Zimmer interview

Carl Zimmer has never written a bad book, and he’s the author I usually recommend to non-scientists looking for a gentle but substantive introduction to ideas in biology. Now DarkSyde interviews Zimmer—this is one you’ll want to read.


  1. Timothy Chase says

    As with George Orwell, I really love the essays: they are gems — they are well thought out, include some wonderful details, and are well-structured. But there is one complaint I have regarding Carl Zimmer which is the same for Trent Reznor and the rest of Nine Inch Nails — you just don’t put the stuff out often enough!

  2. says

    Maybe not, but he sure as hell wrote a bad chapter about guinea worm in ‘Parasite Rex.’

    As in, “Sloppy Writing”, “Sloppy Science”, slang for positive, or an all-too-illuminating “EEEeewwwwww!!!!”

  3. Harry Eagar says

    Blazing factual error, claiming there is a drug treatment, which there isn’t; shilling for Big Pharm.

    I wasn’t impressed with the rest of the book, either.

    The whole premise is that there are four times as many parasite as host species. He never even hints where that number came from, does not address the fact that if some species — mine, for example — have more than an order of magnitude more kinds of parasites, then some must have few or none; and what does that mean?

    There are illustrations that are not explained or even identified, including one of an arthropod that somehow takes the place of a fish’s tongue; and I’d have liked to have known more about that.

    I didn’t know anything about Zimmer when I bought the book. It was an offering of a science book club, as I recall; and one reason I don’t belong to that club any more. After reading it, my assessment was that he was a hack with a library card who didn’t really understand what he was writing about.

  4. says

    Excuse me, Harry? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion about a book, but you are way out of line.

    You complain that I said there is a drug treatment for guinea worms, when there isn’t. I can’t imagine how someone could be more precisely wrong about what I wrote: “There is still no vaccine for guinea worm disease, nor is there even a medicine known to work against it.” [p.205]

    As for there being four parasites for every one host, that estimate comes from Robert M. May, “How Many Species Inhabit the Earth,” Scientific American, October 1992. Sorry if you don’t quite like that estimate, but I suspect that I’d trust an expert like Dr. May on this one.

    As for you claim that I’m a hack who doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, let me defer to Albert Bush, one of the leading parasitologists in the world, who reviewed my book for the journal Science. He wrote, “Read Parasite Rex. Read it twice.”