Typos and Errors – Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes

Last Update: May 31, 2018

In this post —to be updated with alerts about typos and/or errors that we get to identify in Kin Recognition Protists and Other Microbes: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior and Health— readers will have the opportunity to learn about such cases as colleagues and readers help us spot mistakes. The book was released officially by Cambridge Scholars Publishing on April 1, 2018. The manuscript was, of course, proof-read numerous times before it went to press, but it shall not be unusual to identify mistakes that were made during the preparation of the text (428 pages), the formatting of more than 200 data figures, maps, tables and explanatory boxes, and the revision of the proofs and statistical notation. We will continue to improve the book in future editions. – GPC

ABOUT THE BOOK – Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes can be ordered directly from Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The publisher has made available a “VIEW EXTRACT” (in PDF), which includes the first 30-pages of the book: Cover, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, Chapter ONE and the beginning of Chapter TWO.

Typos and Errors Updates

Update: May 31, 2018 (older updates are shown below)

Page 94, top paragraph, line eight, reads “…M. fulvus strain (member of recognition Group C)…” It should read “…(… Group D)…”

Page 95, center paragraph, line one, reads “…rod-shaped bacteria…” It should read “…bacterium…”

Page 115, center paragraph, line three, reads “…contact-dependent grown inhibition…” It should read “…growth inhibition…”

Page 119, third paragraph, line five, reads “…free-living bactera…” It should read “…bacteria…”

Page 140, top paragraph, line nine, reads “sources (cheaters)…” It should read “resources…”

Page 407, center of paragraph, line sixteen, reads “…ST often leaded to clonality.” It should read “…often led...”

Page 408, second paragraph, line twelve, reads “…discoideum, illustrated that allorecognition…” It should read “…demonstrated that allorecognition...”

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Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes is the first volume (428-pp hardback) dedicated entirely to the genetics, evolution and behavior of cells capable of discriminating and recognizing taxa (other species), clones (other cell lines) and kin (as per gradual genetic proximity). It covers the advent of microbial models in the field of kin recognition; the polymorphisms of green-beard genes in social amebas, yeast and soil bacteria; the potential that unicells have to learn phenotypic cues for recognition; the role of clonality and kinship in pathogenicity (dysentery, malaria, sleeping sickness and Chagas); the social and spatial structure of microbes and their biogeography; and the relevance of unicells’ cooperation, sociality and cheating for our understanding of the origins of multicellularity.

Offering over 200 figures and diagrams, this work will appeal to a broad audience, including researchers in academia, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and research undergraduates. Science writers and college educators will also find it informative and practical for teaching – BOOK website. ‒ Authors: Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C and Avelina Espinosa.

How to cite the book:

Paz-y-Miño-C, G., and A. Espinosa. 2018. Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior and Health (428 pp). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom. — ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-0764-7 — ISBN-10: 1-5275-0764-5 — BOOK website. — Read Reviews

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior and Health

New BOOK 2018 — “Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes” covers the advent of microbial models in the field of kin recognition; the polymorphisms of green-beard genes in social amebas, yeast and soil bacteria; the potential that unicells have to learn phenotypic cues for recognition; the role of clonality and kinship in pathogenicity (health); the social and spatial structure of microbes and their biogeography; and the relevance of unicells’ cooperation, sociality and cheating for our understanding of the origins of multicellularity.

Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes is the first volume (428-pp hardback) dedicated entirely to the genetics, evolution and behavior of cells capable of discriminating and recognizing taxa (other species), clones (other cell lines) and kin (as per gradual genetic proximity). It covers the advent of microbial models in the field of kin recognition; the polymorphisms of green-beard genes in social amebas, yeast and soil bacteria; the potential that unicells have to learn phenotypic cues for recognition; the role of clonality and kinship in pathogenicity (dysentery, malaria, sleeping sickness and Chagas); the social and spatial structure of microbes and their biogeography; and the relevance of unicells’ cooperation, sociality and cheating for our understanding of the origins of multicellularity.

Offering over 200 figures and diagrams, this work will appeal to a broad audience, including researchers in academia, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and research undergraduates. Science writers and college educators will also find it informative and practical for teaching – BOOK website. ‒ Authors: Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C and Avelina Espinosa.

Endorsements

“New theories predict phenomena we see only when we know to look. A stunning example of this is kin recognition, predicted by Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness. This book is a rich treatment of kin recognition and discrimination in the microbial world, made particularly accessible by a wonderful collection of diagrams and illustrations. Anyone interested in fascinating new stories of how microbes treat their kin should read this book.” ‒ Joan E. Strassmann, Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis.

“Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa have produced a real gem! Anyone interested in the evolution of life on Earth from any perspective would find this a great read. The authors beautifully synthesize, for the first time, the historical literature (including their own considerable contributions) on taxa-, clone-, and kin-discrimination/recognition in unicellular eukaryotes (protists) and other microbes. They contribute their own observations and insights, as well as ability to place what is known about the genetics, behavioral and chemical aspects of kin recognition into a balanced evolutionary perspective. The carefully-chosen case studies, definitions of terms, and summaries provided in each chapter result in a book that is accessible to a wide range of readers; a valuable resource for experts in the field, as well as students and interested non-experts looking for a stimulating and very thought-provoking volume.” ‒ Virginia P. Edgcomb, Associate Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Book Information and Content

Authors: Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C and Avelina Espinosa. — Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom, 2018 — Format: 15 x 21 cm (6 x 8.5 inches), 428 pages (hardback), 200+ scientific figures. — Subjects: genetics, evolution, behavior, protists/protozoa, phylogenetics, biogeography, organismal biology.

The volume can be ordered directly from the publisher Cambridge ScholarsBOOK website.

For a PDF sample of the first 16 pages of the book go to View Extract. See also Read Reviews.

Acknowledgements (vii) — Preface (viii – xiii)

Chapter One – Kin Recognition: Synopsis and the Advent of Protists Models (13 pp). — The Advent of Protists Models. — Fig. 1.1 and Table 1.1. — Box 1.1 Essential kin-recognition terminology. — Box 1.2 Darwin and the puzzle of the sterile social insects. — Box 1.3 Hamilton and the concepts of fitness. — References.

Chapter Two – The Genetics of Kin Recognition: From Many Cells to Single Cells (16 pp). — Figs. 2.1 to 2.6 (figures include subfigures). — Box 2.1 Essential terminology for this chapter. — Box 2.2 FLO genes and flocculation in yeast. — Box 2.3 The tgrB1 and tgrC1 genes in Dictyostelium discoideum. — References.

Chapter Three – Can Protists Learn Phenotypic Cues to Discriminate Kin? (34 pp). — Association, Phenotype Matching and Kin-detection. — Conclusion. — Figs. 3.1 to 3.9 (figures include subfigures). — Box 3.1 Jennings and The Psychology Of A Protozoan. — Box 3.2 Error-correction in simulated mate-choice trials in the heterotrich ciliate Spirostomum ambiguum. — References.

