of the staff?"
Because he still would like to do the column, Mims has since tried to discuss this situation with Scientific American, but the magazine's attorneys have responded in writing, stating that "the publication has ended all business contacts" with him (Sidey, 1990, p. 56). They have even reportedly written to his other editors and tried to persuade them not to publish Mims' work. (Fortunately all of these editors refused to cave in to this bigotry.) As Eastland, (1991, p. 34) notes:
Mims knows that if had never volunteered that he'd written a few pieces for Christian magazines—on some awfully tame subjects—he'd be writing the "Amateur Scientist" today....Even more striking than Mims telling the editor of Scientific American that he is a Christian was his failure to confess, when asked about it point blank, to the theory of evolution. This was more than a breach of etiquette—it was heresy.
Mims does not describe himself as a fundamentalist, but as an evangelical Christian (Truehart, 1990; 1990a). His views on evolution and creation are not clear cut: he accepts microevolution and his definition of creationism is simply "the doctrine that God created the world or universe" (Denini, 1990, p. 2b; Weisberg, 1990, p. 47). In his own words, he believes only that the universe was designed by God, and he has not published any details about his beliefs. In personal conversations Mims has made it clear that his interests and knowledge is in the amateur science field, not the nuances of creationism (Mims, 1990e; 1991a). Gardner (1991, p. 357) concluded that Mims "is not a `young earther' who thinks the universe was created about 10,000 years ago. He allows that individual species were created at intervals over long periods of time, [and] the `days' of Genesis are not to be taken as 24-hour-time-spans." Those that I have talked to conclude that he would probably be more at home in ASA than either the Institute for Creation Research or the Creation Research Society.
Of course his actual beliefs are in fact largely irrelevant; what is relevant is the label forced upon him. Many have charged that he cannot do science and is trying to inject pseudoscience in his work, a charge to which Mims responds as follows:
The editorial then purports to explain "the firing of Mims" by contending that "the real reason was that creationists substitute what they call `creation science' for conventional science." This conclusion completely contradicts explanations given by Piel (Harper's 1991) and former editors at the magazine, ... all whom expressed great interest in my work and who were more than pleased with the columns I wrote for them (e.g., Abernathy 1990; National Public Radio 1990; Sharpe, 1990; The New York Times 1990; Weiman, 1990; Harper's Magazine, 1991). Moreover, the editorial fails to identify a single example in my published writings, including my three columns for Scientific American (Mims, 1990a), in which I have not practiced conventional science (Mims, 1992a, p. 1).
That the problem was less his beliefs than the labeling process—which can be vicious and is usually applied to a wide variety of positions, often to anyone in science who does not with wholesale enthusiasm embrace atheistic evolution—is clear from the general studies on this subject (Numbers, 1992; Eve and Harrold, 1991; Smith, 1990). The crux of the matter, in Eastland's (1991, p. 34) words, is that "the beliefs of evolutionary biologists imply a philosophical system that excludes a creator. Thus, for them, theistic evolution is a contradiction in terms; the alternatives are two and only two: creation or evolution, God or not God." Most of those who label themselves creationists and have been active publishing in the controversy do not identify with the Institute for Creation Research or the other groups which have been stereotyped as representing creationists (Morris, 1984; Numbers, 1992; P. Johnson, 1991). As Mims notes, critics often cite a "mock inquisition that demonstrates a stereotypical, prejudiced view of what creationists believe" (1992a, p. 2).
Many scientists have openly and actively supported the actions of Scientific American has taken in regards to Mims. (Lewis, 1992; King, 1991; Weinberg, 1991). As Arthur Caplan concludes:
Forrest Mims is a competent writer and amateur scientist. But his personal beliefs about creation limit what he can and cannot tell his readers about all the nooks and crannies of science. They also distort the picture he conveys regarding what science methodology is all about. It is a hard line to draw, but Forrest Mims and others who espouse a belief in creation and reject the scientific standing of evolution are on the wrong side of the line (1991, p. 13).
