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← Lynn Margulis disses evolution and embarrasses herself and the field

Lynn Margulis disses evolution and embarrasses herself and the field - Comments

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 1 by Nunbeliever

Carl Sagan would be furious if alive... I am starting to see why he divorced this moron! Self-righteous and wrong, not a good combination. It has always fascinated me how some eminent scientists go all woo-woo later in life. Perhaps we ought to label scientists with an expiration date? ;-)

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 08:44:55 UTC | #614829

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 2 by Cook@Tahiti

Luckily advances in science aren't driven from prior fame or authority. Many elderly scientists get a bit dotty: look at Freeman Dyson. Even Einstein became a reactionary against quantum mechanics. James Watson does't have a good track record either in his dotage. William Shockley was a nut. And the list goes on.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:09:09 UTC | #614838

MarkOnTheRiver's Avatar Comment 3 by MarkOnTheRiver

Comment 1 by Nunbeliever

It has always fascinated me how some eminent scientists go all woo-woo later in life. Perhaps we ought to label scientists with an expiration date? ;-)

Or maybe, like drivers once they reach a certain age, require them to take regular re tests to demonstrate their "fitness to resist woo." :o)

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:10:40 UTC | #614839

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 4 by Reckless Monkey

Appears to me she is doing much the same thing as Hoyle and the steady state theory. I listened to her discussion posted here last year. I was amazed she couldn't see the obvious flaws in her own arguments. She seemed sincere, but driven and blinded by feeling her theory wasn't getting the credit it deserved. Undoubtedly it is important at the level of microbes and they are far more numerous than us. But to try to force that method upon the whole of evolution it just isn't supported by the facts, where are all these genomes? Well science isn't always run by pleasant people, Newton wasn't 'nice' (he was pretty much right though). This is the process I suppose, messy, human and ultimately gets to the truth. Give it another 20 years and her (bad) ideas will be shelved.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:16:29 UTC | #614840

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

There does seem to be the "controversial celebrity" uncritical media audience effect here. It is very easy to be left behind with the volume of new work producing discoveries all the time. While determination to press on with research in the face of difficulties is a virtue, scientists should not get carried away with delusions of personal infallibility in fields they have not worked on recently.

This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: They teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection. If you want bigger eggs, you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs, and you get bigger and bigger eggs. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.

Her view quoted above seems simplistic! As the gene pool decreases some recessives express themselves! This is not new!

It reminds me of a short National Geographic on selective breeding of foxes to express dog like behavioural characteristics. (linked below) Interestingly, they coincidently take on other characteristics such as diverse colourings and floppy ears.

Only a handful of wild animal species have been successfully bred to get along with humans. The reason, scientists say, is found in their genes. - - - "As you can see," Trut says above the din, "all of them want human contact." Today, however, Mavrik is the lucky recipient. Trut reaches in and scoops him up, then hands him over to me. Cradled in my arms, gently jawing my hand in his mouth, he's as docile as any lapdog. - Except that Mavrik, as it happens, is not a dog at all. He's a fox.

Wiki article on the same experiment :-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_silver_fox

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:17:18 UTC | #614842

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 6 by Nunbeliever

To MarkOnTheRiver:

Or maybe, like drivers once they reach a certain age, require them to take regular re tests to demonstrate their "fitness to resist woo." :o)

Haha... that would be great. I am curious though what such a test would consist of? "Mrs Margulis. Do you press harder on the remote control, even though you know the batteries are flat?" check "Mrs Margulis. If the temperature is zero outside today and it's going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?" check...

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:18:32 UTC | #614843

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

Argumentum ad verecundiam. It happens too much in our intellectual world. Fame is not the same as truth, but the media in its obsession with fame fuels this fallacy, and now people will read who is popular rather than who is right.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:28:53 UTC | #614845

The Plc's Avatar Comment 8 by The Plc

Comment 3 by Rtambree :

Luckily advances in science aren't driven from prior fame or authority. Many elderly scientists get a bit dotty: look at Freeman Dyson. Even Einstein became a reactionary against quantum mechanics. James Watson does't have a good track record either in his dotage. William Shockley was a nut. And the list goes on.

Hold on now. There's a clear difference between this and Einstein's later career. Einstein wasn't a crazy old denialist fool, he always accepted the evidence and the rigour of the quantum theorists, of whom he admitted a deep respect and admiration, Bohr particularly. When any of his ingenious thought experiments were refuted he always accepted he'd been had. He did have a deep conviction in determinism, true, but that was hardly an outlandish position to take. Sometimes old style conservatives and contrarians have their place in science. Indeed, Einstein did manage to argue the Quantum Theorists to a standstill in his lifetime, with the EPR paradox, which led to the very important Bell Theorem and aspen experiment. Important advances that came through Einstein sticking to his guns.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:33:59 UTC | #614848

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 9 by Alan4discussion

Comment 7 by Nunbeliever

Haha... that would be great. I am curious though what such a test would consist of? "Mrs Margulis. Do you press harder on the remote control, even though you know the batteries are flat?" check "Mrs Margulis.