Chapter FourEntamoeba Clone-Recognition Experiments: Morphometrics, Aggregative Behavior, and Cell-Signalling Characterization (20 pp). — Morphometrics. — Aggregative behavior. — Cell-signaling Characterization. — Summary of Results and Conclusions. — Figs. 4.1 to 4.6 (figures include subfigures), and Table 4.1. — Box 4.1 Methods to culture amebas in the laboratory, measure them individually and in clusters, assess their aggregative behavior, and characterize their cell-signaling secretions. — References.

Chapter Five – The Prokaryotes’ Tale (103 pp). — Myxobacteria. — Bacillus. — Burkholderia. — Escherichia. — Kin vs. Kind. — Proteus, Pseudomonas, Vibrio, Agrobacterium and Other Prokaryotes with Discrimination Abilities. — Quorum Sensing and Kinship. — Biofilms and Kinship. — Prokaryotic Multicellular Aggregations. — Kinship, Spatial Structure and Micro-Sociogeography. — Conclusions. — Figs. 5.1 to 5.31 (figures include subfigures), and Table 5.1. — Box 5.1 Essential terminology for this chapter. — Box 5.2 Kind discrimination and kind selection. — References.

Chapter Six – Protists’ Clonality, Kinship and Pathogenicity (45 pp). — Plasmodium. — Trypanosoma and Its Social Migration. — Conclusions. — Figs. 6.1 to 6.13 (figures include subfigures). — Box 6.1 Essential terminology for this chapter. — References.

Chapter Seven – Micro-Biogeography: Kinship and Social/Spatial Structure (129 pp). — Coenochloris and Chlamydomonas. — Oxyrrhis. — Pseudo-nitzschia, Thalassiosira, Skeletonema and High(er)-Taxa Community Analyses. — Dictyostelium (social amebas) and Meriderma. — Tetrahymena. — Plasmodium: falciparum versus vivax. — Trypanosoma: brucei versus vivax versus cruzi. — Conclusions. — Figs. 7.1 to 7.43 (figures include subfigures), and Table 7.1. — Box 7.1 Essential terminology for this chapter. — Box 7.2 The everything is everywhere (EiE) hypothesis. — Box 7.3 Scenarios of clone-clone discrimination in social ameba. — References.

Chapter Eight – Multicellular Aggregations: From Single Cells to Many Cells (35 pp). — Experimental Evolution of Multicellularity in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. — Aggregative Multicellularity in Dictyostelium. — Relatedness, Cheating, and Genetic-Conflict Resolution. — Conclusions. — Figs. 8.1 to 8.7 (figures include subfigures). — Box 8.1 Essential terminology for this chapter. — References.

Chapter Nine – Conclusions and Future Directions (21 pp). — “…This work is the first in which taxa-, clone- and kin-discrimination/recognition in unicellular eukaryotes (protists) and other microbes is organized from a historical perspective (i.e. the advent of protists and microbial models in the field of kin recognition; Chapters One and Five). We discuss(ed): the genetics of kin discrimination/recognition in unicellular organisms, including green-beard-gene polymorphisms in social amebas, yeast and bacteria (Chapters Two and Five); the potential that microbes have to learn phenotypic cues during socio-sexual encounters and use such decoded information adaptively in behavioral responses (Chapter Three); the exchange of chemical signals, often released into the environment, and used for taxa-, clone- or kin-discrimination/recognition in amebas, ciliates and soil bacteria (Chapters Three, Four and Five); the relevance of clonality and kinship for pathogenicity, particularly in Entamoeba, Plasmodium and Trypanosoma, and for biofilm formation in the bacteria Escherichia, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus and Vibrio (Chapters Four, Five and Six); the correlations between kinship, social structure, spatial distribution and micro-biogeography at local, regional and continental scales, as well as at microscopic levels (Chapters Five and Seven); the relevance of protists’ and other microbes’ cell aggregations, cooperation, sociality and cheating (or avoidance of it) for our understanding of the origins and evolution of multicellularity (Chapters Five and Eight); and the directions that the field of kin-discrimination/recognition shall take in the future now that microbes are increasingly being studied —under such perspective— in the laboratory and field (Chapter Nine)…” — Fig. 9.1. — References.

Appendix A Figures’ Notes and Sources (5 pp). — Appendix B Media Resources (6 pp). — About the Authors (1 p).

Book citation — Paz-y-Miño-C, G., and A. Espinosa. 2018. Kin Recognition in Protists and Other Microbes: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior and Health (428 pp). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom. — ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-0764-7 — ISBN-10: 1-5275-0764-5 — BOOK website. — Read Reviews.

Book on Evolution Controversy among Best Sellers of 2017

Measuring the Evolution Controversy: A Numerical Analysis of Acceptance of Evolution at America’s Colleges and Universities is being featured among other top three Best Sellers of 2017 at Cambridge Scholars (link here).

The publisher is promoting the book on its website and offering convenient options for ordering it until November 30th.

The great contribution of Measuring the Evolution Controversy, says Dr. Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus of Paleontology at The American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the rich content of data and analysis that asks detailed questions about the social, economic and political backgrounds of those who tend to reject evolution versus those who accept evolution as science. “The authors —Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C and Avelina Espinosa— deftly analyze their data drawn from institutions of higher learning in the United States… It is their scientific approach to these issues which makes this book stand out as a uniquely original contribution.”

Doctor Barbara Forrest writes that, in Measuring the Evolution Controversy, “Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa… show that although anti-evolutionism typically begins with religion, it is a multi-faceted problem that intersects with political and cultural ideologies. Gathered through careful research over a period of years, their data will enable scientists and defenders of science education to comprehend the roots of the evolution controversy and counteract resistance to evolution more strategically and effectively.” Doctor Forrest is co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design; she was an expert witness for plaintiffs in the Dover-Pennsylvania 2005 trial on Intelligent Design (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District).

Why do people not accept evolution? Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa explain that “the debate over evolution-and-science versus creationism is inherent in the incompatibility between scientific rationalism/empiricism and the belief in supernatural causation. Belief disrupts, distorts, delays or stops the comprehension and acceptance of scientific evidence.” The authors refer to this proposal as the incompatibility hypothesis, the conceptual foundation of the book. The volume is currently available at 40+ college/university libraries worldwide — EvoLiteracy © 2017.

