"You should be banned from the airwaves"

by Richard Milton

The headline above is a direct quote from one of the many scientists who complained after NBC broadcast Mysterious Origins of Man. Few of his colleagues would be so rash as to express these sentiments out loud, but many privately think them.  Sadly, some of those individuals have not just thought the words but have appointed themselves censors of what the public can be told about science.

To suggest that scientific censorship occurs in television broadcasting and the print media in Britain or the Unites States sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theory.  Yet consider these recent examples.

In 1995,  a TV film was shown on both sides of the Atlantic entitled Too Close to the Sun, dealing with the highly controversial subject of cold fusion.  The film was admirably balanced and included interviews with both experimenters and 'skeptics'.  Halfway through, the film showed an interview subject who is a distinguished senior American physicist from an equally distinguished American research institution.  There's nothing unusual about such an appearance -- except that this scientist appeared in silhouette, his identity disguised.

Remember, this was not "60 Minutes" but a science programme, and he was no Cosa Nostra bag man but a professional scientist.  He was concerned that if his institution discovered he had been spending research funds on a forbidden subject like cold fusion, then his research grant, or even his tenure, might be in jeopardy.

Sadly, as explained in these pages, his fears have been fully justified by recent events:-