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From: Usenet To: All Msg #112, Oct-06-93 08:24AM Subject: Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 Organization: MSU Dept. of Physics & Astronomy Subject: Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 of 1) From: hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu Message-ID: <28urgm$rpf@msuinfo.cl.msu.edu> Reply-To: hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu Newsgroups: sci.skeptic,talk.origins In article <28tr10$sca@organpipe.uug.arizona.edu>, sfm@manduca.neurobio.arizona.edu (Stephen Matheson) writes: >4. Jonathan Piel offered to buy and publish three of my columns >during a telephone call he placed to me on October 4, 1989: **************** Was this call recorded? Or is this simply Mim's recollection of how it went. Frankly I -can-NOT- consider him a disinterested party and simply accept his word of what was said based solely only his "word". Especially based on a telephone call. Verbal transactions are notoriously subject to misinterpretation, and misrememberance. And when one feels wronged sometime that can extend to willfull lying about what was said. > "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 and give Jearl [Walker] a > vacation...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 is keeping > me awake." > > (Published in part in HARPER'S, March 1991.) That it was "published" means nothing ... only that Mims repeated this (HIS) story of the conversation to someone and they printed it. It says nothing about the truthfulness of what was asserted. Especially when followed by: >5. In a letter to me dated October 27, 1989, Piel denied he >offered to buy and publish the three columns: Note carefully the date -- 23 days after the phone call. MUCH earlier than the re-telling to some HARPER'S journalist (a full 1.25 years later or so ... depending on time lag). > "First, let me set the record straight. Neither I nor anyone > else on behalf of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN agreed to 'buy and > publish' any of the installments that you prepared for 'The > Amateur Scientist'...we undertook no obligation to publish > those articles...." > >This letter's denial of Piel's own words made it obvious that it >was pointless to continue discussions with Piel. Therefore, I >wrote Claus Firchow, then president of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. >Firchow's lawyer called a few days later to ask what it would >take to make me happy. I told him all I wanted was for SCIENTIFIC >AMERICAN to abide by its agreement to publish and pay for my >three columns. He quickly agreed. The lawyer specifically told me >I would be free to submit proposals in the future. I have sent >many such proposals, all of which have been rejected or ignored. I don't see anything there that says the lawyer agreed to have SA publish all of your future proposals. Again, I'll ask for some kind of proof (other than Mim's word) that the lawyer agreed to anything...strange though that once burned by a verbal agreement Mim's jumps into another one. Perhaps a more rational explaination (or at least probable from my point of view) is that Mim's has a hard time clearly understanding what has _actually_ been agreed upon during a conversation, and misunderstands/misinterprets others as agreeing with his viewpoint wholeheartedly. I know I've fallen into that all too common trap. >6. At least one Internet message suggested that SCIENTIFIC >AMERICAN would have been justified in firing me because of >scientific incompetence. Saying they are "justified" isn't the same as saying that they actually, in fact, did do it for this reason. I'm beginning to see a reading comprehension problem here which would support my senario of misinterpretation of others on the part of Mim's. >Yet prior to the barrage of publicity >that arose after they fired me, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN never >questioned my qualifications. No one here asserted that they in fact did. What was suggested was that it _could_ have been used. But actually I think in a way some at SA DID "question [your] qualifications" -- not all of them, just your scientific judgement. I guess it depends on whether one includes scientific integrety in the class of "qualifications". If some guy with a PhD in physics came up and told me that the speed of light was infinite, I'd question his "qualifications". >Instead, the editors sent letters >and made statements praising my work. So those *particular* pieces had no/few errors. And maybe Mim's is a good writer. That still doesn't address the issue of whether he rejects a substantial body of work, contrary to evidence, based on religious bias. >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!" Hyperbole...I see no *obligation* to hire Mims. And certainly if at this time he had no knowledge of Mims's anti-scientific attitude. This just indicates that Mims is a pretty good writer. >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. Again/still no *obligation* to hire Mims...maybe they would have snapped him up. Only to regret it later when a big stink arose as he used his SA credentials to give credence to some creationist literature. That's speculation, but not inconceivable. >Piel and the >other editors played with the various instruments I brought >along, including a solar ultraviolet radiometer, a radio- >controlled camera for kites and balloons, various surface-mount >circuits, etc. What revelance this has to ANYTHING is beyond me...looks like filler. 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. Jonathan Piel." So he was nice to Mims after he confessed. Big deal. Would it have been better if Piel has summarilily(sp?) tossed him out on his butt? And that inscription certainly isn't a job contract. Simply an admission that Mims has done some reasonable (or even "great") amateur science. >Although Piel was clearly concerned >about my failure to accept Darwinian evolution, he did not fire >me until AFTER a female editor asked me about abortion and then >met with Piel and asked him to call me. As far as I can assertain he hadn't HIRED Mims yet...therefore he certainly couldn't have fired him. Had a contract been signed by the time he left this visit? Refusing to hire someone is NOT equivalent to "firing" them. So this unnamed female editor had such influence that she could unilaterally force Piel not to hire Mims? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe she added to Piel's doubts whether Mims was right for the job -and- whether he could work alongside the current (productive) workforce. >7. At least one message questioned my ability to do science. My [snip...] Depend what you mean by "do science"...could Mim's continue to dabble in areas removed from his religous bias and make sense? Probably. But that isn't the question at hand, it's about scientific integrety and potential negative publicity towards SA. [descriptions of devices built deleted as irrelevant to this issue, unless Mims can produce a signed contract specifying that SA would pay for them _and_ publish about them] >8. There have been several messages about the Rolex Award I >received in May which was advertised in the June issue of >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The award was for an international network >(Sun Photometer Atmospheric Network) that will use an advanced >version of the TOPS instrument developed for but rejected by >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The upper half of the instrument can be seen >in the photo in the ad and the entire instrument is shown in a 2- >page ad that was published in various international magazines. Again...this is COMPLETELY irrelevant. So some commercial company gave Mims a "award"...then let Rolex hire him. Just because Rolex published some ad in SA concerning Mims doesn't mean that SA is somehow obligated to hire him. This looks sadder and sadder the further I read, as it indicate Mims is simply grasping at straws and is completely clueless about the concept of employment contracts. >9. I had absolutely no hidden agenda with respect to writing "The >Amateur Scientist," and I had no intention of ever attempting to >embarrass the magazine. So you say. But let me say that I for one am not convinced that it wouldn't have happened anyways. Maybe that's my paranoia speaking after having interacted with so many "creationists" on USENET. In any case, it still doesn't *obligate* SA to hire Mims. Hell, I'll promise never to attempt to embarrass the magazine if they hire me...oh, so now I'm employed. Wow! >In a letter to me, Jonathan Piel >specifically stated he had no concern about my motives. (I will >be glad to post this letter verbatim.) Okay, so Piel possibly thought Mims wouldn't WILLFULLY embarrass the magazine. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't happen. A third party could easily do it without Mims's cooperation (or even knowledge) and it would still be a problem for the magazine. >My beliefs about abortion >and Darwinian evolution were strictly personal. NO. On abortion I'd agree with you. But evolution is a scientific theory and if Mims rejects that based on religious bias then one must also question what _other_ well supported scientific theories he's willing to similarly reject. To reject a scientific theory for reasons OTHER than scientific evidence is _a_priori_ evidence of being UNscientific and thus *not* suitable for a writing position on a scientificly oriented magazine. I'd ask Mims to turn the question around and consider "Would an athiest (strictly personal beliefs) be a good candidate for writing religious articles for a church newsletter?". That isn't to say that science is a religion, but an admission that personal beliefs INFLUENCES what one writes and thus make acceptable criteria for *not* hiring someone for a writing position. >Prior to >SCIENTIIC AMERICAN, none of the editors at the more than 70 >publications for which I have written ever asked me about my >personal beliefs. So these other publications weren't as thorough, but then again they probably weren't as prestegious(sp?) and thus didn't have quite the reputation to uphold. Again, what others did or didn't do places no *obligation* on SA to hire Mims. >10. In May I spoke with John Hanley, the new president of >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Hanley was quite friendly and agreed to >review my request to again write for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. So Hanley should have immediately slammed down the phone? What's the gripe here...he gave Mims a second chance. Possibly prior to having all the facts on what previously transpired. >He said >no one else at the magazine would see the proposal and gave me >his private fax number. Several weeks later he rejected my >proposal, citing a letter from the magazine's lawyer's of 1990 >which, in effect, supported Piel's denial that he had previously >agreed to buy and publish my columns. Ie. at that point he became aware that possibly Mims was a pathological liar? Or is Mims somehow implying that by giving Mims his private fax number Hanley had defacto agreed to hire Mims? > Hanley told me I should >submit future proposals to Piel, but Piel does not respond to >them. His perogative. If those columns are all so great then why doesn't Mims simply get some other publisher to print them? And if SA loses sales to some other magazine then Piel can take the blame. >He has also declined to correct four specific errors in >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN about which I have informed him, even though >I have assured him it is unnecessary to cite my name. I'm sure they get such requests all the time...and I'm sure that they let all but the most egregeous slide. But somehow because Mims points them out SA is obligated to print something? What I see here is a personality type that *I* would be distressed to see working with me. Maybe it wasn't the science after all that Piel rejected, but the fact that Mims would have been too disruptive. >Why do I >want to write for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in view of all that's >happened? "The Amateur Scientist" shaped my career. C. L. Stong >once told me I would some day write the column. And I want very >much to see "The Amateur Scientist" provide the same kind of >constructive, hands-on science that Stong and, to some extent, >Jearl Walker did. Nice sentiments. But still no *obligation* that SA hire *Mims* to write for them. I still see an editorial decision not to hire someone and a bunch of whining by the rejected applicant. >This message corrects the principle errors on the disk I >received. I'll be happy to answer questions relayed to me and to >post verbatim copies of correspondence to and from SCIENTIFIC >AMERICAN if anyone is interested. I have informed Jonathan Piel >and John Hanley at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN about your discussions and >offered to post their response verbatim, but they have not >responded. This last sentance gives the impression that Mims feels that it is their obligation to respond to him every time he contacts them. By this time I'd be having my secretary toss anything with his name on it into the circular file, unopened. Besides, if I were SA I'd _certainly_ not submit any response *via* Mims. And I'm sure their lawyers would go white upon the suggestion that they make an informal response here on the net. So am I surprised by the lack of a rebuttal? No. Though it would be nice to hear from the other side rather than simply speculate and listen to Mims's (obviously biased) viewpoint thrashing over this stale old argument. We can talk more when Mims produces a signed employment contract. >Forrest M. Mims, III >_________________________________________________________ >--------------------------------------------------------- >End of article posted for Forrest Mims by: >Steve Matheson Program in Neuroscience University of Arizona >sfm@neurobio.arizona.edu -robert Robert W. Hatcher | 256D Physics-Astronomy | hatcher@msupa (Bitnet) Software Tzar, Hunchback | Michigan State University | msuhep::hatcher (HEPnet) (517) 353-3008,-5180 | East Lansing, MI 48824 | hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu

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