Copies of Measuring the Evolution Controversy at World Libraries

“…MTEC now available at university libraries in the United States, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel and Scotland…”

Measuring The Evolution Controversy is now available at university libraries in the United States, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel and Scotland, either as hard copy, e-book or both. Some data bases locate the book in Australia, South America and Asia, but the library-catalogue entries are difficult to confirm. I will continue to update this post as new libraries join the list. If your institution has the book and is not listed below, please let me know (write a comment at the end or contact me via email). The book can be ordered from Cambridge Scholars. — GPC

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Library

Boston University, School of Theology

Brigham Young University-Idaho David O. McKay Library

CSD WMS Testing Awesome Library Test

Hope College

Illinois State University

Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya

Israel Institute of Technology TECHNION

Iowa State University Library

Irvine Valley College

McGill University Library

Michigan State University Libraries

National Library of Scotland

North Carolina State University

OCLC Library

Princeton University Library

Rice University Library

Roger Williams University

Saint Louis University – Main Campus

Stanford University Libraries

Texas Tech University Libraries

The New School

The University of Texas Libraries

Universität Marburg, Zentralbibliothek

Universitatsbibliothek Kassel UB-LMB Kassel

Université d’Ottawa

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan

University of Alberta Libraries

University of California, Davis

University of California, Merced

University of Delaware Library

University of Georgia Libraries

University of Hong Kong

University of Missouri St Louis

University of Texas Libraries

Virginia Commonwealth University

Washington & Lee University

Wichita State University Library

Book Endorsements

“The great contribution of ‘Measuring the Evolution Controversy’ is the rich content of data and analysis that asks detailed questions about the social, economic and political backgrounds of those who tend to reject evolution vs. those who accept evolution as science. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa deftly analyze their data drawn from institutions of higher learning in the United States and particularly New England —which stands as a microcosm of the rest of the country, and indeed elsewhere in the world. It is their scientific approach to these issues which makes this book stand out as a uniquely original contribution.” — Niles Eldredge, PhD, Curator Emeritus of Paleontology at The American Museum of Natural History, New York.

“Pro-science activists and educators constantly bemoan the resistance to the teaching of evolution in the United States. All of us have anecdotes about encounters with the public, parents and students who are misinformed by their churches, Religious-Right groups, and creationist organizations. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa present hard data that support the anecdotal evidence. They also show that although anti-evolutionism typically begins with religion, it is a multi-faceted problem that intersects with political and cultural ideologies. Gathered through careful research over a period of years, their data will enable scientists and defenders of science education to comprehend the roots of the evolution controversy and counteract resistance to evolution more strategically and effectively.”Barbara Forrest, PhD, co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (2007), and expert witness for plaintiffs, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).

Measuring the Evolution Controversy can be ordered directly from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Amazon US, or Amazon CA . The publisher has made available a “VIEW EXTRACT” (in PDF), which includes the first 30-pages of the book: Cover, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, Chapter ONE and the beginning of Chapter TWO. For PDF of color illustrations go to Image Resources of Didactic Relevance. — GPC — EvoLiteracy 2016.

How to cite the book:

Paz-y-Miño-C, G & Espinosa, A. 2016. Measuring the Evolution Controversy: A Numerical Analysis of Acceptance of Evolution at America’s Colleges and Universities. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, United Kingdom. ISBN (10): 1-4438-9042-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9042-7.

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

Suggested Readings and Related Links

Evolution: Is there a Controversy?

The Incompatibility Hypothesis: Evolution vs. Supernatural Causation

Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars

Darwin’s Skepticism about God

Evolution Wars: Debunk II

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Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars (2013). By NOVA Publishers, New York Soft Cover. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.comAmazon UK.

Paz-y-Mino-C_Book_Cover_Evolution_Stands_Faith_Up_JPEG“The sweet spot of this collection of essays is the interface of science, history and literacy. Paz-y-Miño-C is, in essence, a champion of rationalism and a passionate defender of literacy standards. His essays deftly weave hard survey data and memorable turns of phrase with evocative imagery… While the essays in this collection are vast in coverage —from climate change to energy policy, stem cell research, vaccinations and, especially, evolution— a clear underlying theme emerges: [the author’s] goal is no less than to counter, through the lens of history and the majesty of rationalism, social forces that sanction ignorance, celebrate denial and… continue to diminish our global status in the fields of science and technology.” Jeff Podos, PhD, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

“Paz-y-Miño-C  is a firm believer in evolutionary processes. He would like to see decisions made on the basis of facts, not unsupported opinion. He abhors and fears irrational thinking, especially ‘the views of those who see evil in truth and menace in the realities discovered by science.’ He marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection… and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains.” – Jan A. Pechenik, PhD, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, USA, author of The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species, as Edited for Modern Readers.

The World Celebrates Darwin Day

celebrate-charles-darwin

Today, February 12, the world celebrates the life and legacy of Charles R. Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882). Here, at Evolution Literacy, I would like to share with our readers articles and images previously posted, which have been well received and further disseminated by our colleagues, friends and followers. Don’t forget to observe Darwin Day. — GPC

Darwin Day Awaits Designation by US Congress

Darwin Day… signifies the celebration of the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge. The igniting moments in human history when light was brought into our own origins, when understanding that ordinary apes, like Homo, were capable of the extraordinary, of discovering the truth and debunking obscurantism; yet we still struggle to make science the sole guiding star in our survival decisions, the reliable source of concern and joy, the toolkit to plan our departure from Earth –before our Sun in agonizing heat engulfs its nearest orbiting planets– and seek home somewhere else in the cosmos. Read FULL article at Darwin Day Awaits Designation.

At The Down House: Darwin’s Home

I visited the Down House, Darwin’s Home, in July 2010. Here are a few pictures I wanted to share in celebration of the International Darwin Day, February 12. Prior to visiting the Down House, which is located just a few miles South East of London, I went to Canterbury, Kent, to attend the International Society of Protistologists (ISoP) annual meeting, at the University of Kent. Coincidentally, back in 1991, as an undergraduate student, I obtained a Diploma in Endangered Species Management from the University of Kent, which offered such certification in partnership with the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (nowadays Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). Read FULL article at Darwin’s Home.

Darwin’s Skepticism about God

i-think-by-charles-darwinThis is one of our most read articles at EvoLiteracy — The yearly celebration of International Darwin Day (February 12) is approaching. Here are some of Darwin’s writings, which reveal how skeptical he became –with age and wisdom– about the existence of God. Despite this historical evidence, the pro-religion-in-science crowds, or para-creationists (i.e. theistic evolution, creation science, evolutionary creation), continue to mislead the public by spreading the meme that Darwin was, deep in his soul, a religious naturalist. And that is false. In 1879, Darwin wrote: “…an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.” But read below what else Darwin wrote about The Old and New Testaments, Christianity and God in his Autobiography and later documents. Read FULL article at Darwin’s Skepticism.

Are Women Generally more Religious than Men? Does it Matter?

