Not Me

Back when I was fresh out of grad school, a mere pup still pinching myself that I was constructively participating in this marvelous endeavor called “science,” I noticed in a book store an issue of Time magazine proclaiming “America’s 40 Leaders Under 40.” Since, back in those days, I was technically eligible for honors and awards bestowed upon people under the age of 40 in a way that I no longer am, I turned to the article in anticipation. Perhaps they had written something about me without actually letting me know, right?

Somewhat to my surprise — there I was! Or someone with my name, in any event. Further sleuthing revealed that this guy was Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist in Wisconsin. Clearly there had been some sort of mixup on the part of Time magazine, but I would forgive them and him this once.

The problem is, the guy refuses to go away. He becomes some sort of evo-devo guru, gets elected to the National Academy of Sciences, writes books — and they’re good books! I’ve read some of them. I hate this guy.

But at least, through it all, I had the blog. A little realm of intellectual endeavor (ahem) that I could enjoy free of interference from other Sean Carrolls. True, the very first link to my own blog was from PZ, who expressed profound disappointment that I was not the other SC. But through it all, as I deflected occasional requests to referee papers about fruit flies or speak at fancy conferences on evolution, and accepted that I was not the first answer to questions like “Who is that Sean Carroll who does science?” or “Who is that Sean Carroll who writes books?”, I was at least the appropriate response if someone were to ask “Who is that Sean Carroll who blogs?” And I had the superior Google page rank to prove it.

So now, here in the Darwin Year, what does (former, I’m thinking) friend-of-the-blog Tom Levenson go and do? He recruits the other Sean Carroll for a blogging project! So Simple a Beginning seems to be the name, although the project itself doesn’t seem to “exist” quite yet. Blogging about The Origin of Species, blah blah blah.

I guess I need to find some other area of human accomplishment in which I am likely to be the leading Sean Carroll of the world for some time to come. Playing poker? Making ice cream? My skill set is rather circumscribed, it would seem. Suggestions welcome.

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39 Responses to Not Me

  1. Juan says:

    “So now, here in the Darwin Year..”, great year for science, ’cause it’s the International Year of Astronomy too

  2. Pieter Kok says:

    The irony is that, at first, I thought that was a picture of you “fresh out of grad school” (obviously too busy to shave in the last stages of getting a PhD; it happens)…

  3. Oliver X says:

    Bah. Being an evolutionary biologist, it’s almost a given this other fellow’s blog will mostly consist of tedious diatribes against those silly creationists. Which will almost certainly leave you as the More Interesting Blogger Named Sean Carroll.

  4. Actually, I consider the whole thing a bonus, since your blog led me to your book, which I liked a lot, and the confusion led me to SBC’s books, which I also like a lot.

  5. Interestingly enough, both SMC and SBC are deeply into the origins business. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not.

  6. P. C. says:

    Ha. Why origin of the Universe and origin of the Species are two separate branches of human knowledge?
    Name it Originology and let all the Sean-Carrolls of the world work together!

  7. chemicalscum says:

    Thank you Sean, I have just reserved two of the other Sean’s books at my public library.

  8. Tobydyd says:

    My suggestion would be that you become an expert on the ‘science’ of blogging!

  9. Anony Mouse says:

    You’re getting on in years, my friend. Old dog, new tricks, and all that. Not much time left to make a mark in this world. If you’ve got tenure, your best bet is probably to begin espousing a crackpot theory that will be happily ridiculed for decades to come. It takes a certain amount of skill to have a good crank theory, so be proud to out-‘crank’ all the other Sean Carrolls of the world. 😉

  10. Cecile says:

    You can apply for the most humourus and honest Sean Carrol. It’s a good paper.

    (Being French talker I don’t know the other one, just you, and because of the blog. )

  11. Cecile says:


    (to put on the end of your mispelled name (sorry).

  12. Tom Levenson says:

    I do love you, Sean; really. You want a write about Darwin, come on down. Maximal identity confusion is always a desirable goal! Not to mention a physicist’s insight. (Maybe you want to write about the Darwin-Kelvin argument, for starters?)

    The site, which will go live on Feb 12 (CD’s 200th, for those still living in the cave), can be found at The project title is indeed So Simple a Beginning, not just a lovely phrase that catches much of what I hope we will be able to do in looking at modern evolution’s foundational text, but also the only good tag line I could find in Darwin’s famous “There is grandeur in this view of life” concluding graf in The Origin. There will be the appropriate pointer at, so come on down y’all, in a very few weeks now, and join the fun.

    Best, T.

  13. Tom Levenson says:

    the only good tag line = the only one not already grabbed for some other web purpose.

  14. Sean says:

    Tom, you misunderstand. I’m not looking for opportunities to do interesting and useful things, so that I may grow in stature. I just want other people to stop doing interesting and useful things, so that I may at least not shrink in stature relative to them. Is that too much to ask?

  15. I’d like to see you do a stand-up comedy of science, video log.

  16. Pingback: Not Me | MamentoMori

  17. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Origin of Species vs. Origin of the Universe…

    I mean, come on. Maybe he gets the chicken, but the latter is one hell of a big egg.

  18. Chris W. says:

    Sean, have you ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s story William Wilson? Given the nagging insecurities revealed here, I’m not at all sure you should.

    (Having delved into it again, the similarity to your predicament is uncanny, even a bit…well, creepy.)

  19. Elliot says:

    WSOP 2009….


  20. Brad H says:

    It could be waaaay worse. My namesake apparantly had an affair with Sarah Palin….

  21. Deepak Chopra says:

    There’s someone else with the name Sean Carroll?

    Oh, poooor baby. I feel soooo sorry for you.

    Please! That’s nothing.

    I don’t know what *my* parents were thinking.

    And we’re Irish for god’s sake!

  22. 72o says:

    Congratulations. According to you’ve got the fifth highest bestselling book written by a Sean Carroll.

  23. Serge says:

    Start twitter ?

  24. Q says:

    “Of all the scientists in the world today, there is no one with whom Charles Darwin would rather spend an evening than Sean Carroll.”

    Michael Ruse

    That’s from the other Sean Carroll website. Sean, I would be very glad at your place. There’s always a chance that Darwin could be mistaken and choose you rather than your namesake

  25. I once got invited to an illustrious social event on the assumption that I wasn’t just Robert Cumming the (not very eminent) astronomer, but also the artist and art writer Robert Cumming. Not bad going I thought.