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Lynn Margulis disses evolution and embarrasses herself and the field

Around 1970, biologist Lynn Margulis achieved renown for suggesting, and then showing, that eukaryotic cells originated by a symbiotic union of early prokaryotes, with some engulfing others and then the engulfed bacteria evolving into at least two of the cell’s vital organelles: mitochondria and (in plants) chloroplasts. Although others had suggested this before, Margulis gets the credit for pushing the theory forward, supporting it with biochemical and microbiological data, and recognizing its implications. Later work on DNA sequencing supported her completely. She became famous and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

To reword the old political slogan for science: fame corrupts, and huge fame corrupts hugely. This isn’t always true, but if a scientist achieves tremendous fame and adulation, there’s always the temptation to think that what you say on every topic bears special weight and consideration. Such solipsism is especially likely to develop in those who, like Margulis, have to push a correct theory against the entrenched doubt and scorn of their colleagues.

And Margulis has become corrupted in this way. . .

Read on



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