Yes, women worldwide are, overall, more religious than men. Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released another update to its frequent reports on religion (The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World), which I shared on Facebook. It includes useful maps and descriptive statistics, however, here I summarize only the numeric trends and leave the maps aside (they are didactic). Readers can find the complete report online, as well as the figures and web-links. But first, why do we care at EvoLiteracy News about this topic? One of the reasons (not the only one) is that acceptance of evolution is negatively associated with level of religiosity, as we (and other researchers) have demonstrated in numerous studies. Therefore, the Pew Research report would imply that women, worldwide, accept evolution less than men. But this is –of course– something not addressed by the Pew Research Center in this particular study (see such differences here). Instead the report focuses on speculating about why the gender gap in religious commitment exists, and it does demonstrate that, by just joining the workforce, women become less religious (voilà) –although the gender gap remains. The report, however, disregards the historical oppressive role of religion on all peoples, particularly women. Read FULL article at Are Women More Religious?

The Art Of Nature: Sculptures Of Dinosaur Tracks and Traces

“…Edward Hitchcock’s collection of fossilized tracks and traces of dinosaurs is one of the largest in the world and the Beneski Museum of Natural History exhibits them as fine art, carved by nature… Under soft lighting, a saturation of textures emerges from or deepens into the flat rocks. The 200-million-year-old footprints are so exquisite…” Read FULL article at Beneski Museum.

Hiking among Trilobites, Ancient Whales and Dinosaurs

I have previously stated that to be reassured that evolution is true one simply needs to visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Its displays of skeletons of a North Atlantic right whale with a calf, a humpback, a juvenile blue, and a sperm whale can impress anyone curious to compare human bones to those of cetaceans. And such comparison suffices to infer that common ancestry connects mammalian sea gallopers — whales and dolphins — to us, the upright bipedal apes who live in cities and launch vessels to explore the stars. Read FULL article at Hiking among Trilobites.

i-think-by-charles-darwin-1837-sketch-evoliteracyI think — Case must be that one generation then should be as many living as now. To do this & to have many species in same genus (as is) requires extinction. — Thus between A & B immense gap of relation. C & B the finest gradation, B & D rather greater distinction. Thus genera would be formed. – bearing relation — Charles Darwin’s Notebook B, 1837

Science Challenges Golden Age of Violin Making

Unsubstantiated beliefs interfere with the acceptance of evidence. Belief is a powerful cultural pollutant: it disrupts, distorts, delays and stops the assessment of reality, what I call in my academic work “the 3Ds + S cognitive effects of illusory thinking.” Indeed, I explore, at a scientific level, why people struggle when confronting inner beliefs with facts, and for that I examine acceptance of evolution by highly educated audiences —university professors, educators of prospective teachers, and college students at elite institutions, who, despite their fine education, embrace distinctive degrees of superstition. Read FULL article at Golden Age Violins.

Measuring the Evolution Controversy

The reality of evolution is indisputable and, based on current scientific evidence, all people in the world should accept it. Yet, only 41% of adults worldwide embrace evolution, and they do it under the premise that a deity created humans. One in every three people are strict creationists who believe in religious scriptures concerning the origin of our universe and of humans, and explicitly reject that Homo sapiens is an ape —when, in fact, science informs us that humans’ closest relatives are chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. Indeed, we are all apes. Read FULL article at Evolution Controversy.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Goes to Curiosity-Based Research

If completely stretched into a single, long molecular chain, the DNA of a human cell would measure about two meters. During our lifetimes, our bodies would replicate enough DNA that, theoretically, it could be extended from Earth to the Sun, and back, 250 times. Ample opportunities to accumulate 37 trillion mutations while re-copying the genetic material. Read FULL article at Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Evolution and the Upcoming Challenges of a Predictable Landscape

darwin-on-the-argument-for-designIn Chapter Nine of Measuring the Evolution Controversy, we ask: what will be the societal setting in which science/evolution and religion interact in the future? Early in the narrative of the book, before addressing this question, we remark that societal interactions between science and ideology are intricate, and subject to public policy, law, and abrupt socio-economic change. In addition, we sketch a probable world socio-cultural environment —based on statistical demographic projections— in which acceptance of science and evolution could take place in the future. By the 2050s or 2060s, we argue, the world societal dynamics will be quite different in respect to today’s, particularly in four relevant landscapes associated with attitudes toward science and evolution: distribution of wealth, education, migration, and demographics of religious groups. Read FULL article at The Future of Acceptance of Evolution. — EvoLiteracy © 2017.

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

It Takes A Village To Boycott A Pop Science Book

“…Life [the book] is not the right target [for boycott], or perhaps is just an easy one. It demands much more courage, and by the entire scientific community, to individually and collectively go after the unquestionable adversaries of reason. Those who see facts and fiction indistinguishable, the ideologues and financiers of both the religion-in-science and the anti science movements…”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C

If scientists wish to boycott a book, religious scriptures could be their priority. The holy books are the foundation of the anti-evolution movement worldwide; the anti climate change rhetoric over the belief that a Protector will shield his disciples from human-induced global pollution; the source of pray healing and its conjoined meme that vaccines are heinous; the primeval justification to bigotryhomophobia and misogyny; the validation of both intolerance to any action that is perceived as offensive –above all, freedom of speech– and the crusade to secure society’s protection of the intolerant him/herself.

It Takes A Village To Boycott A Science Book - Cover LifeIn such broad anti science and anti intellectualism contexts, John Brockman has edited yet another volume about science and technology for popular consumption, Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science (2016). I have read this multi-author compilation with special attention, since, upon its release, biologists active in the social media became disappointed with Brockman (and, by default, with the co-writers) for not featuring women authors. And this was legitimate criticism. If Brockman and associates wanted to educate the public about current trends in the biological sciences, they must stop ignoring the diversities of peoples contributing to this global enterprise.

But, of course, I did not agree with the subsequent call to boycott Life, without even reading it, and the deploy of bee-workers and drones to sabotage the purchasing of the work. Boycotting books can be dangerous. It always reminds me of the “burnings of knowledge” by the Nazis, prior to and during World War II, and comparable atrocities led by the Latin American dictators in Argentina and Chile, in the 1970s-80s. I learned of the former by precisely reading about it in my father’s book collection on international affairs (which included Churchill’s The Second World War, and even Hitler’s sickening My Struggle), and of the latter while in high school by following the news of La Guerra Sucia (The Dirty War, term coined a posteriori in the United States) that targeted the creativity of university professors, novelists, musicians and poets. Their books and records flamed, their voices and bodies vanished.

“…Researchers ought to be aware of the popular science-, pseudo-science-, and anti-science books that distress or seem insulting to the public. And, for modern biologists, the list includes the deceptive writings of the intelligent design movement…”

Researchers ought to be aware of the popular science-, pseudo-science-, and anti-science books that distress or seem insulting to the public. And, for modern biologists, the list includes the deceptive writings of the intelligent design (ID) movement and its Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (2016), Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016), Debating Darwin’s Doubt: A Scientific Controversy That Can No Longer Be Denied (2015), Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (2013), Science and Human Origins (2012), The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (2011), God and Evolution (2010), Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy (2010), Signature in the Cell (2009), Intelligent Design 101 (2008), Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design Challenge to Darwinism (2008), Understanding Intelligent Design (2008), The Cell’s Design (2008), The Design of Life (2008), Explore Evolution: The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism (2007), The Edge of Evolution (2007), Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology (1999), Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), and the villainous Of Pandas And People (1989), the foremost impostor exposed –and debunked– at the Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School District trial of 2005.