In response to this line of reasoning, Eastland (1991, p. 34) notes "The Forrest Mims story ultimately comes down to the remarkable influence that Darwinian fundamentalism has on institutions of science like Scientific American. The doctrine of evolution is what's `politically correct,' and woe betide those who express dissent." As P. Johnson put it:
Mims was sent packing because his very presence was perceived as a threat to Darwin's theory of evolution. Even if he never published a word about evolution, creationists might have cited him as a well-informed skeptic. If they did, angry Darwinists would cancel their subscriptions—and Scientific American knows who butters its bread. So Mims became a casualty in a religious war. Many Darwinists insist that people like Mims have to be kept out of science because their skepticism about evolution is inconsistent with scientific objectivity. One biology professor who defended the magazine's action reasoned that "I would be against having such a person writing a column, because at the base, this philosophy could enter everything one does in science (1990, p. B7).
A major difference between the Mims case and the many others in this modern religious battle between scientists and Christian theodicy is the enormous amount of favorable publicity that Mims has received. Most cases of this type—and there are thousands—receive either no publicity or extremely limited publicity. The many mainline, respected publications that have run articles about the Mims imbroglio range from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, to The Washington Post, and scores of others (Holden, 1990). Mims has also been on numerous talk shows and has given scores of radio interviews and television and personal appearances, including on CNN and national television. The wire services picked up the story, and "some one-thousand radio stations amplified Mims' complaint" Eastland (1991, p. 34). Mims also stated to me that he found the secular press far more supportive than the Christian news media.
Part of the reason that this case has generated so much publicity is that, according to Mims, "virtually all" of the reporters he talked to are "very sensitive" to the freedom of press issues involved. Eastland (1991, p. 34), concludes that a major reason for the support by reporters is because of the obvious fear that "this could happen to them too."
What is also unusual is the support that he has received from mainline scientists (Keleher, 1991; R. Johnson, 1990). The American Association for the Advancement of Science: Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility headed by Sheldon Krimsky, compiled a report on the Mims case, which stated in part that
...articles submitted for publication to journals devoted to science, technology and medicine should be judged exclusively on their scientific merit ... a person's private behavior, religious or political beliefs or affiliations should not serve as criteria in the evaluation of articles submitted for publication. We emphasize in particular, the consensus of the committee that even if a person holds religiously derived beliefs that conflict with the views commonly held in the scientific community, those beliefs should not influence publication of science articles unless the beliefs are reflected in the articles (Krimsky, 1990; Truehart, 1990).
Lemar Hankins, acting director of the Texas ACLU, likened the magazine's treatment of Mims to McCarthyism (Abernathy, 1990, p. 2; 1990a, 1990b). Admittedly, Scientific American possessed a genuine concern: a realistic fear of the effects on the magazine due to the intolerance commonly found in the scientific community to a theological world view (P. Johnson, 1990). According to Abernathy (1990, p. 2) "former Scientific American editors Timothy Appenzeller and Armand Schwab, Jr. told the Chronicle earlier that Piel feared Mims' hiring could create ill will among biologists and other scientists who believe in evolution." Potjewyd compared Mims to other religious scientists, concluding:
We have been raised to believe that we are free to practice our beliefs and still be allowed to work together, at least within science, with people whose belief systems are different from our own. The system is not supposed to enforce a litmus test of beliefs, nor can it force Mims to score a passing grade on a test of correct scientific opinions. Imagine what would have happened to Isaac Newton if he had been forced to accept the current opinion about what influences planetary motion as a condition of acceptance of the post of mathematics professor at Cambridge.
Most of Newton's manuscripts on religion were long concealed from the world's notice. Of the major nonscientific works now in print, only one, the Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, was prepared for the press by Newton himself. For 200 years, most of Newton's religious manuscripts were suppressed because it was believed that Newton's beliefs would tarnish his image as a scientific genius. Would Newton's personal beliefs have prevented him from working as a science writer at Scientific American?
