2013 Toronto Science Festival

The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth


How does our understanding of the origin and evolution of life on Earth inform our thinking about life in other parts of the Universe? Can we expect life beyond Earth to evolve as it does on our planet? Should we expect life to always evolve into complex forms? As part of the Toronto Science Festival, journalist Jennifer Carpenter be moderating a panel on “The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth” with evolutionary biologist Spencer Barrett, palaeontologist David Evans, evolutionary development biologist Cassandra Extavour, and evolutionary genomicist Stephen Wright.

:: Link to full festival ::

Darwin Day Lecture


How the big bang explains your sex life:
The disconnect between science and the media

Science is often inconvenient for journalists. Scientists insist on talking about background literature, replication, and the caveats and nuances of their findings in language peppered with ugly terms and impossible acronyms. Journalists then work black magic to turn years of research into bite-sized stories, sprinkled with puns and a dollop of mind-blowing principle. In the balancing act between scientists and their audience, journalists have to take care neither to overstate results, nor leave their consumers feeling nothing. This act is growing more treacherous as 24/7 news cycles and a limitless Web demand more and more information in a way that never quite satisfies the modern media’s appetite for new, heavy-hitting headlines.


In this year’s Darwin Day Lecture at McGill University (February 10th, 2013), I’ll talk about the perils of pithiness in science writing, and discussed a handful of cases where science was misrepresented in the media because of pressure to make the information snappier. I’ll also examined why journalists and their audiences are often seduced by scientism — the belief that science, and the scientific method, alone can explain everything about the world, and reviewed the consequences of this seduction.

:: Link to full talk abstract and coverage ::