Predicting crackpot evolution stories

2009 is Darwin year. Can we predict the crackpot evolution stories that we are certainly going to see? Stories invented by the press, artificial controversies, misinformation from anti-evolutionists. I thought it might be fun to make some predictions for 2009.

  1. Creationists will exploit PR better than scientists to get their stories into mainstream newspapers and onto TV and we will see a new telegenic and ‘reasonable’ face of evolution-bashing.
  2. Some apparently maladaptive (to the casual public observer) part of the human body or disease susceptibility will be touted as a demonstration that evolution does not work.
  3. A famous, possibly well-meaning, UK politician will advocate ‘teaching the controversy’ (i.e. creationism alongside evolution in science lessons).
  4. Steve Jones ‘evolution has stopped’ will resurface yet again and get more air time and column inches than all evolutionary biology research published in 2009 put together
  5. Some evolutionary biologist you have actually heard of with a new paper disagreeing with some minutiae of evolutionary biology (maybe in some aspect of population genetics) will be put forward as a critic of evolution on a really slow news day. OK this does contradict the one above, but I can’t get all of them right.
  6. The Pope will give a speech extolling the power and vision of God in bringing his laws of evolution by natural selection into Darwin’s stubborn mind. I hope he remembers to mention Wallace too!

On the other hand there are some things I guess we could do preemptively. Rehearse a 30 second (maximum) pitch about why evolution is really important in the modern world (you’ll need it at some point). Call science teachers at local high school and ask if they need any support material for teaching evolution. Think about evolution from the perspective of a journalist for a few minutes. Editor breathing down their necks. How are they going to put ‘men with beards’ onto page 4 without sending everyone to sleep? (Medicine and evolution. Genomics tells the history of life and evolution in exquisite detail. Evolutionary phylogenetics and population genetics are powerful tools against scary emergent diseases. Other suggestions?).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Lunt says:

    I notice that number 4 (Steve Jones playing Knut with evolutionary biology) has already started, in the cynical and exploitative New Scientist issue that is being very widely discussed (see this Sandwalk blogpost).


  2. Dave Lunt says:

    No speech by the Pope yet (number 6 in the list above) but the Times reports some interesting Vatican positions on evolution. I know some of this isn’t new but it is for this pope and I particularly like the bit that says St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas thought of it first!—“The Vatican has admitted that Charles Darwin was on the right track when he claimed that Man descended from apes.A leading official declared yesterday that Darwin’s theory of evolution was compatible with Christian faith, and could even be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. “In fact, what we mean by evolution is the world as created by God,” said Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.”


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