To Survive Darwinism ID had to evolve

Yes, I have these narratives of pseudo truths and quasi creeds, acquired over the years via used-books sellers –precisely to minimize supporting publishers of noxious fables (a micro sabotage of my own, one that does not discourage anyone to learn about ID). But I also possess the Holy Bible, the Qur’an, the Tanakh and The History of Western Philosophy of Religion (an academic series by Oxford UP, 2009), which I consider my duty to read as a secular scientist, and become aware of the idealistic beauty, historicity, obvious rooting in unreality, and evil, injurious teachings of religion.

Of Pandas And People - The Language of GodNext to the ID bestsellers stand the pro-religion-in-science counterparts. Also sponsored by writers with doctoral degrees and in positions of power, committed to force-marriage evolution with the belief in supernatural causation, to see the fingerprints of God in DNA and molecular processes, to satisfy the populous’ hope to find the Maker, Designer, or Creator in the gaps of knowledge. Francis CollinsThe Language of God (2006), Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith (2010), and The Language of Science and Faith (2011, coauthored with fellow evangelical Christian Karl Giberson) are iconic examples. Yet, none of these books deserves boycott despite their collective effect on disrupting, distorting, delaying or stopping the proper understanding and acceptance of evidence. But they do justify vigorous disapproval by scholars, who should uncover the capricious science emptiness of “evolutionary creation.”

“…Brockman’s edition of Life, despite its disgraceful exclusion of gender and cultural varieties among co-writers, is scientifically above –and by far– the ID’s pamphlets or the languages-[of God]-sequels’ by theistic evolutionists…”

John Brockman’s edition of Life, despite its disgraceful exclusion of gender and cultural varieties among co-writers, is scientifically above –and by far– the ID’s pamphlets or the “language-sequels” by theistic evolutionists. Life could be listed among the 100 required reads for graduate students in biology, and perhaps recommended to science majors in college, of course, with the warning that the contributors –busy reflecting about themselves– discounted Homo diversity as a crucial input in “the leading edge of evolutionary biology, genetics, anthropology, and environmental science.”

Life is “…the fifth volume in The Best of Edge series [edge.org], following Mind, Culture, Thinking, and The Universe…” As a collection of essays, interviews, transcripts of panel discussions, and biographical sketches of scientists and pop-science celebrities, the book is exciting, rich in brainy remarks and first-hand information. Eighteen pieces (from 2000 to 2015) summarize the major trends in science debates, applied DNA technologies, and bioengineering of the twentieth and twenty first centuries –the latter, superficially.

The_Selfish_GeneRichard Dawkins opens with Evolvability (2015), in part a recount of gene-centric evolution in the scenario in which The Selfish Gene (1976) was crafted, and the resulting discussions over replicators (genes), as units of selection, versus “vehicles” (the carriers of genes, our bodies). His classical analysis expands to “universal Darwinism” and the high probability that Darwinian selection of replicator-like molecules shall be a ubiquitous cosmic phenomenon if life exists beyond Earth.

The Dawkinsian argument, in elegant text, is followed by David Haig’s Genomic Imprinting (2002), Robert Trivers’ A Full-Force Storm with Gale Winds Blowing (2004), Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is (2001), Steve Jones’ Genetics Plus Time (2000), Edward O. Wilson’s A United Biology (2003), and Freeman Dyson’s Is Life Analog or Digital? (2001). Thus, Life relies on attractive topics, as well as familiar names in the pop-science arena, to lure readers.

“…Pages and reading hours elapse quickly… Soon, I find myself immersed in the book, joyful for learning material that I have missed… furious by the… broadcasting of long-ago-dismissed science concepts; but overall satisfied to have liked a book which I approached with so much skepticism…”

Pages and reading hours elapse quickly and Brockman succeeds at grabbing one’s attention. Soon, I find myself immersed in the book, joyful at times for learning material that I have missed over the years; disturbed occasionally when sensing plain egomania in the XY-only writers, who turn their texts into self-grooming bouts and testosterone excretion (an exception, not the only one, is Trivers’ auto-deprecating recollections, which are humorous and brilliant); furious by the redundant broadcasting of long-ago-dismissed science concepts; but overall satisfied to have liked a book which I approached with so much skepticism.

Chapter 8 (Life: What a Concept!) is the longest, with one hundred pages, and most captivating. It transcribes a panel discussion (2007) among Dyson, J. Craig Venter, George Church, Dimitar Sasselov, Seth Lloyd, Robert Shapiro, Ting Wu (not included in the list of authors), and moderator Brockman.

As introduction to the dialogue, Dyson, a theoretical physicist, discusses the garbage-bag-model of life. The origin of life, he explains, probably started with metabolism only. “…We know modern life has both metabolism and replication, but they’re carried out by separate groups of molecules. Metabolism… by proteins and all kinds of small molecules, and replication… by DNA and RNA. That may be a clue to the fact that [these processes] started out separate, rather than together… The early cells were just little bags of some kind of cell membrane, which might have been oily or… a metal oxide. And, inside, you had a more-or-less random collection of organic molecules, with the characteristic that small molecules could diffuse in through the membrane, but big molecules could not diffuse out. By converting small molecules into big molecules, you could concentrate the organic contents on the inside, thus the cells would become more concentrated and the chemistry would gradually become more efficient. So, these things could evolve without any kind of replication. It’s a simple statistical inheritance. When a cell became so big that it got cut in half, or shaken in half by some rainstorm or environmental disturbance, it would then produce two cells, which would be its daughters and would inherit, more or less, but only statistically, the chemical machinery inside. Evolution could work under those conditions.”

Columbia Glacier Landsat Satellite NASA 2014

Freeman Dyson: “…We know modern life has both metabolism and replication, but they’re carried out by separate groups of molecules. Metabolism… by proteins and all kinds of small molecules, and replication… by DNA and RNA. That may be a clue to the fact that [these processes] started out separate, rather than together…” – Earth, a planet with life, Columbia Glacier Landsat Satellite NASA 2014

“…Dyson’s garbage-bag hypothesis may be garbageous, but despite its teleological nature it is intellectually intriguing…” 

If these statements provoke in you, as bookworm, any of the emotions described earlier (i.e. joy, disturbed, furious, satisfied), your reactions are comparable to those of the panel. Dyson’s garbage-bag hypothesis may be garbageous (i.e. the divide metabolism versus replication is artificial, and relying on heavy statistical randomness diminishes how natural selection operates, or did in the past, in primordial soups), but despite its teleological nature it is intellectually intriguing. Irrespective of the transcript’s dryness, it happens that the sharp cuts, irony, disagreements and rescuing of the discussion by the panelists themselves grow evident while reading the fascinating exchange. And Brockman moderates it with minimal input, except for the sporadic injection of extra fuel to ignite healthy controversy.