I, as a scientist, know that I do not have to judge the worth of another person's value system as an indication of his or her knowledge of science or skill at handling the job of science writer, as was Mims' lot. Scientists leave this to a "Higher Authority." Scientific American cannot afford to. What this should tell us is that Scientific American is not very scientific and not very American (1991, p. 12).
Piel himself specifically stated that the association of an evolutionism non-believer with the magazine "could harm the cause of science and alienate crucial groups of authors or readers" (Truehart, 1990, p. 6). Piel correctly recognized that the scientific community would not take lightly to them allowing a non-believer in evolutionism to author articles for the magazine, and many would be likely to boycott it (Nutting and Nutting, 1991). Jukes openly stated "the actual reason" Mims was released by Scientific American "was because he was a creationist" (1991a, p. 1).
As Gardner, another Scientific American editor, adds, "from a PR standpoint, having a creationist write regularly for the magazine would become increasingly embarrassing" (1991, p. 357). To explain his position he uses the example of medical journal considering someone to write a column about nutrition, then discovering that the person is a naturopath who did not believe that germs cause disease, or Sky and Telescope assigning someone to write a column on how to make or buy telescopes, and then finding that the author did not believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Gardner (1991, p. 358) concludes that in both of these cases the writer might be well informed about nutrition or telescopes, but the magazine would be fully justified in not allowing them to write to avoid facing ridicule. While these examples may be somewhat strained if not unrealistic, no world view is fully objective, and as a University of California at Berkeley law scholar notes, science has today been strangled by naturalistic Darwinism:
In Darwinist hands, however, science includes a philosophical bias that is essentially religious in character. Darwinists begin by assuming that science excludes the possibility of a creator. They conclude that purely material processes (like random mutation and selection) must have created all the wonders of the living world, because nothing else was available to do the job. (P. Johnson, 1990:B7)
For this reason many of Mims' supporters feel that Gardener's analogy is not only invalid, but that it is an unethical "guilt by association" ploy. Gardner quotes University of Maryland physicist Robert Park, who stated that Mims has "established that he doesn't have credibility to write about science" if he rejects evolutionism. This illustrates the common attitude among scientists on the subject of origins (Truehart, 1990; 1990a). Poll after poll finds about half of all Americans are conservative creationists, and further over 20% of all biology teachers and professors do not accept evolutionism. As Milner notes:
According to a 1982 Gallup Poll, the American public is almost evenly divided between those who believed that God created man in his present form in a single act of creation in the last 10,000 years and those who believe in evolution or an evolutionary process involving God. Although the Gallup organization did not conduct a follow-up study, a more recent survey of beliefs among a collegiate population was made in 1986 by social scientists at the University of Texas. Nearly 1,000 students at five colleges were asked whether they accepted certain propositions as true, including the story of Adam and Eve. A surprisingly large majority, 60 percent, of the students in the survey said they do believe that "Adam and Eve were created by God as the first two people." If the study is accurate, a higher proportion of the college-educated Americans believe the Adam and Eve story than the general population polled by Gallup four years earlier (1990, p. 100).
Gardner assumes his analogy is valid because he believes that naturalism evolutionism is a fact, and, as an Eric Hofferian true believer, he refuses to consider any other world view. Gardner, who was "raised a fundamentalist," evidently had a bad experience with religion or religious people, and now calls himself a "philosophical theist" (1991, p. 357). He concludes that God had nothing to do with the creation of the universe or anything in it, including humans. God is presumably like an army general who takes over a thriving village and claims the village's successes as its own. Likewise, after the universe evolved by its own forces, God decided to steal the credit for its many wonders.
Ironically, Gardner steadfastly claims that it was not Mims' religion that ruined his career at Scientific American, but only his beliefs about evolution. Yet he states:
"... it would be interesting to see if Mims ever has the courage to write an article on say, how amateur scientists can build equipment for testing (by any of several different techniques) the ages of fossils and human artifacts, or will he, like a good Southern Baptist, carefully avoid any topic that might provide support for the theory that fundamentalists believe to be the work of Satan?" (Emphasis added).
