Et tu, Daily Mail?

The BBC story about Dr. Curry’s “predictions” for the future of human evolution that I discussed in the previous post was released in Oct. 2006, but now the Daily Mail has run a very similar article as well. Like the BBC, they claim that a “top scientist” made serious “predictions” along these lines. Other blogs seem to have taken them at their word and have assumed the Curry really meant all this as real science.

If you read his original “Bravo Report“, it is pretty obvious that he was using very hypothetical sci-fi kinds of examples as illustrations of general evolutionary concepts (sympatric speciation, assortative mating, sexual selection) and not much more. An easily sensationalized and therefore ill-chosen tact, to be sure, but not the outrageous idiocy for which he is being slammed.

I don’t think my interpretation is far off, given the following preamble to Curry’s essay:

In the summer of 2006 I was commissioned by Bravo Television to write an essay on the future of human evolution. The essay was intended as a ‘science fiction’ way of illustrating some aspects of evolutionary theory.

Bravo then sent out a press release on the essay, but did not release the essay itself. As a result, a wildly distorted version of what I had written ended up being reported as ‘science fact’ in the media. I do not endorse the content of these media reports.

A lesson for bloggers: always read the original source, especially if a media story seems too silly to be true.

2 thoughts on “Et tu, Daily Mail?

  1. I think you are being way too generous to Curry. The original article is pretty stupid to start with. I mean, besides the SF silliness, crap like

    Men everywhere find the following physical cues of youth, health and fertility attractive in women: a 0.7 waste-to-hip ratio, lighter-than- average skin colour, smooth hairless skin, glossy hair, symmetry, large clear eyes, low testosterone (eg, small chin), pert breasts and nulliparity

    just tells us about what turns Curry on (as if we cared) — it certainly isn’t reflective of “men everywhere”.

    But the media *is* to blame for often quoting these London School of Economics types on evolution. Why? Is it that hard to find an actual biologist in London?

  2. He has been badly quote-mined and is being personally criticized for things he did not say — to me, that is a larger issue than whether I agree with the evo-psych content of his ill-conceived essay.

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