Katherine Harmon is a freelance writer and contributing editor for
After hosting a panel earlier this year to discuss supposed flaws in evolutionary theory, Italy’s science agency the National Research Council (CNR) reportedly put up thousands of dollars to help with the publication of a follow-up book, Evolutionism: The Decline of an Hypothesis. The move has vexed many scientists in the country where the Vatican recently came out in support of Darwin’s ideas.
Authored by CNR’s Vice President Roberto de Mattei, the book asserts, among other things, that scientific dating of rocks is inaccurate and that dinosaurs went extinct just 40,000 years ago (rather than some 65 million years ago, not accounting for modern birds, of course), according to the blog ScienceInsider. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science blog notes that an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, is reporting that CNR provided 9,000 Euros (some $13,255) to help publish the book, which came out last month.
De Mattei, a political appointee to CNR, teaches the History of Christianity and the Church at the European University in Rome and is president of the Rome- and Washington, D.C.–based Lepanto Foundation, a Catholic group.
Physicist and CNR President Luciano Maiani told ScienceInsider, via the agency’s press office, that CNR’s publishing side independently approved the funds for the book but CNR did not specifically back the book. "The intellectual research is an open enterprise," Maiani said in a press statement, noting that he would oppose censoring this or any other material, based on Italy’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.
Many of Italy’s scientists, however, are displeased with the decision. "It is not acceptable that something has been published with the label and money of CNR…without going through any kind of peer review evaluation," Ferdinando Boero, a zoologist at the University of Lecce, told ScienceInsider. "We are in front of the paradox that while the Vatican [Pontifical] Academy of Sciences endorses evolutionism, the VP of the biggest scientific institution in Italy denies it."
Image of Italy’s Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche courtesy of Wikimedia Commons