And Gardner adds, "although he [Mims] prefers to call himself an evangelical, Mims is a Southern Baptist fundamentalist" (1991, p. 358; 357). Gardner here makes it clear that Mims' beliefs about evolution are an integral part of his religion, and that he was not hired because of those beliefs, then makes the astounding claim that "it was not Mims' religion" that caused his problems (1991, p. 357). Mims, in response to Gardner, insists he is not a fundamentalist, but an evangelical and that there is a "significant difference between the two" (Mims, 1992b, p. 444). Gardner then concludes that "it is unlikely that either Cal Thomas or Forrest Mims will ever go back to college—fundamentalist colleges like Jerry Falwell's exempted—to take geology 101 and change their minds about evolution" (1991, p. 358). As explained by P. Johnson, the Mims episode
... shows us that science is beset by religious fundamentalism—of two kinds. One group of fundamentalists—the Biblical creation-scientists—has been banished from mainstream science and education and has no significant influence. Another group has enormous clout in science and science education, and is prepared to use it to exclude people they consider unbelievers. The influential fundamentalists are called Darwinists (1990, p. 12).
Smith (1990) calls professors with this unreasonable hostility against religion "academic fundamentalists," and Frair has concluded that "the scientific enterprise itself is weakened by the type of intolerance and censorship evidenced by the staff of Scientific American" (1992, p. 157).
Eastland (1991, p. 34) has concluded that had it not been for religious bigotry,
"Forrest Mims would be writing today the column he so clearly would have been good at. Scientific American's worry about `a possible inadvertent linking' of Mims' beliefs `with the good name of this magazine' is irrational unless one irrationally assumes that its readership is also irrational."
He adds that "the Mims affair has demonstrated the `public relations nightmare' a magazine can have when it acts like Scientific American." The solution to the problem, as stated in broad terms by Flesher (1990, p. 12) a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, is "to resist the impulse to exclude, a priori, any competent scientist from contributing work or comment in open publication, discussion, and debate. Science is about knowing, it is not about believing."
The wider importance of this controversy is that
... millions of people in oppressed lands would consider themselves truly blessed if the worst thing that could happen to them was denial of employment at one bigoted firm. But ... this is the only country that professes such an intolerance of discrimination .... Against that buffoonishly self-righteous background comes the case of a man denied employment for the most pernicious reason of all: his private inner beliefs. In Mims' 20 years as a science writer, he has not brought up, even once, the creationism he believes in. And there is certainly no reason to believe he would have mentioned the unmentionable in any employment at the close-minded Scientific American. Indeed, it appears his private beliefs were revealed only as a result of an intrusive employment interview.... What, Mims asked incredulously, does this have to do with my writing articles on such things as how amateurs can measure the length of lightning bolts, or build a solar observatory. As this is being written and read, cataclysmic reforms are taking place in the Soviet Union. For all we know, they may presently be enacting legislation making it a crime to discriminate on the basis of an individual's inner beliefs—or even to ask about them as a condition of employment. Just the thought of such potential monumental embarrassment to this nation should make every concerned American drop whatever he or she is doing and rally to the cause of Forrest M. Mims 3rd (Freedman, 1990, p. 10).
Mims' track record should speak for itself, but in this case something else obviously spoke far louder (Keleher, 1991; Taylor, 1991). As Mims put it, Scientific American judged him on his beliefs, not for what he can do (Truehart, 1990). Art Salsberg, the editor of Modern Electronics and one who knows Mims' record, stated in an editorial that when filling out directories for writers that list their publication needs and their article requirements, "I have never come across a question related to anything personal, such as religious beliefs, political leanings, ..." (1991, p. 5). And as for the work of Forrest Mims, which he has long been familiar with, Salsberg said,
"it seems that Scientific American's editor feared that he would be embarrassed if other people found out about Forrest's beliefs and tried to exploit the fact that he was writing for the publication. Now that's paranoid, at best, I think, given the subject matter that Forrest writes about."
