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Pigliucci: Scientist Or Ongeblussen?

Pigliucci: Scientist Or Ongeblussen?

By Suzan Mazur

"The kinds of things you're reporting on, you're reaching a wider audience. It is important in writing to highlight where there may be controversies or disagreements because that is what's most exciting, that's what moves science. . . .

We've got to draw the circle wider. Even the idea of a professional scientist versus a knowledgeable reader. There's a continuum here. And we're all part of this search for trying to understand where we come from and who we are."
-- Bob Hazen, Astrobiologist, Carnegie Institution of Washington

It reads like a chapter from The Dorak Affair. An accomplished academic named James Mellaart is unsatisfied by merely the nod of his peers and so plants a story in the media about a fabulous ancient Anatolian treasure. Initially he is delighted by the fame the story brings but later retreats in embarrassment when the Turks show up at the door with questions about the Dorak treasure.

In this case, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci leaks news to me about a conference he terms "a stepping stone for the entire evolutionary biology community," a discussion to launch a reformulation of the theory of evolution. After I break the story about the meeting, which creates a sensation, Pigliucci is elated. He then backpedals, attacking the story messenger -- me, online in a sleazy blog unbecoming a serious scientist and in print.

But despite his tantrums (most recently in Skeptic magazine) about my "hodge podge" Altenberg! The Woodstock of Evolution? report announcing the three-day symposium he was co-coordinating at the Konrad Lorenz Institute to consider remixing the "Modern Synthesis", which conference participants now call the "Extended Synthesis" -- Pigliucci did "indeed!" endorse the newsbreaking article when it appeared in March on this page. FYI -- the Pigliucci email:

Subject: Re: Suzan Mazur/Scoop: Altenberg! The Woodstock of Evolution?
Date: 3/4/2008
From: Massimo Pigliucci


very nice article indeed!



I'm advised that papers presented at the KLI conference in Altenberg, Austria in July did not include origin of life, i.e., pre-biotic evolution -- chemical and mineral evolution -- which I do discuss with some of America's leading astrobiologists and other scientists in my E-book: Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. I began posting the E-book July 6 on Scoop Media, a few days before the Altenberg conference began.

In Pigliucci's piece for Skeptic, he says the following about my work:

"eventually the Mazur article came to the attention of serious media outlets, including the New York Times, Science and Nature"

Well, fire the editors -- what took them so long? Science wrote in July, four months after my Altenberg-Woodstock story appeared, that my reporting had "reverberated throughout the evolutionary biology community".

He seems oblivious to the fact that the New York Times ("the paper of record and ripoff") now has junk status. This is not all due to the trend in dwindling ad revenues in the newspaper business. The Times' bogus WMD reports pushing GW Bush's Iraq War helped substantially to wean long-time readers, along with its failure to report the National Security Agency story in a timely fashion. Its tardiness in covering the paradigm shift underway in evolutionary science has not helped.

Pigliucci may also not know that Nature magazine -- which he invited to the Altenberg conference after announcing the event was closed to the media -- apologized and printed a correction to make up for its predatory practices regarding the Altenberg-Woodstock theme it snatched from me for its September 18 cover to help sell the mag @ $10 a copy.

Does he consider the Archaeological Institute of America's Archaeology magazine a serious media outlet, where my interview with cell biologist and Altenberg conference participant Stuart Newman has been featured for almost two months? How about George Mason University's History News Network ("Is Darwinism Still Valid?")?

Who is Pigliucci to pass judgment anyway?

"We are all after the Nobel or the Pulitzer, at least in our dreams, but few of us have even a fighting chance to get there."

He doesn't grasp that a Pulitzer is decided by the Pulitzer board of largely corporate media -- New York Times' Tom Friedman et al. -- and has come to symbolize ideological correctness in journalism.


Suzan Mazur is the author of Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. Her interest in evolution began with a flight from Nairobi into Olduvai Gorge to interview the late paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey. Because of ideological struggles, the Kenyan-Tanzanian border was closed, and Leakey was the only reason authorities in Dar es Salaam agreed to give landing clearance. The meeting followed discovery by Leakey and her team of the 3.6 million-year-old hominid footprints at Laetoli. Suzan Mazur's reports have since appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: sznmzr @

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