< This book takes a look at the rivalry in science today surrounding attempts to discover the elusive process of evolution. In one camp are the faithful followers of the long-standing theory of natural selection promulgated by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago. This “survival of the fittest” theory, according to author Suzan Mazur, is no longer the scientific cornerstone of biology and has been challenged for decades. In the other camp are those challengers who want to steer evolutionary science in a more honest, scientifically accurate direction. However, the Darwinian theory has become a political powerhouse brand that is hard to unseat because of the money and power associated with it.
The Altenberg 16 is about a group of evolution scientists who met in 2008 in Austria to discuss and attempt to tell the truth about this “brand.” Will they and their findings help rid us of the natural selection “survival of the fittest” mentality that has plagued civilization for a century and a half, now that the cat is out of the bag that natural selection is largely a political brand? It’s almost guaranteed that debate and contention will continue into the foreseeable future.
Some of the biggest names in evolutionary science and related fields are profiled or interviewed by Mazur. They include Richard Lewontin (Harvard University), Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution), Richard Dawkins (bestselling author), Stuart Newman (New York Medical College), Lynn Margulis (University of Massachusetts and Oxford University), Noam Chomsky (MIT), and many others from around the world.
From the introduction:
“Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. It is a social discourse involving hypotheses of staggering complexity with scientists, recipients of the biggest grants of any intellectuals, assuming the power of politicians while engaged in Animal House pie-throwing and name-calling: ‘ham-fisted’, ‘looney Marxist hangover’, ‘secular creationist’, ‘philosopher’ (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), ‘quack’, ‘crackpot’. . .
“In short, it’s a modern day quest for the holy grail, but with few knights. At a time that calls for scientific vision, scientific inquiry’s been hijacked by an industry of greed, with evolution books hyped like snake oil at a carnival.”