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Subject: Re: Information on Creationist Activities Wanted
From: (FMims)
Date: Jul 11 1996
Newsgroups: sci.geo.geology

11 July 1996

A recent post on sci.geo asked for information
about "Creationist activities." Apparently
someone cross posted my response, which was
intended for the geologists who read sci.geo, to As in the past when
and others have discussed the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
matter, some of the respondents posted
incomplete, erroneous or even mythological
information about my relationship with SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN and the columns I wrote. Yes, SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN did publish three of my columns. No, I
did not publish a do-it-yourself laser in
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN--although back when C.L.
Stong was doing "The Amateur Scientist" he
published some laser diode driver circuits from
some of my books. (Soon afterwards he told me
that one day I would probably be assigned the

As I am in the midst of an important study (it's
now the peak of the UV season) and am also
preparing for a series of trips during July-November,
 I do not have time to respond to
individual posts and e-letters (some quite long)
or to read all the books and articles various
people have suggested. Instead, I am posting a
commentary I submitted to NATURE a few years ago
which should set the record straight about really
happened during the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN affair.
Although NATURE rejected this commentary, they
have published a number of my scientific
submissions plus at least two previous letters on
science and religion.

I wish to make very clear that SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN has a new editor, and the magazine has
changed the policy it invoked in 1990, as
demonstrated by the fact it published in
September 1995 a letter I sent on UV-B,
amphibians and haze. (This letter was peer-reviewed.) 
Prior to the new editor taking over,
the magazine published an ad about the 1993 Rolex
Award which included a picture of me with the
ozone instrument which was to have been the
subject of my fourth column in SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN. Had this column been published when
scheduled, then the scientists, educators and
amateur scientists who later constructed it
(after I described the details in SCIENCE PROBE)
would have been able to track the ozone changes
that occurred after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
They might also have found the extrapolated
calibration error in NASA's primary ozone
satellite (which I found using two of these
instruments). (At a press conference in New York,
the Rolex public relations people were puzzled
about why one of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN's editors
was apparently not permitted to interview me
about this award.) 

As portions of the following commentary will
appear in a book I am writing, it is necessary to
include a copyright statement. I have no
objection to the commentary being placed on an
Internet faq so long as the copyright notice is
retained. (The letter from the AAAS is excluded
from this copyright notice.) 

15 April 1993

Science and theology at Cambridge and Nature

Copyright 1996 by Forrest M. Mims III

Sir--NATURE (1)chides the University of Cambridge
for its acceptance of a  1 million grant
establishing a lectureship in Theology and
Natural Science. Yet in the same issue NATURE
provides a forum for highly divergent views on
science and religion by Estling (2) and Byl (3)
and allows Warnock (4) to affirm that "unborn
fetuses and embryos have moral value." Are not
the students at Cambridge as entitled to
discourse on science and theology as the readers
     There was a time when scientists freely
expressed their religious faith in speeches and
publications. Today they do so at great risk to
their career and reputation, and it is highly
unlikely that an aspiring naturalist would
jeopardize his career by sending a manuscript to
NATURE that advocated the creationist view that
the conical pitfall of the ant lion larva
(Myrmeliontidae) is a product of intelligent
design. Yet this is precisely the view given by
Charles Darwin in Journal of Researches (1839)
about his voyage on H.M.S. Beagle (5), a now
classical work published the same year Darwin was
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
     In recent years the position about religious
faith held by some outspoken scientists has
devolved from tolerant coexistence to ridicule
and even bigotry and discrimination. I
experienced an unpleasant consequence of this a
few years ago at the hands of SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN, a magazine whose founder advocated
belief in a "Creator God" in its premier issue
(6). The editor of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN invited me
to take over its popular department "The Amateur
Scientist." This column had played a pivotal role
in stimulating my career as a science writer and
experimenter, and I immediately canceled several
lucrative magazine article and book projects to
accept the assignment. The editor praised (7) my
three contributions to the department, which
described how to observe sun spots (8), measure
solar ultraviolet radiation (9), and make aerial
photographs with a radio-controlled camera
suspended from a helium balloon (10). However,
the editor severed my relationship with the
magazine and denied he had agreed to publish the
columns after he concluded that certain tenets of
my Christian faith about which I was questioned
by him and his staff, viz. my rejection of
Darwinian evolution and abortion, would somehow
     The columns were published only after the
president of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN intervened on my
behalf. The national press took great interest in
the affair, and there followed more than 100
articles in newspapers (11-13), magazines (14, 15) and
science publications (16-18)and interviews and
debates on more than 50 radio and television
     Scores of scientists sent letters of support,
often accompanied by copies of protest letters to
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Some of these scientists
identified themselves as atheists or agnostics;
others were observant Christians or Jews. Several
confided that their careers would be ruined if
they were to publicly acknowledge their belief
that life is a product of intelligent design by a
Supreme Being.
     Meanwhile, several well-known scientists made
critical remarks in the press (9, 10, 17) about
my qualifications as a science writer. I
telephoned some of these critics and learned that
none of them had read any of my hundreds of
articles, papers and books, including my columns
in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Now when I submit a paper
to a scholarly journal, I sometimes wonder if one
of these scientists might be selected as an
anonymous reviewer.
     Although various organizations offered to
take SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN to court on my behalf, I
instead appealed to the American Association for
the Advancement of Science. The 16-member
Committee on Scientific Freedom and
Responsibility of the AAAS investigated the
matter, and its unanimous statement is quite
relevant to the ongoing debate over the
relationship of science and technology:

