Six months after announcing the November 2016 Royal Society evolution meeting on this page and a half dozen or so stories later, over one-third of the seats for the event still remain vacant -- and the tickets are free! But that's easily explained, because the zoologists ultimately decided to "hog" the show.
It didn't have to be so. A lineup of speakers who truly represent the paradigm shift underway in evolution science would have quickly filled up the house. Instead, organizers went with essentially an evo-devo reunion on plasticity and niche construction -- rehashed themes of Altenberg! from eight years ago minus most of the stars of that conference. And they made sure to exclude, for instance, experts on viruses -- the largest part of the biosphere -- at a time when Zika continues to prove it can downsize the human brain in a flash and could have done the reverse at some point in evolutionary time. So how can the November proceedings possibly be considered a credible meeting on the latest "trends" in evolutionary science?
Aside from some of the organizers and Jim Shapiro and Doug Futuyma -- there's no big-name recognition. A number of prominent scientists I've spoken with who have not been asked to present but hope to get a word in edgewise have told me they nevertheless still plan to attend.
Other irritations are that the meeting is largely another Anglo-Amercian affair and there's an absence of women who are stars in science, aside from Eva Jablonka and she's considered somewhat at the conservative end of the discussion.
I expected Evelyn Fox Keller to be the key dissector of gene jargon, however organizers have chosen to showcase lesser known female academics. There are altogether six women presenting.
Also, the hand of Templeton is all over the November event with many of the participants part of the $11M Extended Synthesis grant.
It's interesting that Massimo Pigliucci, one of the organizers of the Altenberg 16 conference -- who is not speaking at the Royal Society event -- recently gave a talk on science and fantasy at the UK philosophy & music festival at Hay. I'm beginning to wonder whether Pigliucci may finally be on to something.
Here is the lineup for the November Royal Society event, at the moment still over 100 seats left. . .
Denis Noble -- Oxford University
Nancy Cartwright -- University of Durham, UK and University of California, San Diego
Patrick Bateson -- University of Cambridge
John Dupré -- University of Exeter
Kevin Laland -- University of St. Andrews
Gerd Müller -- University of Vienna
Douglas Futuyma -- Stony Brook University
Sonia Sultan -- Wesleyan University
Russell Lande -- Center for Biodiversity Dynamics, NTNU
Tobias Uller -- Lund University
Paul Brakefield -- University of Cambridge
James Shapiro -- University of Chicago
Paul Griffiths -- University of Sydney
Eva Jablonka -- Tel-Aviv University
Greg Hurst -- University of Liverpool
Andy Gardner -- University of St. Andrews
Karola Stotz -- Macquarie University
Tim Lewens -- University of Cambridge
Agustin Fuentes -- University of Notre Dame
Andrew Whiten -- University of St. Andrews
Suzan Anton -- New York University
Melinda Zeder -- Smithsonian Institution