Scientific American Responds, receives a “Tip of the Hat”

I recently reported that Scientific American had posted some misinformation about the extinct equid Hyracotherium (Eohippus) on their website and have since received a short e-mail from Katherine Harmonauthor of the slide show which drew my irethanking me for catching the mistake and informing me that she had changed the entry.

When I checked it out I found that not only had she removed the inaccurate information about Richard Owen thinking that Hyracotherium had been some sort of hyrax but she put in an asterisk and footnote stating that the correction had been made! So she not only corrected the mistake but owned having made it by noting the correction rather than simply flushing it down the memory hole.

Well done Ms. Harmon; much respect!

Now I have to start seriously thinking about changing the darn Wikipedia entry that caused the confusion in the first place…

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Hyracotherium misinformation at scientificamerican.com

I am going to give another wag of the finger, this time to Scientific American. They posted a number of paintings of reconstructions of various extinct “horses” in a picture gallery titled “Ancient Miniature Horses”, which includes an entry for the famous “dawn horse”, Hyracotherium.

However, the problems lies not in the painting, which is probably a reasonable guesstimate of what Hyracotherium might have looked like in life but rather with the blurb of information included with the painting:

Hyracotherium This genus of small early horse roamed the early woodlands of Asia, Europe and North America some 55 million to 45 million years ago. It was already larger than Sifrhippus, weighing about 22.7 kilograms. But when Richard Owen first discovered Hyracotherium in 1876, it was so diminutive that he thought it was some unknown hyrax species, a group of extant mammals that live in Africa and the Middle East. 

Painting by Heinrich Harder used by S.A.

No, no, no, a thousand times no! It is bad enough when creationists claim that Hyracotherium is merely a hyrax (rather than a ancestral horse) and claim that Richard Owen thought so as well but to have a venerable science publication like Scientific American falling into the same pit of misinformation is extremely vexing.

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Scientific American reviews Expelled Flunked

Scientific American has put up a special section on it’s web site dealing with Expelled, including two new reviews. One by Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society, and the other by Scientific American’s editor in chief, John Rennie. They also have a couple pod-casts on Expelled to check out. So go check it out

And via The Austringer we find that even Fox News is panning this flic:

After seeing a new non-fiction film starring Comedy Central’s Ben Stein, you may not only be able to win his money, but also his career.

It goes down hill from there. See: “Ben Stien: Win His Career” for the rest.

Remember the NCSE has set up…

…for all your exposing Expelled needs.