Suzan does a mini- Monckton

By Ken Perrott 30/07/2010 1

The journalist Suzan Mazur seems to be taking a leaf out of Christopher Monckton’s silly book.

A while back I reviewed Suzan Mazur’s book The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry (see Self-exposure — a journalist out of depth). I didn’t like it. My conclusion was that she had no real knowledge of evolutionary science. She approached the issue like a political journalist, believing the worst of the scientists she interviewed and thinking she had a “story” when she didn’t. The title of the book says it all. As does the fact that it was promoted by intelligent design/creationist websites and blogs.

Since then Mazur has had a few other digs at scientists particularly on the issue of peer review (see The Peer Review Prison). It is just so easy to get quotes from disgruntled authors to support a conspiracy theory of the “scientific establishment” censoring honest scientific work and new ideas. Nothing new there. And it is not honest reporting.

Now she has been called out by the scientist/philosopher Massimo Pigluicci. He described his experience with her work on The Altenberg 16 in his recent book Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.* The discrepancy between the material he provided in his interview and the article she wrote allowed, according the Pigluicci, “a rare glimpse from the inside of a journalist’s behaviour once she thought (mistakenly) that she was on to something big.” Pigluicci said it revealed “how thin the boundary is between not only science and pseudoscience, but journalism and pseudo-journalism.”

This didn’t please Mazur at all. And like a mini-Monckton she climbed out of her tree, attacked Pigluicci, his employer (Lehman College) and Publisher (University of Chicago press). She describes Pigluicci’s comments as a “malicious attack,” “twisted,”  disingenuous” and “libelous trash.” She questions whether Pigluicci “is competent to teach with regard to moral and ethics at Lehman College.”

And she demands that the publishers removed Pigliucci’s book from circulation, cancel scheduled readings and “advise Massimo Pigluicci to cease and desist from further derogatory public statements with regard to me and my work.”

This is the sort of thing we have come to expect from lord Christopher Monckton when his claims are subjected to calm, reason, scientific critique (see Support John Abraham against Monckton’s bullying).

Two weeks after making her demands the University of Chicago Press and their legal counsel have advised Mazur they stand by  Massimo Pigliucci, won’t be removing his  book from circulation or stop public readings from it. Se has released the letter she sent to the publishers (see Pigliucci Deceit Drags Publisher Into Big Muddy) but no copy of their response.

Strangely, this little storm in a teacup was reported, as far as I can find, only at New Zealand’s Scoop (which was also involved in publishing her book).

*See Pseudoscience and anti-science nonsense for a review of Pigluicci’s book Nonsense on Stilts


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One Response to “Suzan does a mini- Monckton”

  • Mazur has been widely criticised for her reporting on the Altenberg meeting, and, in my opinion, rightfully. I don’t think I’d be alone in suggesting that one of the reasons we have such a prominent epigenetics nonsense industry is partly due to her efforts.

    One of my own epigenetics articles appeared on (for overseas readers: scoop is a local on-line news PR feed service) with either an advertisement or a *advertorial* for her book next to it. (I forget which of the two now, my recollection was of an advertorial but it’s been a while.) I wasn’t too impressed with either of scoop running the advertorial/advertisement or Mazur’s claims. Reading now to the end of your article it is interesting to learn that scoop was involved in publishing the book.

    The approach of attacking an “opponent’s” employer has recently been commented on elsewhere (Respectful Insolence from memory), with the suggestion that it is a common strategy of creationist and anti-vaccine individuals/groups in the USA. It strikes me as an example of using legal muscle in place of sound argument.

    It also occurs to me that pretty much the same objections she makes of Pigliucci’s book could be made to ask for the removal of her book. Kettle, pot, etc.?

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