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Must Scientists Credit Violent Anarchists' "Legitimate Concerns"?

The New Scientist regrettably reveals itself often as another example of those turgid science organs that have turned into sources of ideological propaganda. And so it is again with an article that starts by deploring anarchist attacks against scientists and winds up trying to defend anarchism.

The surprise is that anyone in a science journal would try to rationalize away the motives of terrorists. The shoe-on-the-other-foot test shows the folly. Imagine, for example, an article about some critic of Darwinian theory or global warming who so much as used violent language about scientists involved. You wouldn't hear the end of it.

Critics of Darwin or global warming theory don't use violent language, of course, and they are vilified nonetheless in the New Scientist, among other magazines that purport to speak for science these days. But when it comes to people who shoot scientists engaged in nuclear research or running biological research labs, the magazine seems to feel called upon to plead with the terrorists rather than demand their arrest and conviction.

The same has been true for years in respect to animal research for medical purposes. You have to be way over on the political extreme to get away with this sort of deference toward the indefensible.

"Why would they choose [violence]?" asks Randall Amster. "The answer, I think, is that they have legitimate concerns about the role of science and technology in modern society." So do a lot of people with more scholarly arguments, but they don't victimize anyone and don't get such fawning respect in response.