Salsberg adds, "that Mims' personal beliefs have nothing to do with the work he does," noting that two other regular Modern Electronics writers also "share his private beliefs" and that whether one is a creationist is "simply not a consideration here for accepting or rejecting anyone's articles (1991, p. 5). For many scientific journals, though, it is obviously very important—Scientific American even refuses paid ads for all creationists' publications (Frair, 1992).
Mims agrees with Salsberg, noting that:
Gardner also ridiculed the fact that I am editor of Science Probe! —[what he calls a] "a handsome new science magazine." Scientific writings stand or fall on their own merit. Would Gardner reject the writings of Galileo, Newton, Bacon, Kepler, Linnaeus, Pasteur, and a host of others because of their abiding faith in God? Would he have written for Scientific American had he known its founding editor, Rufus Porter, advocated in its pages belief in a Creator God?
What is puzzling about all this is that Gardner has assured me that he, too, believes in a "creator God" who is also a "personal God." Although Gardner believes God created life through evolution, he has also assured me that his theism does not preclude the possibility that God is capable of creating life spontaneously and without evolution (Mims, 1992b, p. 444-445).
An interesting comparison of Science Probe! with Scientific American was made by Lovelock:
... neither the journals of science nor the news media have commented on the colours of the night sky since the eruption of Pinatubo. [Yet]... Pinatubo and the night sky were covered in the new magazine Science Probe!. An informative article answered many of my questions, and even showed how to estimate the height of the aerosol layer from the length of time colours lingered after sunset. This journal brings back a world of which science was a familiar part. For me it recalled an altogether lighter and more friendly Scientific American, read with joy in the public library at Brixton, south London, 60 years ago. Such reading and amateur experiments led me to a fulfilling life in the vocation of science, reading that was the antidote to the scientifically correct but utterly dull teaching of my grammar school. Science taught then, as now, was mere knowledge needed to pass exams (1992, p. 436).
Mims is only one of many persons who were labeled "creationist" and consequently were locked out of their scientific publishing positions. The Editor of Scientific American also refused to "give Dr. [Phillip] Johnson space to respond to a rancorous and sulking four-page review of his book by Stephen J. Gould,* despite the urging of numerous fair minded scientists" (Buell, 1992, p. 2). Professor P. William Davis, the author of several best selling college biology textbooks, including The World of Biology,Human Anatomy and Physiology and several others, was dropped by Saunders College Publishing Company as an author when the scientific community complained to Saunders because he had co-authored another book that alluded to the need for a designer to explain the natural world (P. W. Davis, 1988; Solomon et al, 1983). The other book, Of Pandas and People, (P. W. Davis, et al, 1989; see also Frair and P. W. Davis, 1983) resulted in the end of Davis' highly successful career as a college biology textbook author. Many do succeed, because as Pittman concluded, it is difficult to even determine the number of creationists in academia because "few creationists are willing to risk their jobs by 'outing' their principles in this climate" (1992, p. 9).
Johnson, Phillip E. "Unbelievers Unwelcome in the Science Lab; Evolution: Darwinists are really fundamentalists who would use their enormous clout to exclude creationists." (Commentary) in Los Angeles Times, Nov. 3, 1990, p. B7.
______. Darwin on Trial. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway and InterVarsity Press, 1991.
______. "Response to Jukes." Journal of Molecular Evolution, Vol. 34, 1992 (93-94).
Johnson, Richard J.V. (Chair. and Publ.), et al. "Blacklist Specter." (Editorial) in Houston Chronicle, Nov. 2, 1990 (28A).
Jukes, Thomas H. Opinion in "Readers React to the Forrest Mims-Arthur Caplan Debate." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 9, April 29, 1991 (14).
