Malcolm Stevenson “Steve” Forbes, Jr.
60 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Dear Mr. Forbes:
A week ago, under the banner copied above, you published a Special Report: Charles Darwin and Evolution, which uncritically featured several articles by creationists. That prompted us to write Forbes Magazine Promotes Creationism. We concluded our article by saying:
The inclusion of even one creationist author in a report on Charles Darwin and Evolution is like including an article by Jeffrey Dahmer in a collection of nutrition articles.
We can’t be bothered trying to figure out why Forbes did such a thing. They did it, and their reasons don’t matter. What we do know is that this once-trusted magazine has thoroughly disgraced itself.
As you have doubtless learned from many sources, permitting your prestigious magazine to be a publicity platform for creationists has seriously damaged the fine reputation your magazine has heretofore enjoyed.
It’s true that you ran a subsequent article by Jerry A. Coyne, professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, Creationists don’t deserve credence — especially from Forbes, in which he stated:
Far more disturbing [than Michael Egnor’s misguided attack on evolution] is Forbes’ ham-handed policy of “balancing” the views of evolutionists by giving a say to Egnor and four other creationists. (Their articles, found here, are at least as misleading as Egnor’s.) Perhaps Forbes sees Darwinism as “controversial.” But it’s not, at least not in a scientific sense. Scientifically, evolution is a settled issue — a fact.
Journalists have an obligation to be fair, but this doesn’t mean that they must give charlatans a prestigious platform from which to broadcast their lies. By doing so, Forbes has debased both journalism and science.
But that doesn’t solve the problem. At this point, Forbes is merely presenting both sides. That’s very journalistic, but you must recognize that this was much more than a journalistic lapse. As all competent scientists will tell you, there aren’t two scientific sides to this question. Your magazine presented junk science as a serious alternative to genuine science. Someone on your staff knew exactly what was going on.
Obviously, no one expects Forbes to go to the lengths that a scientific journal would go, and send out proposed articles for peer review. But it would seem appropriate, given the topic of your Special Report, to have assembled a panel of respected experts to advise your editors. Had some reasonable precaution like that been taken, you would have avoided the embarrassment of lending your magazine’s credibility to junk science.
You can recover your magazine’s reputation, but it will require more than merely publishing that fine article by Professor Coyne, although that was certainly a proper thing to do.
We suggest that two steps are needed: One, you — not someone else — you, as the public face of your magazine, should acknowledge the error, and declare your resolve not to give your readers any similar cause to doubt your magazine’s commitment to journalistic excellence. Indeed, you should take the additional step of stating that Forbes retracts those creationist articles. That will clearly demonstrate that you regard this as more than a mere journalistic gaffe.
The second thing we suggest you should do is to openly make corrections in your editorial staff, so that those responsible for this unfortunate episode are not in a position to further damage to your reputation. In this regard, it won’t be sufficient to merely reprimand a few people and then issue instructions to refrain from such behavior in the future. Rather, actual personnel changes, publicly announced, would indicate that you understand both the nature and the seriousness of this matter.
We have always trusted your magazine. It’s been an oasis of rationality in a sea of journalistic idiocy. Especially in these times, we can’t afford to lose the trust that we have previously placed in Forbes — trust that you have traditionally deserved.
You can restore that trust. But you need to act — openly, promptly, and decisively. It’s not only good business, it’s the right thing to do.
/s/ The Curmudgeon
Update: The Discovery Institute’s website also has an Open Letter to Steve Forbes, written by their President, Bruce Chapman. Check it out. He suggests that objections to creationism are like socialists attacking capitalism — with the creationists siding with the capitalists, and thus being on the side of Steve Forbes.
Yes, there are academic leftists, but your Curmudgeon is about as pro-free enterprise as one can be. This isn’t about capitalism, as Chapman well knows. It’s about theocracy. Steve Forbes can figure it out for himself, without Chapman’s advice.
Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.