Laelaps

Good news and bad news

The good news: Earlier today I had the pleasure of participating in an interview about “Ida” on the BBC4 program Material World. I was a little nervous (this was my radio debut), but it was a lot of fun. I just wish we had some more time! You can check it out here (if you’re in the UK) and here (if you’re not).

The bad news: Over at the Disco Institute-run Evolution News & Views blog Robert Crowther praises my critique of the Darwinius paper for not “toeing the line” about this fossil being the “missing link.” I would have hoped that Crowther would have learned that science-savvy folks can disagree with hypotheses and some of the most interesting debates are ones involving actual scientific discoveries, but it would appear not.

As Carl Zimmer has recently documented in an excellent bit of detective work, though, much of the hullabaloo about Ida was created by the fact that the paper was not released to journalists until the morning of the fossil’s unveiling. This left many journalists in a bind; how could they accurately appraise a fossil when all they had was the puffed-up press release? This whole affair has been a fiasco and so far I think Ida has taught us more lessons about science communication than about our ancestry.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Barton
    May 21, 2009

    Congrats, Brian, on your radio debut, and all the attention your blog has rec’d as of late…

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    May 21, 2009

    … so far, yes the hype has been bigger than the find, but in the long run this fossil will prove to be very important. As you point out in your post, most of the Eocene primate record consists of little bitty teeth.

    What do you think of Darwin’s Sacred Cause?

  3. #3 José
    May 21, 2009

    The bad news: Over at the Disco Institute-run Evolution News & Views blog Robert Crowther praises my critique of the Darwinius paper for not “toeing the line” about this fossil being the “missing link.”

    Bad news? You’re being quote mined by the Discovery Institute. Look at the company that puts you in. Congratulations. You’ve made it!

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    May 22, 2009

    The most attention I’ve ever gotten from the Discoverup Institute and their ilk was when Denyse O’Leary called me an “ill-tempered illiterate” (for the crime of criticizing Behe’s singularly incompetent The Edge of Evolution). You win!

  5. #5 DaveH
    May 22, 2009

    Excellent programme, Material World! Quentin Cooper, the presenter, is definitely one of the Good Guys in terms of science journalism, although sadly addicted to bad puns. The format has recently changed, with 3 items per half hour, instead of just two, so that many discussions end up feeling a bit rushed. That said, excellent radio debut.

  6. #6 Mo Hassan
    May 22, 2009

    Well done! Congrats, I’ll be listening to that when I get home from work :)

  7. #7 RBH
    May 22, 2009

    You sounded very good, Brian, and said some sensible things. I think your debut was a resounding success.

  8. #8 sevgi sözü
    May 22, 2009

    The bad news: Over at the Disco Institute-run Evolution News & Views blog Robert Crowther praises my critique of the Darwinius paper for not “toeing the line” about this fossil being the “missing link.”

    Bad news? You’re being quote mined by the Discovery Institute. Look at the company that puts you in. Congratulations. You’ve made it!

  9. #9 seksi
    May 22, 2009

    I’d be curious to know the relationship between the museum and the history channel.
    I’d also be willing to bet this didn’t make it in Science and/or Nature. That said, the paper could have gotten through review there as well, as the process is just an effort at quality assurance, not a guarantee of said quality.

  10. #10 marcus collins
    May 22, 2009

    Congratulations, Brian, that was a good listen! And well done on all the exposure lately: it’s testimony to your quality science writing.

  11. #11 Scicurious
    May 22, 2009

    Yay Brian! It’s great to see you finally getting the recognition you deserve. And hey, the Discovery Institute means you really made it. :)

  12. #12 Dave Godfrey
    May 24, 2009

    Well done on making it on the radio! Material World is probably the best science magazine programme out there- Quentin Cooper definitely knows the right questions to ask scientists. And some of us like the dreadful puns and bad jokes.

  13. #13 Rosel
    May 26, 2009

    You were on Radio 4 ? I must listen asap.

    Maybe you’ll get a call from CBC’s Quirks and Quarks too.

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