Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OK, I know I'm on holiday but....

... this really is too much. I had decided for various reasons that I wouldn't comment on this story but it's becoming a fascinating example of what can go wrong when the media gets into the business of supporting science. To my way of thinking, when the manager of the History Channel says “We made a commitment early on to get behind it in a big way: to see it through peer review, and see that it is the media event it should be” there's something very wrong; "peer review" should not be appearing in the same sentence as "media event." This is a very important discovery and it's an outstanding fossil - although you could argue that Messel has produced a hatful of equally impressive finds that haven't got the same exposure because they are not primates - but it is not true that "this changes everything" (as the History Channel's promotional campaign claims), nor can it be compared to the Kennedy Assassination or the Moon landings, nor is it in any meaningful way a "missing link." But I guess that's what happens when you sell your science to the people that made UFO Hunters and Monster Quest.

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