The Altenberg 16
An Exposé of the Evolution Industry
By Suzan Mazur
(North Atlantic Books, Paperback, 9781556439247, 376pp.)
Publication Date: February 9, 2010
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A new theory of evolution begins to emerge in the pages of The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. Written by Suzan Mazur—a print and television journalist whose reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Archaeology, Omni, and many other publications—the book is a front row seat to the thinking of the great evolutionary science minds of our time about the need to reformulate the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. We hear from world renowned scientists such as Richard Lewontin, Lynn Margulis, Niles Eldredge, Richard Dawkins, the "evo-devo" revolutionaries, NASA astrobiologists, and others.
The book grew out of a story Mazur broke online in March 2008—titled "Altenberg! The Woodstock of Evolution?"—about the now famous meeting at Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria in July 2008, where 16 scientists discussed expanding evolutionary thinking beyond outdated hypotheses. (MIT will publish the proceedings in April 2010.) Science magazine noted that Mazur’s reporting "reverberated throughout the evolutionary biology community."
Mazur says she was punished for getting out in front of the story and banned from the symposium but realized the story was bigger than Altenberg (which covered events beginning 500 million years ago) and spoke to scientists who were not invited, including those investigating pre-biotic evolution.
She came to the conclusion that evolutionary science suffers because many in the scientific establishment refuse to acknowledge that the old science has served its purpose and there is disagreement about what the new evolution paradigm is. She thinks the dam is now breaking because the public (who funds science) has become a party to the discourse via the Internet and seeks answers to fundamental questions about evolution that scientists so far can’t definitively answer.
Suzan Mazur's interest in evolution began with a flight from Nairobi into Olduvai Gorge to interview the late paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey. Because of ideological struggles, the Kenyan-Tanzanian border was closed, and Leakey was the only reason authorities in Dar es Salaam agreed to give landing clearance. The meeting followed discovery by Leakey and her team of the 3.6 million-year-old hominid footprints at Laetoli. Suzan Mazur's reports have since appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Her Web site is www.suzanmazur.com.
“Very glad to see the book. I suspect it should have some (very much needed) influence now against the background of the ‘evo-devo revolution’ and the belated recognition of Margulis’s work.”
—Noam Chomsky, MIT Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus
“The invitation-only conference, being held in Altenberg, Austria, ‘promises to be far more transforming for the world’ than the 1969 [Woodstock] music festival, Mazur wrote online in March  for Scoop.co.nz, an independent news publication in New Zealand. That hyperbole has reverberated throughout the evolutionary biology community. . . .”
“[T]he latest issue of the highly regarded Nature magazine has a cover article about the important but hidden Altenberg meeting on post-Darwinian research and new thoughts about evolution. We ran a piece of Suzan Mazur’s groundbreaking work on this topic back in March and followed up with another in July. Nature even borrows from Mazur’s term ‘evolutionary Woodstock’ to describe the critical meeting. The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement. So for the topic to make the cover of Nature is a notable development.”
—Sam Smith, Editor, Progressive Review
“Well, we don’t have to organize human society ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw.’ No. We don’t have to.”
—Richard Lewontin, Professor of Biology, Emeritus, Harvard University
“And what Haldane, Fisher, Sewell Wright, Hardy, Weinberg, et al. did was invent. . . . The Anglophone tradition was taught. I was taught and so were my contemporaries. And so were the younger scientists. Evolution was defined as ‘changes in gene frequencies’ in natural populations. The accumulation of genetic mutations were touted to be enough to change one species to another. . . . No. It wasn’t dishonesty. I think it was wish fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”
—Lynn Margulis, recipient of the US Presidential Medal for Science