Who is Matt Collins?

Everyone remembers the widely-blogged Scientific American April Fool’s editorial, “OK, We give up: We feel so ashamed.” The editorial claimed that Scientific American had given up on reporting on real science and agreed to let intelligent design and other forms of ideological pseudoscience into its pages.

Apparently, the article acquired a mutation early in its trip around the blogosphere, the addition of someone named “Matt Collins” as author. Like an old-fashioned chain-letter (ironically enough, Scientific American did a story on the evolution of chain-letters a few years back), the Matt Collins attribution was dutifully copied, and soon people were sending hate mail and fan mail to the magazine addressed to Matt Collins, and Matt Collins was even listed as author when the article was reprinted in The Guardian. However, SciAm editor John Rennie says that no such person works at the magazine. The identity of Matt Collins is a mystery to him – he suggests it somehow got added while being scanned and blogged.

I have a hypothesis.

Matt Collins is some kind of graphic artist – he has an image in this Steve Mirsky article in SciAm, “Sticker Shock,” an article suggesting alternative stickers for school boards who like defacing kids’ biology textbooks with warning labels about evolution (you’ve got to hand it to the writers at Scientific American, they manage to keep their sense of humor when talking about the creationists).

The image credit reads: Image: MATT COLLINS

I hypothesize that the “Collins Variant” originated when someone copied the article, or a portion of the article, off of the SciAm website, from a version that had a Matt Collins graphic in it, or in a sidebar. Someone pasted the plain text into their blogging window, saw the name, and then moved the name to where he thought it should go. The current official version of “We Give Up” has no such graphic, however, so this hypothesis is somewhat unsatisfactory. So here is a mystery for all you evolution sleuths in the blogosphere to work on!

Update: PS: Googling the Scientific American website gets about 10 hits on “Matt Collins”, all image credits. However, none of the hits are the “OK, We Give Up” article (most of the hits are in Steve Mirsky articles, I bet he knows who Matt Collins is). The Collins Variant has at least 190 clear hits elsewhere on the web, however.