The second half of the book proceeds with a one-on-one chat between Dawkins and Venter, refereed by Brockman, in The Gene-Centric View: A Conversation (2008), followed by Armand Marie Leroi’s The Nature of Normal Human Variety (2005), Daniel Lieberman’s Brains Plus Brawn (2012), Svante Pääbo’s Mapping the Neanderthal Genome (2009), and a transcript of On Biocomputation (2005), a TED event (Technology, Entertainment, Design) featuring Venter, Ray Kurzweil and Rodney Brooks.

Life closes with pieces by Drew Endy, on Engineering Biology (2008), Kary Mullis’ Eat Me Before I Eat You: A New Foe for Bad Bugs (2010), Richard Prum’s Duck Sex and Aesthetic Evolution (2014), Robert Sapolsky’s Toxo (2009), and Stuart Kauffman’s The Adjacent Possible (2003). All mix personal experiences with the authors’ making and living the developments of their own fields.

“…The lay reader might simply take pleasure in the journalistic ride and claim proficiency in pop-science culture at the end of the journey…”

Three out of five stars - Life edited by John Brockman 2016Titles like Life sell fine. The scientist reader can locate in the book historical relevance and depth if he/she looks for and wants to see them. The lay reader might simply take pleasure in the journalistic ride and claim proficiency in pop-science culture at the end of the journey. The spot-the-error copy editor will never forget, nor forgive, that the cover of Life lists “Matt Ridley” as contributor, a science personality nowhere else to be found (at least in the copy I have –see image above), a regrettable carelessness in book production. Plus, there is no leading edge in the compilation of articles, the average publication date (2006) is ten years too old.

It may take a village to boycott a pop science book, but Life is not the right target, or perhaps is just an easy one. It demands much more courage, and by the entire scientific community, to individually and collectively go after the unquestionable adversaries of reason. Those who see facts and fiction indistinguishable, the ideologues and financiers of both the religion-in-science and the anti science movements. — EvoLiteracy © 2016.

Cartoon by Rina Piccolo Book-burning Club

Book-burning Club, cartoon by Rina Piccolo (click on image to enlarge)

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

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D - Headline Book Measuring the Evolution Controversy 2016

Paz-y-Miño-C, G & Espinosa, A. 2016. Measuring the Evolution Controversy: A Numerical Analysis of Acceptance of Evolution at America’s Colleges and Universities. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, United Kingdom. ISBN (10): 1-4438-9042-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9042-7.

BOOK small format - Measuring the Evolution Controversy 2016Measuring the Evolution Controversy can be ordered directly from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Amazon US, or Amazon CA . The publisher has made available a “VIEW EXTRACT” (in PDF), which includes the first 30-pages of the book: Cover, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, Chapter ONE and the beginning of Chapter TWO. For PDF of color illustrations go to Image Resources of Didactic Relevance.

“The great contribution of ‘Measuring the Evolution Controversy’ is the rich content of data and analysis that asks detailed questions about the social, economic and political backgrounds of those who tend to reject evolution vs. those who accept evolution as science. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa deftly analyze their data drawn from institutions of higher learning in the United States and particularly New England —which stands as a microcosm of the rest of the country, and indeed elsewhere in the world. It is their scientific approach to these issues which makes this book stand out as a uniquely original contribution.” — Niles Eldredge, PhD, Curator Emeritus of Paleontology at The American Museum of Natural History, New York.

“Pro-science activists and educators constantly bemoan the resistance to the teaching of evolution in the United States. All of us have anecdotes about encounters with the public, parents and students who are misinformed by their churches, Religious-Right groups, and creationist organizations. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa present hard data that support the anecdotal evidence. They also show that although anti-evolutionism typically begins with religion, it is a multi-faceted problem that intersects with political and cultural ideologies. Gathered through careful research over a period of years, their data will enable scientists and defenders of science education to comprehend the roots of the evolution controversy and counteract resistance to evolution more strategically and effectively.”Barbara Forrest, PhD, co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (2007), and expert witness for plaintiffs, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).

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Paz-y-Mino-C_Book_Cover_Evolution_Stands_Faith_Up_JPEGPaz-y-Miño-C., G. 2013. Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars. NOVA Publishers, New York. By NOVA Publishers, New York Soft Cover. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.comAmazon UK

“The sweet spot of this collection of essays is the interface of science, history and literacy. Paz-y-Miño-C is, in essence, a champion of rationalism and a passionate defender of literacy standards. His essays deftly weave hard survey data and memorable turns of phrase with evocative imagery… While the essays in this collection are vast in coverage —from climate change to energy policy, stem cell research, vaccinations and, especially, evolution— a clear underlying theme emerges: [the author’s] goal is no less than to counter, through the lens of history and the majesty of rationalism, social forces that sanction ignorance, celebrate denial and… continue to diminish our global status in the fields of science and technology.” Jeff Podos, PhD, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

“Paz-y-Miño-C  is a firm believer in evolutionary processes. He would like to see decisions made on the basis of facts, not unsupported opinion. He abhors and fears irrational thinking, especially ‘the views of those who see evil in truth and menace in the realities discovered by science.’ He marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection… and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains.” – Jan A. Pechenik, PhD, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, USA, author of The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species, as Edited for Modern Readers.

Science Writing and the Pseudoscience Trap

“…Error magnification is the single most vicious and pervasive meme in popular science miscommunication. It is seeded and driven by the science communicator him/herself and feed-back-looped into society, creating a cycle of half truths rather than educating the public…” — GPC

Science Writing Evolution Literacy

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C

I am not fond of giving unsolicited advice, I almost never welcome it, although one should be open to internalizing constructive guidance when sincerely offered to us. And writers of any kind need editors to help us spot mistakes in our articles and improve format and content.

But I do have some experience writing about science for the general public. Occurrences that I can share with all.

My first article (1987), for El Comercio, explored the impact of aggressive shrimp-farming on the pristine mangrove ecosystems of Ecuador. The piece summarized a hands-on and in situ research project conducted as a biology undergraduate. Not only did it ignite my interest in investigative coverage, but led me to editorialize –ever since– on science, technology and the environment. Twenty-plus full-page reports –text and pictures– followed up to 1993 in Diario Hoy (another leading newspaper in Quito) and wildlife magazines. When I came to the United States to attend graduate school, I contributed 35 op pieces to El Popular (1996 to 2000), the foremost Hispanic newspaper in Toronto.

