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This month’s cover of The Scientist has a mistake that makes me cringe.

Can you spot what’s wrong?


And they call themselves “The Scientist” humph!


  1. #1 orion
    January 7, 2010

    Is it the question about:
    “Is it time for evolutionary theory to evolve?”
    Because, that IS a mistake – it is evolving all the time.

  2. #2 tom
    January 7, 2010

    House finches are sort of distant from the Darwin’s finches clade.

  3. #3 jimspice
    January 7, 2010

    Purple finches? A N. American species.

  4. #4 Monimonika
    January 8, 2010

    Oooh! Oooh! Let me guess!

    Umm… The little blurb on the right!:

    BIG SH[OT? IT? ILL? AM?]

  5. #5 Sigmund
    January 8, 2010

    There’s no space between “The” and “Scientist”?
    I think I’ve got whats really annoying you.
    There are two meanings to the word “evolve”.
    One simply means change – for instance one might speak of the evolution of the car or the mobile phone from their original types to their present types, or the evolution of galaxies or stars.
    The other definition is that of biological evolution which is the change in the frequency of alleles in a population over time due to reproduction, random change and natural selection from a common ancestor (other factors such as neural theory /genetic drift clearly add to the mix).
    The authors of the byline “Is it time for evolutionary theory to evolve” are using the former definition of simple change for the word “evolve”.

  6. #6 Ian Tindale
    January 8, 2010

    Unbelievable! How could they let this through? It only takes a second to open up the Terminal in OS X, type “uname -a” to learn that we’re currently on Darwin Kernel Version 10.2.0.

  7. #7 Murfomurf
    January 8, 2010

    Umm…the female is sitting above the male bird dominating it- WRONG! (??)

  8. #8 ENT-TT
    January 8, 2010

    Granted, I’m not an expert on finches by any means…
    But if I’m not mistaken, the bird on the left is a juvenile female, and the one on the right is an adult female. Males would (I think) be somewhat more colorful. It’s hard to evolve with only one set of gametes.
    Of course, the rest of the cover is annoying too, so I’d give it to “Darwin 3.0” suddenly choosing to evolve after so much un-evolving, or anything with “vaccine” and “Pharma” and “Big” in the same sentence. Although I suspect it reads “Why vaccines are Pharmacies’ Big Shots”. That would be erroneous, since Pharmacies tend only to charge for administrative fees for vaccines, and don’t really make a profit. I suppose they *could* make money simply from the increase traffic of customers who make end up buying other stuff while they get vaccinated.

  9. #9 IanW
    January 8, 2010

    The cover (at least the portion of it you’ve allowed us to see!) doesn’t identify the birds as Darwin’s finches, it merely shows a picture of two birds, so if the “error” is that these aren’t Darwin’s finches, then I don’t see how that’s actually an error. Or are you saying there’s something wrong which is far more subtle?

    The fact that they’ve equated “Darwin” and “Theory of Evolution” is what bothers my amateur eye here. That’s like using the term “Darwinism” which also makes me shudder.

  10. #10 Sandra Porter
    January 8, 2010

    I’ll post the answer tonight.

  11. #11 Wes
    January 8, 2010

    Here’s my offer, there’s no “time” for something to evolve (i.e., make a leap); evolution is constant and gradual. Now where’s my pie?

  12. #12 Felicia
    January 8, 2010

    I was thinking along those lines, Wes. But it says it is time for evloution THEORY to evolve, not evolution itself. A theory certainly can and should evolve. Methinks it’s something to do with the birds….

  13. #13 Michal Galdzicki
    January 8, 2010

    Two females, one young and the other mature: makes it development not evolution. This metaphor is a contradiction with the byline, “Is it time for evolutionary theory to evolve?” Changing it to, “Is it time for evolutionary theory to develop?”, … yeah doesn’t ring so Darwinian. But would foreshadow a more interesting article on evolution of development.

  14. #14 Michal Galdzicki
    January 8, 2010

    doh! or should it be “But would foreshadow a more interesting article on development of the theory of evolution.”

  15. #15 Sandra Porter
    January 8, 2010

    Okay, I can’t stand it anymore. Commenters 2 and 3 (tom and jimspice) are correct.

    The phrase “Darwin 3.0” together with a picture of finches it implies that the finches in the picture are Darwin’s famous finches, i.e. the Geospiza, which live on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

    But the finches in the picture are not Darwin’s finches or even close from a geographical perspective. They are house finches. They do not live in Ecuador. Some of them live in my backyard.

    So, this picture is a mistake because the finches are NOT Darwin’s finches. They have nothing to do with Darwin or any article in the issue.

    The image begs the question: do the The Scientist’s publishers know that finches come in different species and that this distinction might actually might matter? At least to some biologists?

  16. #16 Monimonika
    January 9, 2010

    Sandra, by the way, what was the whole title for the vaccines article? Just curious.

  17. #17 Sandra Porter
    January 9, 2010

    The title of the article is “Nice Shot Why vaccines are pharma’s Next Big Thing”

    The article describes new vaccines that have been licensed since 2000 and twelve in development. There’s an interesting discussion of the VLP technology (virus-like particles) and whether or not companies can make money on vaccines.

    I would like to it but it doesn’t seem to be on their web site yet.

  18. #18 Larry Moran
    January 9, 2010

    Evolutionary Theory has been changing steadily since the time of Darwin. Why would any reputable science journal ask, “Is it time for evolutionary theory to evolve?”

    The question strongly implies that evolutionary theory hasn’t changed very much and that’s rubbish.

  19. #19 Sandra Porter
    January 9, 2010

    Larry: you may not have seen it but The-Scientist is a magazine, not a journal.

  20. #20 Larry Moran
    January 10, 2010

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that TheScientist was a scientific journal. I’m very familiar with it.

    Why would any respectable science *magazine* ask such a stupid question?

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