______. "Creationism vs. Scientific American.Journal of Molecular Evolution, Vol. 33, 1991a (1-2).
______. "The Persistent Conflict." Journal of Molecular Evolution, Vol. 22, 1991b (205-206).
______. "The Creation Controversy." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 15, July 22, 1991c (12).
______. "Creationists' Beliefs." The Scientist, Vol. 6, No. 2, June 20, 1992 (14).
Keleher, Leardon. "Give Mims A Chance." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 16, Aug. 19, 1991 (12).
Kincaid, Cliff. "Secularism Encroaches Further into Private Life; Scientific American Suppresses Science by Christians." Human Events, Dec. 1, 1990 (10).
King, Julia. "The Mims Case: Defending Science or Persecuting Religion?" The Scientist, Feb. 18, 1991 (11).
Krimsky, Sheldon. (Chair, Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.) Report on Forrest M. Mims, III., Oct. 29, 1990.
Leguire, L. E. "Defining A Theory." The Scientist, Vol. 6, No. 3, Feb. 3, 1992 (12).
Lewis, Ralph W. "Embedded Theories." The Scientist, Vol. 6, No. 7, Mar. 30, 1992 (12).
Lovelock, James. "Bringing It All Back Home." Nature, Vol. 359, Oct. 1, 1992 (436).
Miller, David (Secretary, Jews for Morality) and Sigmund Friedman (Fellow, American Board of Allergy and Immunology). Letter to Mark Frankel, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Oct. 25, 1990.
Milner, Richard. The Encyclopedia of Evolution. New York, NY: (Facts on File), 1990.
Mims, Forrest M. "Sunspots and How To Observe Them Safely." (The Amateur Scientist) in Scientific American, June, 1990 (130-134).
______. A Complaint Concerning Religious Discrimination at Scientific American. Seguin, TX: Aug. 27, 1990a (1-8).
______. "How To Monitor Ultraviolet Radiation From the Sun." (The Amateur Scientist) in Scientific American, Aug. 1990b (106-110).
______. "A Remote-Control Camera That Catches the Wind and Captures the Landscape." (The Amateur Scientist) in Scientific American, Oct. 1990c (126-130).
______. Letter to Editor, Wall Street Journal (New York Ed.), Nov. 9, 1990d.
______. Letter to Jerry Bergman dated Dec. 13, 1990e.
______. "Intolerance Threatens Every Scientist—Amateur or Not." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 4, Feb. 18, 1991 (11, 13).
Sidey, Ken. "Charges of Discrimination; Scientific American Drops Christian Writer with Creation Beliefs." Christianity Today, Nov. 19, 1990 (56).
Smith, Page. Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.
Solomon, Eldra Pearl and Percival William Davis. Human Anatomy and Physiology. Philadelphia: Saunders Publ. Co., 1983.
Stambaugh, James. Opinion in "Readers React to the Forrest Mims-Arthur Caplan Debate." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 9, April 29, 1991 (12, 14).
Taylor, Ian. "Scientific American and the Forrest Mims Affair." Toronto Newsletter, Toronto, Canada, June, 1991 (1-2).
Thomas, Laurie E. "The Mims Affair." Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 116, Winter 1992 (217).
Truehart, Charles. "Big Bang Over Belief at Scientific American." The Washington Post (Style Section) Nov. 1, 1990 (D1, 6).
______. "Creationist Spars With Science Magazine." Toronto Star, Nov. 11, 1990a.
Villee, William, Percival William Davis and Eldra Pearl Solomon. Biology. Philadelphia: Saunders Publ. Co., 1985.
Walker, Tim. Opinion in "Readers React to the Forrest Mims-Arthur Caplan Debate." The Scientist, April 29, 1991 (12, 14).
Weiman, R. "A Religious Test For Science Writing?" St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dec. 27, 1990.
Weinberg, Stanley L. "Creationist Doesn't Belong at Scientific American." Origins Research, Spring-Summer, 1991 (3-4).
Weisberg, Jacob. "Washington Diarist." New Republic, Nov. 26, 1990 (47).
Wiester, John L. (Chair, ASA Committee for Integrity in Science Education.) Letter to Editor, Wall Street Journal (New York Ed.), Nov. 9, 1990.