“…English has an advantage, it is the currency of modern science. It is an idiom of exploration, almost anything goes. Unfortunately, junk-writing is also part of this trial-and-error…”

Over time, I transitioned to writing almost exclusively in English (my second language), which has its own science etiquette, quite distinctive from Spanish. But English has an advantage, it is the currency of modern science. It is an idiom of exploration; anything goes. Unfortunately, junk-writing is also part of this trial and error.

Writing about science for the American readership –lay or specialized– is always a challenge. The landscapes (e.g. editorials, chronicles, reports, notes, blogs), styles, theme trends, and audiences’ interests change constantly. The internet has brought dynamism to sharing science news, via imaging (photos and video), more than text, or in short reports (150 to 300 words, rather than the usual 600 to 800 expected by publishers in the past), and quick and dirty delivery. The latter is a powerful temptation that a cautious columnist should avoid.

Editing Proofreading Marks for use on blogs and social media

Proofreading marks were used in the past for copy-editing scientific manuscripts and articles. They are extinct nowadays (the image shows a humorous version of proofreading symbols broadly shared in the social media). The edition and copy-edition of manuscripts is currently done automatically on computers and online servers. Still, human intervention is needed.

“…I do not consider myself a science writer, although I have been called ‘science journalist,’ as an insult, by a rodentologist incapable of graceful interaction with people…”

Before advancing any further, note that I do not consider myself a science writer, although I have been called “science journalist,” as an insult, by a rodentologist incapable of graceful interaction with people. But, I am a biologist who happens to write about science. I come from a background of journalists (my grandfather, father and a sister), essayists (two brothers who are professors in academia and regular contributors to newspapers), and a novelist sister. Plus, my father’s line run, for decades, a publishing initiative. Books were around us. Still, my only assertion here is that the publication process, from paper to ink on it, or to the sorting of pages and final binding of volumes, is the foundation of my cultural imprinting.

Learning to Spot Mistakes

A good, skeptical eye is essential in a writer, and this can be acquired by training. In my case, I worked as a copy editor for the journal Biotropica while I was a graduate student and, later, a postdoc (1996 to 2003). I revised 80 manuscripts by world authors and on multiple subjects. My responsibility was to find mistakes (typos, grammar errors, non-sense sentences, contradictions and, occasionally, bring content issues to the attention of the editors). That experience taught me to minimize the errors I still make while preparing scientific papers and perspectives. Perfection is never achieved, only sharpness to spot what seems incorrect and improve the outcome.

“…The skill of spotting mistakes shall make anyone a better author…”

And not to forget, I was also production editor and copy editor for Animal Behaviour (2001 – 2003), something I remember with mix feelings: although I did not revise as many manuscripts as for Biotropica, the AB Editorial Office in Indiana passed on to me difficult, long manuscripts, loaded with problems, arid science, although written by famous ethologists. In retrospect, I am grateful to my colleagues for the tedious assignments, and for forcing me to examine unpolished papers. The skill of spotting mistakes shall make anyone a better author.

Learning to Be an Editor

From 2003 to 2012, I became founder editor of The Conservation Behaviorist, a biannual periodical of the Animal Behavior Society’s Conservation Committee, which I chaired for three years (2003 – 2006). I edited and produced, from scratch, each of the issues of the ten volumes published during that decade.

“…One must avoid the pseudo science trap, sequel of adopting language that feeds the readers’ unsophisticated comfort zones, at the expense of hurting scientific rigor via distortion…”

What I value most from that activity is that I discovered how to adapt the texts submitted by scientists —in the interface animal behavior / conservation biology— to a media-friendly format, language and delivery. I spent hours reshaping the prose without changing the intention of the writers or the scientific accuracy of their proposals. And that is key in science writing. One must avoid the pseudoscience trap, sequel of adopting language that feeds the readers’ unsophisticated comfort zones, at the expense of hurting scientific rigor via distortion.

This malady is widespread in the work published in major newspapers, magazines, blogs and social media. Here is an example: claiming that naked mole rats are “cancer free” is not only falsehood, but it does not make scientific sense (i.e. relative lower incidence of cancer in a given organism, in respect to others, including humans, does not mean cancer-immunity, nor its absence; UPDATE: for a comprehensive review see Cancer Across The Tree of Life: Cooperation and Cheating in Multicellularity). As much as it was questionable, when in the 1990s, the “shark- cartilage pill industry” made a fortune ecociding sharks, milling their dried skeletons and selling “miracle powder” in anti-cancer capsules for the pro-natural-medicine ignoramus. Science writers must not fall in love with inaccuracies or fables like these.

The point here is that, by being an editor, one can learn to honor science, respect its integrity rather than allow free ride to sensationalism by promoting “breaking news” soon-to-be debunked.

Network of Science Communication Lemerg dot com - Evolution Literacy

The Network of Science Communication. The pseudoscience trap is inherent to networking. Science writers must not fall in love with inaccuracies and fables (image iStockphoto/Thinkstock).

Developing Your Own Style

You do not need to please everyone, particularly family, friends, colleagues or supervisors. Actually, it works best to stay away from their never unbiased reviews (except if they are writers themselves). But it is important to define the type of science writer you want to be, and develop a style with which a readership identifies you.

“…it is important to define what type of science writer you want to be, and develop a style with which a readership identifies you…”

When I wrote my initial op piece for The Standard Times in 2010, it was welcomed instantly, but two subsequent editorials were rejected. I spoke with the Editor in Chief and persuaded him that we needed to develop –together– a readership for the types of articles I would offer: an analysis of science topics with my personal take, rather than a report-story vast in empty phrases like “scientists say” or “according to researchers” or “in the opinion of experts.” Reluctantly, he agreed and months later we enjoyed the interaction with the readers and their feedback; positive and, sometimes, disapproving.

The Standard Times and I published 28 editorials (2010 – 2015) under the “Your View” column, thus conveying that I, as a writer, was one more member of the community, discharging from the inside my criteria and views about dissimilar or related topics, including: the relevance of curiosity-based research, the anti-vaccine movement, the collapse of basic science under the for-profit model, the scientific challenges to the reputation of the Stradivari violins, the wrongly called God-particle (Higgs boson), or the false beliefs in faith healing (for complete access to articles go to publications).

Being Aware of Your Skills

Because pop science writing lacks the editorial process of a scientific article, it is tempting to avoid fact-checks. Editorial reviewers of newspapers and magazines pay more attention to the journalistic aspects of the story than to its scientific accuracy. Many science writers have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the humanities, with some training in science and technology (note that this is evolving and today’s media firms hire contributors with graduate certifications and previous experience in the job). If they possess a doctoral degree, it often lacks the postdoctoral practice that a recently-graduated student needs. And if a postdoctoral training is under the belt, the exercise of peer-reviewing (or being peer-reviewed), editing, publishing and, most importantly, reading thousands of scientific papers is just not there.

