Perhaps it's a bit early to start talking about New Year's resolutions, but as the January issue of PopSci hits stands this week, I've got 2007 on the brain. My resolution? To get into more arguments. Well, OK: debates. Principled debates. Debates about principles.
First I’ll probably engage in a few informal, impromptu debates with my fellow editors in which we kick around our ideas about what the core principles of this magazine are, and how those principles do and should find their expression in these pages. I’ve been thinking about this for a while—that we all (editors and readers) would benefit from the bracing clarity that comes from the crafting and setting in type of a PopSci manifesto, a declaration of principles.
I can tell you already where this conversation begins: with unswerving support for scientific freedom. We at Popular Science will always advocate for the ability of scientists to engage in open inquiry without threat of sanction or censure, and with the assurance that the fruits of their research will be considered and debated publicly, carefully, and without prejudice. Science, both basic and applied, is, I believe, the primary engine for improvement in this world. But to be so, its practitioners’ efforts cannot be squelched before they begin, and their findings cannot be suppressed, no matter how socially or politically inconvenient they might be.
You may or may not agree with all that—I certainly don’t hold these truths to be self-evident—and so I expect I’ll be enjoying a healthy debate with and among PopSci readers. Normally, I wouldn’t expect a debate around such principles to be conducted along partisan political lines. Unfortunately, though, that kind of polarization is exactly what has been happening over the past six years, with a president in the White House whose actions and policies are often blatantly antagonistic toward scientific freedom—and, until next month, a same-party Congress so unwilling to challenge him that he felt the need to exercise his veto power exactly once (last July, to strike down a bill that would have established guidelines for federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research). My hope is that the political realignment brought about by the midterm elections will end up raising the level of discussion, in Washington and across the country. Let the debate begin. —Mark Jannot