______. "Evolution and Creation." The Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 5, March 4, 1991 (12).
Science Lectures by Forrest M. Mims III
With Power Point Presentations and Demonstrations
"He made it so easy to understand!"Student.
"The best science lecture I’ve heard." Businessman.
Forrest Mims has made a career of doing serious science, while also educating students and the general public about science. He relates well to those without a science background, because he studied government, not science, in college (BA, Texas A&M University 1966). Yet he has invented many scientific instruments and published many scientific articles and papers about the science he does with them. NASA has sent Forrest to Brazil and the Western U.S. to study the impact on the atmosphere of smoke from large fires while satellites were passing overhead.
Forrest has appeared on dozens of radio and TV programs, including Voice of America, CNN Crossfire and C-SPAN. He has spoken before many organizations and groups in the mainland U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, Brazil, Switzerland and Japan. In 2003, Forrest was featured in a documentary film about his science that was broadcast by Japan’s Asahi-TV as part of Toyota’s "Spaceship Earth" series. The film, by Shigeto Fukui, features Forrest’s ozone, ultraviolet, atmospheric and biological research in Hawaii and Texas.
Forrest has given numerous lectures, papers, demonstrations and speeches before elected officials, scientific conferences, government committees, business organizations, students, civic clubs and churches.
He has given invited seminars and speeches on many areas of science at the Goddard Space Flight Center, National Academy of Science, National Press Club, National Geographic Society, Explorer's Club, Air Resources Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), American Scientific Affiliation, Tropical Disease Center of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Sao Paulo, University of the Nations, Texas Lutheran University, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, Texas State University, Trinity University and the Space Science and Engineering Center of the University of Wisconsin. Since 1992, Forrest has taught a popular short course on experimental science for humanities majors at the University of the Nations in Hawaii.
Forrest specializes in science education for all age groups and has been a consultant for NASA’s GLOBE program, National Geographic Society, Concord Consortium, National Science Teacher’s Association and TERC. He has written many books about electronics and science for Radio Shack. He has also developed several Radio Shack educational lab kits.
If you would like to schedule a formal presentation, please write email@example.com to arrange the topic and discuss travel arrangements and the honorarium.
Forrest has lectured on many topics, including:
WILD FIRE! COPING WITH THE WORLDWIDE INCREASE IN FIRES
The same fire that serves as a natural part of the environment or a forest and agricultural management tool can quickly become a devastating monster. People around the world are increasingly using fire to clear land and manage agricultural. Many of these fires have escalated into catastrophic wild fires. The emissions from these fires have raised ground-level ozone throughout the Northern Hemisphere and pumped huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases into the air. What are the effects of the rush to burn? What are the options?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OZONE
Why should we worry about the ozone hole when people produce so much ozone? Forrest Mims has measured ozone around the world since 1989. In 1991, he found an error in NASA’s ozone satellite using a tiny instrument he designed and built. In 1993, his ozone research earned a Rolex Award. Forrest will clearly explain everything you need to know about ozone in everyday language. He will clear up many common myths about ozone. Weather permitting, Forrest can show interested members of the audience how to measure the ozone layer before or after his presentation.
HOW THE PERSONAL COMPUTER WAS BORN
2010 will be the 35th anniversary of the introduction of the PC by MITS, Inc., a tiny New Mexico company co-founded by Forrest Mims in 1969. In this lecture, Forrest describes the exciting string of developments that culminated in the birth of today’s personal computer. He will also talk about how Bill Gates and Paul Allen moved to New Mexico to join with MITS to spearhead the PC revolution under the name Microsoft. Other lecture topics include:
SCIENCE IN THE RAIN FOREST
THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN AFFAIR
DOING SCIENCE ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET
SKY WATCHING: APPRECIATING OUR OCEAN OF AIR
CONTRARIAN SCIENCE-- HOW TO DO GOOD SCIENCE BY BREAKING THE RULES