Sunday, February 24, 2008


I've written here before about what a poor job journalists generally do in describing science to the public. I was just reading this Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes and wincing over phrases such as "sharks are very primitive living fish" and "ensure the survival of a species," which reveal a very out of date and human-centric misunderstanding of evolution. The piece includes at least half a dozen points contradictory to modern evolutionary theory. I was just considering writing yet another response letter explaining to the author that natural selection does not favor traits because they help ensure the survival of the species, and so forth, when I looked at who the author is.

The attribution:
"Neil Shubin, an associate dean at the University of Chicago and the provost of the Field Museum, is the author of 'Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body.'"

Neil Shubin knows that evolution doesn't work that way. So why is he writing like a journalist? I can only guess it is because he wants to sell more books, and someone (the NYTimes, his publicist or him) felt that one has to adopt the public's misunderstanding in order to interest them. It is sad when scientists start writing like science journalists.

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