Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nature does it again

Surely we can get even you, Occamseraser, to admit that there's a creationist smell about the Aug 12 Nature cover.  The "first cut"?  In what possible sense could this be characterized that way?  If the cover had said 'earliest-known' that could be responsible journalism.  But since tool use must have evolved over millions of years, as its presence in chimpanzees shows, it absolutely verges on creationism to suggest that there was a 'first' tool, much less that it was in any way sophisticated or even recognizable archeologically.  Did Adam use it to bring dinner home to Eve?

We think this is misleading melodrama.  If it were the first instance, we wouldn't make so much of it, but they do it over and over again.  It may not be seriously misleading, but point-cause thinking about evolution is all too prevalent these days, if implicit, even among scientists.

And here we are not considering the claimed possibility that the marks were made by a crocodile, not a hominin.  If that turns out to be the case, will Nature call it "The First Bite"?


occamseraser said...

Me thinks that they're just riffing on Rod Stewart's "First cut ... is the deepest" lyric of long ago!
"First known cut" just doesn't, well, er,... cut it ;)

Melodrama? Nah. Tongue in cheek? Probably.

Ken Weiss said...

Yep, I agree. This is the same kind of superficial pun-seeking that they usually do, and can't be credited with subtlety. Being subtle is not the name of their game. Being cute, perhaps.

Holly Dunsworth said...

I dunno, I was way more offended by Nat'l Geo's "WAS DARWIN WRONG?" cover. Because if you never opened up the volume, you might very well assume that there was legitimate controversy over the reality of evolution.

Ken Weiss said...

Well, two hyperbolic wrongs don't make a right. I wouldn't want to get into a competition with which 'journal' deserves a worse rating for poor science representation.

Of course, Nature is supposed to be a journal. For years, NG has been a magazine. Nature wants to be one, too. Maybe, to seal their case, they'll follow up NG by regularly including photos of naked women. NG got a lot of sales from adolescent boys that way, at least when I was a kid....