Peer Review Process Evolution Literacy

The Peer-review System of Scientific Papers

“…If, as a science writer, you feel confident with your grasping of scientific papers, think twice. You are probably wrong…”

Not only science writing is difficult, but also reading and correctly translating what the scientists communicate in their publications. Cutting-edge research is usually understood by highly specialized investigators. The best a science writer can do is to seek the original source and obtain interpretations of findings directly from the horse’s mouth. Do not rely, to write your own report, on other writers’ stories in the media. That will only magnify the error. And error magnification is the single most vicious and pervasive meme in popular science miscommunication. It is seeded and driven by the science communicator him/herself (including the press-releases from university campuses about their faculty’s discoveries) and feed-back-looped into society, creating a cycle of half truths rather than educating the public.

If, as a science writer, you feel confident with your grasping of scientific papers, think twice. You are probably wrong. Principal investigators all over the country read the same articles you claim to understand and discuss them in journal clubs with colleagues, postdocs, and graduate students. They dissect the articles to a level of extreme, yet fine criticism and end up comprehending the experiments, the math and statistics, the theoretical context and significance of the studies. If they struggle collectively in this effort, what makes you think that you have it clear?

“…It is up to you, therefore, to publish well-documented perspectives or copious shallow reports…”

In addition, writing hundreds of 300-to-600-word notes about science is not equivalent to preparing a single peer-review publication for a scientific journal. If you do investigative coverage, which might take days, weeks or months (to confirm the veracity of the info), any average science writer could surpass you in production by spawning hourly articles. It is up to you, therefore, to publish well-documented perspectives or copious shallow reports.

Your Work Is Needed

Society needs science communicators, and science writers are crucial in this respect. But be realistic, just examine the turnout of science writers at any major newspaper or magazine (info available online under “contributors”), and realize that, after a few years, the entire staff might have crossed the revolving door. Although there are still more job opportunities for science writers than for TV or documentary anchors. Writing for radio is also an alternative, yet with limited employment. Freelancing, therefore, shall be your probable route.

If you have passion for writing about science, it can be an enjoyable journey. However, here are additional tips:

  • Obtain the highest education possible and dismiss the notion to not pursue formal schooling and, instead, “learn on the job.” The latter is damaging advice, usually given by people without specialized education, or by those who benefit from your unpreparedness. If you actually get the job, you will always “learn the praxis” while on it. But you will never compensate, “on the job,” for the formal education you missed. Science, math and technology are not taught in the streets.
  • Read by far more topics than you can write about; develop a sense for science.
  • Travel internationally to scientific meetings and try to understand the cultural contexts in which science is done elsewhere; this could be difficult since we all see the planet through parochial preconceptions. However, modern science is done collaboratively and international partnerships are ubiquitous. Writing from home will keep your mind at home.
  • Write about science itself, rather than people in science. Do not celebritize individuals, but grant credit to all who deserve it.
  • Do not become enticed by the ivory-tower institutions as the sole source of science stories to report; that will turn you into a snob writer.
  • And remember that a good science tale should be good by itself, no matter its origin, but only a good story teller would make it shine.

Science writing can be art or artistic, profound and beautiful, but also commercial and prone to “likes” and “shares” in the social media, which are addicting. If you want to “go viral,” then consequential science communication might not be the path to take. It is not for you. After all, the most significant science books and articles for the general public are written by scientists (some in collaboration with reporters), not by science writers. But you can create a niche for yourself as science communicator-facilitator in a way that servers your local community and society. — EvoLiteracy © 2016.

Acknowledgment: I thank Avelina Espinosa for editorial comments and feedback to improve this article.

You can contact Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C via email at guillermo.pazyminoc@gmail.com — Follow us on Twitter @gpazymino and Facebook.

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Measuring The Evolution Controversy - FourBooks - Paz-y-Mino-C & Espinosa 2016

Paz-y-Miño-C, G & Espinosa, A. 2016. Measuring the Evolution Controversy: A Numerical Analysis of Acceptance of Evolution at America’s Colleges and Universities. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, United Kingdom. ISBN (10): 1-4438-9042-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9042-7.

BOOK small format - Measuring the Evolution Controversy 2016Measuring the Evolution Controversy can be ordered directly from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Amazon US, or Amazon CA . The publisher has made available a “VIEW EXTRACT” (in PDF), which includes the first 30-pages of the book: Cover, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, Chapter ONE and the beginning of Chapter TWO. For PDF of color illustrations go to Image Resources of Didactic Relevance.

“The great contribution of ‘Measuring the Evolution Controversy’ is the rich content of data and analysis that asks detailed questions about the social, economic and political backgrounds of those who tend to reject evolution vs. those who accept evolution as science. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa deftly analyze their data drawn from institutions of higher learning in the United States and particularly New England —which stands as a microcosm of the rest of the country, and indeed elsewhere in the world. It is their scientific approach to these issues which makes this book stand out as a uniquely original contribution.” — Niles Eldredge, PhD, Curator Emeritus of Paleontology at The American Museum of Natural History, New York.

“Pro-science activists and educators constantly bemoan the resistance to the teaching of evolution in the United States. All of us have anecdotes about encounters with the public, parents and students who are misinformed by their churches, Religious-Right groups, and creationist organizations. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa present hard data that support the anecdotal evidence. They also show that although anti-evolutionism typically begins with religion, it is a multi-faceted problem that intersects with political and cultural ideologies. Gathered through careful research over a period of years, their data will enable scientists and defenders of science education to comprehend the roots of the evolution controversy and counteract resistance to evolution more strategically and effectively.”Barbara Forrest, PhD, co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (2007), and expert witness for plaintiffs, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).

*  *  *  *  *     *  *  *  *  *     *  *  *  *  *

Paz-y-Mino-C_Book_Cover_Evolution_Stands_Faith_Up_JPEGPaz-y-Miño-C., G. 2013. Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars. NOVA Publishers, New York. By NOVA Publishers, New York Soft Cover. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.comAmazon UK

“The sweet spot of this collection of essays is the interface of science, history and literacy. Paz-y-Miño-C is, in essence, a champion of rationalism and a passionate defender of literacy standards. His essays deftly weave hard survey data and memorable turns of phrase with evocative imagery… While the essays in this collection are vast in coverage —from climate change to energy policy, stem cell research, vaccinations and, especially, evolution— a clear underlying theme emerges: [the author’s] goal is no less than to counter, through the lens of history and the majesty of rationalism, social forces that sanction ignorance, celebrate denial and… continue to diminish our global status in the fields of science and technology.” Jeff Podos, PhD, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

“Paz-y-Miño-C  is a firm believer in evolutionary processes. He would like to see decisions made on the basis of facts, not unsupported opinion. He abhors and fears irrational thinking, especially ‘the views of those who see evil in truth and menace in the realities discovered by science.’ He marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection… and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains.” – Jan A. Pechenik, PhD, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, USA, author of The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species, as Edited for Modern Readers.