There weren't many science writers are the Royal Society meeting in London (UK) [New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives]. Carl Zimmer was there and so was Suzan Mazur. Carl was there to learn and do some research. Suzan was there to promote herself as the main publicist of the paradigm shifters.Carl Zimmer wrote a news article about the meeting for Quanta: Scientists Seek to Update Evolution. The subtitle was "Recent discoveries have led some researchers to argue that the modern evolutionary synthesis needs to be amended." It was a pretty fair article and pretty good reporting on what went on at the meeting. I would have been a bit more harsh about the success of the so-called "paradigm shifters" but Carl did a good job of conveying the skepticism exhibited by many at the meeting. [See Kevin Laland's new view of evolution for my take on these "revolutionaries."]
Zimmer is one of the best science writers on the planet. Suzan Mazur is not. Zimmer was been widely recognized for the quality of his writing. Here's a excerpt from his website.
He has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has won the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Journalism Award three times--twice for his work for The New York Times and once for The Loom. His other honors include the Pan-American Health Organization Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting, the American Institute Biological Sciences Media Award, and the Everett Clark Award for science writing. In 2007 he was awarded the National Academies Science Communication Award for "his diverse and consistently interesting coverage of evolution and unexpected biology." In 2011 he was elected to the board of directors of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. In 2015, the National Association of Biology Teachers awarded Zimmer with their Distinguished Service Award.Suzan Mazur wrote an article about the meeting for Huffington Post. She didn't say much about the meeting but she did say a lot about Carl Zimmer [Fake News & Royal Society Evo Meeting]. It's pretty obvious she didn't like Zimmer's article. Here's what she said about Carl Zimmer.
At Yale University, Zimmer teaches a course on writing about science and the environment. He was also the first Visiting Scholar at the Science, Health, and Environment Reporting Program at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Remember Zimmer is a journalist who got his start at Discover magazine in the late 80s, he’s not a scientist who can speak from authority. Yet he throws around “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” in his account of the meeting without acknowledging that there is no agreement by the scientists who are participating in the Templeton EES project on what the word “extended” means.
Zimmer wrote an excellent book about evolution back in 2001. If you haven't read it, you should get a copy right now and check it out.
He also wrote an evolutionary biology textbook (!!) in 2009: The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution. He followed this up with another evolution textbook written in collaboration with Doug Emlen. This 2013 book is called: Evolution: Making Sense of Life.
Carl's evolution books, especially the second edition, cover all aspects of evolution including the most up-to-date versions of evolutionary theory. He gets it right and he doesn't miss any of the important features of evolution, including those that were discussed at the Royal Society meeting. Here's an except ... you can judge for yourselves.
Chapter 5 begins our investigation of the molecular mechanisms that allow this long-term evolutionary change to occur. We examine how DNA encodes RNA and proteins, and how mutations and other processes give rise to genetic variation. In Chapter 6, we look at the rise and fall of the frequency of gene variants in populations. Many mutations eventually disappear, while others spread widely. Sometimes these changes are the result of chance, a process called genetic drift; other times they are more predictable. Natural selection also changes the frequency of gene variants. Mutations spread if they cause their bearers to perform well—to thrive and be especially successful at reproducing. Mutations may decrease in frequency or be lost completely if their bearers perform poorly. The effect of a mutation can depend on more than just the mutation itself. It may be influenced by other genes that an organism carries. The environment in which an organism lives can also have a huge effect. As a result, the same mutation to the same gene may be devastating in one individual and harmless in another. Depending on the particular circumstances, natural selection may favor a mutation or drive it to oblivion. Charles Darwin believed that natural selection occurred so slowly that he couldn’t hope to observe it directly. But in Chapter 8, we survey a number of cases in which scientists have documented selection taking place in our own lifetime.I've read all of Carl Zimmer's book. I've also read all of Suzan Mazur's books. Carl Zimmer speaks with authority when he writes about evolution. Suzan Mazur speaks like a self-promoting journalist.
In her article about Carl Zimmer, Suzan Mazur thought it worthwhile to quote a comment from Sui Huang who wrote, "While I much enjoy his [Zimmer’s] writings (articles in NY Times and National Geographic, and book) I have long considered him a solid, non-imaginative, non-visionary conformist of Darwinism (or Adaptationism) who mostly just regurgitates the concepts of the Modern Synthesis in elegant and pedagogically useful prose - notably when reporting on new findings that fit the Darwinian orthodoxy ....”
That's bullshit. As you can see from his textbook, Carl Zimmer is NOT the person Sui Huang describes and not the person Suzan Mazur wants him to be.
Suzan owes Carl an apology.