Re: [asa] Doubting science

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Fri Dec 04 2009 - 11:23:09 EST

On Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 11:23 PM, Jon Tandy <> wrote:

> - As a group, scientists do seem to tend toward being dismissive of the
> minority voices and critics from outside their disciplines. They tend to
> dismiss the problems with their theories and emphasize the agreement of data
> with theory. Kuhn's paradigm theory points to this as a characteristic
> phenomenon.
They are also dimissive of people inside their disciplines but outside the
consensus until they present the evidence in a convincing fashion. It's not
the insider vs. outsider question but rather an evidentiary question. For
example, during the 60s and 70s so-called neutral evolution was dismissed
out of hand by the establishment. But, as the evidence built up that random
genetic drift was a significant factor in evolution it became the consensus.

James Crow noted the initial reaction to Kimura 1968 (

"The initial response was generally one of dismay and disbelief. The
reactions ranged from skepticism to outright rejection. To some it was utter

 Then came King and Jukes 1969. (
King's reaction to the controversy just before he died in 1983.

Note the fight over publication (which was eventually won on appeal):

"*Science* rejected our manuscript. One referee said that we had merely set
up and demolished a straw man and the idea was obviously true and therfore
trivial. the other said the idea was obviously false. We appealed; meanwhile
our colleague, Jim Crow, was able to present most of our findings to the
1968 Genetics Congress.

"*Science's* next set of referees recommended publication. Even so, one
referee objected to our suggesting that most allozyme polymorphisms were
also probably neutral, so that passage had to be deleted.

"Non-Darwinian evolution' [sic] inflamed evolutionary biologists to action:
most of the citations are reports of experiments that optimistically
reported to have proved King and Jukes wrong at last. *Selectionists* felt
that natural populations had enormous amounts of pheotypic variation of
adaptive sinificance, due to polymorphism; *neutralists* felt that patterns
of molecular change indicated neutrality. Both sided assumed that
selectively neutral genes would not be expressed in the phenotype, and that
adaptive changes was due to a different class of genes -- beneficial alleles
-- which were directly affected by natural selection. *The controversy
continued unresolved for a decade, apparently because both sides were
essentially correct in the matters they were arguing about while bother were
mistaken in the ideas they help in common.* Eventually Kimura himself showed
that the genes that determine polygenic variation may often, under
stabilizing selection, have such small individual net advantages or
disadvantages as to be effectively neutral. [3] Such genes determine
phenotypic variation, and may bring about adaptation, by their massed
effects, while their individual fates are subject only to mutation and drift
*. The neutral theory is now part of the accepted framework of evolutionary
genetics*." [Bold mine, Italics in the original]

[3] Kimura M. Possibility of extensive neutral evolution under stabilizing
selection, with special reference to nonrandom usage of synonymous codons.
Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. US 78:5773-7, 1981.

To add insult to injury King and Jukes called their paper the blasphemous,
"Non-Darwinian Evolution". In light of our discussions concerning ID it's
very ironic to note that Non-Darwinian Evolution is random while Darwinian
Evolution is non-random! Still note the last sentence I bolded. The
"blasphemers" and "heretics" can overcome if they present the evidence.
 Note how "group think" was overcome by evidence through the next quote.

"The initial response to the non-Darwinian evolution or the neutral theory
was caused by the lack of understandings among researchers of different
fields. Evolution and population genetics people were accustomed to think in
terms of neo-Darwinian model. To them, any mutations were either
advantageous or deleterious, and no intermediate class existed. On the
contrary, biochemistry people did not know population genetics and did not
care how natural selection worked. They used the term"natural selection"
vaguely. So most oppositions to the neutral theory were from evolution and
population genetics people."

-- Tomoko Ohta<>,
31, 2001

Motoo Kimura was eleccted to foreign membership in the Royal Society of
London in 1993, after recieving its Darwin Medla in 1992. Kimura was also
awarded the International Prize for Biology (1988). He died in 1994 after a
long bout with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

For the various groups who are in the minority position with the consensus
being expressed in the most intense and emotional terms, I counsel present
the evidence. More than anything else that's how you gain consensus in the
scientific community. It may take a lifetype but as Kimura's life showed the
reward for being in the minority that moves the majority ends with public
accolades from the scientific community.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Fri Dec 4 11:23:38 2009

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