Re: My last word
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 19:52:41 EDT

Art Chadwick wrote: Jon has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Berkeley, and
many years of research experience and publications.

This in fact turns out not to be correct; see below.

Kevin L. O'Brien wrote: Perhaps you could provide us with some references.
I did a literature search of Entrez MedLine using "Wells J" as author name
and "Berkeley" as affiliation and found just two articles. Does he have a
middle name? At what other institutions has done research? At the very
least, what journals has he published in?

Mark Kluge responded: This past January on the CARM list, Helen Fryman
posted the following (#2356), in relevant part, from Jonathan Wells listing
two references to articles listing Wells as coauthor.

This is what Wells wrote: I am officially a post-doctoral research biologist
in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, U.C. Berkeley. I'm not in the
directory because I don't have my own extension (and besides I'm currently
working mostly at home, writing and doing library research).

There is a "John Wells" listed with the Department of Molecular and Cell
Biology as a Visting Scholar, and said person has a mailing address at the
Strohman lab. While said person is listed among the postdocs, he is labelled
as a Visiting Scholar. Paul Nelson has told me that Jonathon Wells is being
funded from a source outside Berkeley, rather than by the university itself.
This is not unusual, since most Visiting Scholars are funded by their home
institutions. Visiting Scholars are often given postdocs to make them ad hoc
members of the faculty, and one could argue that any postdoc is technically a
"visiting scholar" (except that they are funded by the university). So based
on Jonathon Wells' own statements, plus these facts, it seems reasonable to
conclude that Jonathon Wells and "John Wells" are one and the same (assuming
the Strohman lab doesn't have two people named J Wells).

Wells continues: If they want references to verify my affiliation, try these
(both articles were published while I was in my present position): Larabell,
Rowning, Wells, Wu & Gerhart, "Confocal microscopy analysis of living Xenopus
eggs and the mechanism of cortical rotation," DEVELOPMENT 122 (1996),
1281-1289. Rowning, Wells, Wu, Gerhart, Moon & Larabell,
"Microtubule-mediated transport of organelles and localization of B-catenin
to the future dorsal side of Xenopus eggs," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES USA 94 (1997), 1224-1229.

Apparently then Wells went straight from graduate work in the Gerhart lab to
his post-doctoral position in the Strohman lab, where he has been for three
years at least. Assuming three years as a graduate student we are talking
about six years. That is hardly "many years of research experience" as Art
Chadwick describes it. I have fifteen years experience myself, twelve of
which have been after graduate school. And all of it is lab work; Wells
apparently has done no lab work since graduation. As for publications, I
have four, with another one pending (research associates tend not to get
included as authors in most labs); Wells appears to have just the two, nor
has he published any papers with Strohman (which is to be expected if he us
simply working on a book, as Paul Nelson informs me).

Mark Kluge continues: I have not verified either reference.

They are real, but it's hard to tell from the abstracts how much Wells
contributed to the research. Both projects involve some cellular
manipulation, but mostly observation. For all we know he simply took
pictures and entered data into a computer, though I tend to doubt it. In any
event, it is very different work from that done by field biologists such as
Kettlewell, Majerus or even Sargent, all of whom have far more years of
experience and publications. Wells' credentials hardly qualify him as the
critic he pretends to be; even I am better qualified experience- and
publication-wise than Wells to evaluate the validity of the peppered moth,
and I would still defer to Don Frack.

Kevin L. O'Brien