I am feeling a growing sense of incredulity as I read the latest babble from Susan Mazur. She was the one who reported on this upcoming meeting at Altenberg with an excess of hyperbole and a truly misleading inflation of the importance of that event. It sounds interesting in that a small group of respectable, credible scientists are gathering (along with a few who would most charitably be called crackpots), but it’s not that unusual — meetings happen all the time, the people participating in this event go to meetings all the time, and it’s simply different but routine.
I get the impression that Mazur is journalist with no sense of proportion and a rather distressing lack of skepticism. This meeting will not revolutionize science. If we’re lucky, a few good ideas will emerge from it. More likely, some people will have a good time, they’ll learn a few things, and they’ll fly back to work and we won’t hear about it ever again.
Mazur desperately needs a tranquilizer, because she has struck again with another exceptionally silly article on this non-story, Theory of Form to Evolution Center Stage. It’s a disjointed mess, this amazingly rambling collection of credulous nonsense that mixes up entirely reasonable statements from some participants with flakiness from a few notorious weirdos, with no sense that she’s even trying to distinguish the two.
I’m not even going to try to wade into the chaos. Let’s just bring up a few points that involve me.
University of Torono biochemist Larry Moran, who runs a popular website called Sandwalk, which considers itself the rival to SEED blogger PZ Myers’ Pharyngula, asked me: “Why was Doug Futuyma not invited?”
Larry is my rival? That isn’t how it works — this is not a zero-sum game. There is no competition. It’s rather symptomatic of Mazur’s whole approach that everything is viewed as a conflict between everything else.
And this is just funny:
Pivar is the independent scientist whose work has been skewered on the blogosphere for not being a complete theory of evolution.
No, no, no — wrong on every count. Pivar is a wealthy art collector who makes millions selling septic tanks — he is not a scientist. Nobody (well, other than creationists, that is) argues against theories because they’re incomplete; every theory is incomplete. I don’t even know what a complete theory would look like. No, Pivar got mocked because his theory is divorced from reality, built on fantasies instead of evidence. So far, the only person who seems to take Pivar at all seriously is Mazur.
Pivar says he has in fact taken the advice of NASA minerologist Robert Hazen and early on approached mainstream evo publishers. He has been repeatedly rejected he says, but continues to fight on, making the point that he’s the only one with a model.
Pivar recently offered a research grant to Massimo Pigliucci and his lab to study his Engines of Evolution book, following an exchange of emails with Pigliucci over several months.
Pigliucci said he considered the gesture “bribery” and refused the offer, adding that he does not share Pivar’s enthusiasm about his theory of form.
That’s putting mildly, I suspect.
Mazur gets even wackier and more dishonest in this article: Richard Dawkins Renounces Darwinism As Religion And Embraces Form. I hear Dawkins has also stopped beating his wife. Anyway, all she got him to say is that there’s good stuff in developmental biology that complements evolutionary biology, and from that obvious and sensible conclusion she spins a bizarre thesis that he has somehow been converted from a religious view.
Spare me. I often gripe about bad journalism, but this is some of the worst … and I fear that she might actually be on the same side of the political fence as I am. Beware the left-leaning incompetents — they have the potential to be as awful as the incompetents on the right.