February 22, 2024

At long last, the first issue of the ‘Journal of Controversial Ideas’!  

Will articles on bioethics feature prominently in coming issues?

More than a year after the launch of the controversial journal, the Journal of Controversial Ideas, the first issue has appeared. (BioEdge reported its imminent publication back in February 2019.)

The open-access journal accepts articles which are might be rejected by other journals as “offensive, immoral, or dangerous”. It even allows authors to publish under pseudonyms, although the editors have declared that all contributions will be rigorously peer-reviewed.

In the editorial for the first issue, which appeared recently, they say that they had received 91 submissions, of which 10 were accepted and 68 were rejected. Another 13 are still under consideration. Their explanation of why such a journal is needed is an eloquent defence of academic freedom. Freedom of thought, they write, is being attacked even within universities:

In recent years there has been a surge in open letters and petitions denouncing researchers and their work, signed by academics who seem to be unwilling to rely on the traditional academic practice of finding flaws in the arguments with which they disagree. They instead demand that administrators sanction colleagues who have expressed ideas they oppose. Some of these petitions, signed by hundreds of academics, even demand that editors retract published articles that have passed standard peer review processes. In an alarming number [of] instances, editors have been cowed by these demands and have succumbed to them. A few who have defended academic freedom have been compelled to resign.

They go on to explain:

We have launched this journal because we have become concerned that in the current social and cultural climate, some people will not feel free to explore ideas that may embroil them in unwelcome controversy. As a result, some of our false beliefs will not be shown to be false, while some of our true beliefs will become dead dogmas and more vulnerable to attack because they are not defended against apparently plausible objections.

Of the ten articles in the first issue, only three authors used pseudonyms. Most of the articles are not particularly inflammatory, although one defends “black face” in some traditional festivals, one argues that females are women, another contends that violence against animal abusers can be justified, and another says that life is pointless.

No doubt articles on bioethics will feature prominently in coming issues.

Michael Cook is the editor of BioEdge

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