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

Sheldon Krimsky, Ph.D., Chair
Committee on Scientific Freedom and

     The editor of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN announced
that this statement's "criteria for publishing
scientific literature is 100 percent correct, and
I subscribe to it (13)." Yet my subsequent
applications to resume writing "The Amateur
Scientist" were rebuffed, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
publicly compared me with those who believe the
Earth is flat, and the attorney for SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN threatened me with legal action if I
made public statements about the affair.  
     It is relevant to note that more than
100 readers of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN sent
inquiries asking how to measure the total
ozone in a column through the atmosphere,
and that my fourth installment for "The
Amateur Scientist" was to have described
the construction of an inexpensive,
miniature filter ozonometer capable of
making such measurements with an accuracy
of a few percent. In 1992 I used this
instrument to discover a new error in
ozone retrievals from the Nimbus-7
satellite. Had the ozonometer project been
published in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, it is
likely that others would also have found
the satellite error, thereby corroborating
my findings and possibly even encouraging
earlier corrective action by NASA.
     When I sent letters to NATURE about
the Nimbus-7 ozone retrieval error and
other topics, the subsequent editorial
correspondence was limited to the subject
at hand. Despite the critical views about
theology that have appeared in its
editorial pages, the editors of NATURE
have never interrogated me about my
personal, but now well known, belief in a
Creator God. They have instead published
several of my letters, including the one
about the Nimbus-7 ozone retrieval error (19)
discovered by the instrument I was not
permitted to describe in SCIENTIFIC
     Only a very few magazines publish
science projects like those I design, and
permit me to again contribute to its
pages. Meanwhile, I am optimistic that the
commendable objectivity NATURE applies to
its authors can be extended to Cambridge's
new lectureship in Theology and Natural
Science and similar programs. Perhaps
NATURE will take another look at the
lectureship a year hence. Surely
reasonable and intelligent dialogue can
enlighten all concerned and help bridge
the chasm that too often separates
theology and science.  

Forrest M. Mims, III
433 Twin Oak Road
Seguin, Texas 78l55, USA

1. Nature, 362, 380 (1993).
2. Estling, R. Nature, 362, 388 (1993).
3. Byl, J. Nature, 362, 390,(1993).
4. Warnock, M. Nature, 362, 421 (1993). 
5. Darwin, C. Voyage of the Beagle, 324-325,
Penguin Books (London, 1989).
6. Porter, R., Sci. Amer., 1, 1, 2-3 (1845).
7. Piel, J. & Mims, F. Harpers, 282, 1690, 28-30
8. Mims, F. Sci. Amer., 262, 6, 130-133 (1990).
9. Mims, F. Sci. Amer., 263, 1, 106-109 (1990).
10. Mims, F. Sci. Amer., 263, 3, 126-129 (1990).
11. Davis, B. The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 22,
12. Moss, M. The New York Times, A18 (Oct. 24,
13. Trueheart, C. The Washington Post, D6-7 (Nov.
1, 1990).
14. Felt, R. The Skeptical Inquirer, 15, 4, 345-347 (1991).
15. Hartwig, M. Moody Monthly, 92, 2, 70-73 (1991) 
16. Holden, C. Science, 250, 752 (1990).
17. Mims, F. The Scientist, 5, 4, 11-13 (1991).
18. Caplan, A. The Scientist, 5, 4, 11-13 (1991).
19. Mims, F. Nature, 361, 505 (1993). 


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