This one could be a bit tricky!

If the temperature is zero outside today and it's going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?" check...

degrees: C F K ? If it's K she's in real trouble, but the answer is easy!

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:28:05 UTC | #614862

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 10 by irate_atheist

What a silly woman.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:45:46 UTC | #614865

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 11 by Crazycharlie

As others have pointed out, if he were alive, Carl Sagan would be ashamed at his wife's very unscientific crack-pot ideas.

Desperately needs attention.

I can come up with crack-pot ideas too...

Maybe there's abnormal brain-cells living in Margulis's head that have been semi-dormant for years until her career started to become less productive, then, suddenly, those cells came to life completely and took over her brain.

Hey, my idea's as plausible as anything she comes up with.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:54:11 UTC | #614868

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 12 by Nunbeliever

To Alan4discussion:

degrees: C F K ? If it's K she's in real trouble, but the answer is easy!

:D

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:57:02 UTC | #614870

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 13 by Southpaw

Life Rule No. 131: Never believe a woman who willingly wears embroidered waistcoats and expects to be taken seriously while doing so.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:58:04 UTC | #614871

wolfhoundGrowl's Avatar Comment 14 by wolfhoundGrowl

You're all a bunch of servants to the scientific establishment. I happen to agree with the establishment on the issue of evolution, I mean, the evidence is in, but if someone is not convinced by the evidence, it doesn't mean they're nuts, it just means they're not reading it the same as you. It doesn't make the other person nuts, and it doesn't require you to keep saying "woo woo" after the manner of the most eminent legend which is Brian Cox. Get, over, it.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 11:38:35 UTC | #614882

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 15 by God fearing Atheist

There is only one problem with science - its done by humans.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 11:44:04 UTC | #614885

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 16 by SomersetJohn

Comment 4 by MarkOnTheRiver :

Comment 1 by Nunbeliever

It has always fascinated me how some eminent scientists go all woo-woo later in life. Perhaps we ought to label scientists with an expiration date? ;-)

Or maybe, like drivers once they reach a certain age, require them to take regular re tests to demonstrate their "fitness to resist woo." :o)

Regrettably the problem, I think, is not any tendency for once eminent discoverers to develop wooism or perhaps for some of them to be so off the wall they can perhaps be described as disturbed (Fritz Zwicky comes to mind).

I would suggest the problem lies in a quite natural tendency to be far less critical of someone if they have a previously established track record, usually in some area completely irrelevant to their current pronouncements.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:00:10 UTC | #614891

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 17 by Nunbeliever

To wolfhoundGrowl:

but if someone is not convinced by the evidence, it doesn't mean they're nuts, it just means they're not reading it the same as you. It doesn't make the other person nuts, and it doesn't require you to keep saying "woo woo" after the manner of the most eminent legend which is Brian Cox. Get, over, it.

Yep, you are right. A flat-earther is not nuts. That person is just interpreting the evidence in a slightly different way than I am. The same goes for people who believe diseases are caused by evil spirits. I mean, that is just another way of interpreting the germ theory. There is no need to be disprespectful of people with different views is there. Let a thousand flowers bloom, right. Yep, that sounds reasonable indeed ;-)

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:33:44 UTC | #614903

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 18 by Nunbeliever

To SomersetJohn:

I would suggest the problem lies in a quite natural tendency to be far less critical of someone if they have a previously established track record, usually in some area completely irrelevant to their current pronouncements.

Really? I don't see any renowned scientists running to her defence. It seems her audience consists of any ignorant fool willing to listen to her gibberish, and of course the media constantly seeking for a juicy "controversy" to profit on. Face it. She has lost the interest of the scientific community ages ago.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:41:23 UTC | #614906

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 19 by aquilacane

The worshiped come to expect it. For no reason at all, sometimes.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:42:30 UTC | #614907

biorays's Avatar Comment 20 by biorays

It always antagonises my curiosity that whenever people attempt to use science to 'pseudo-prove' there is a divine source, they hardly ever then suggest which of the mythological characters they are backing and why and moreover how it is that their character is the one under proof - as if this character provided them its own inspired proof so they could go prove that their myth is the real myth - which of course they all are ultimately? Placebos of the mind at war with placebos of the mind PLUS their emotional equivalents which don't necessarily need any sense to be talked about - you see if they imagine something then obviously its non-fiction!

Amazing how many people go to the reference section of their minds never realising it is stocked full of fiction!

Happy Birthday Hitch. Clarity is much less less veiled after your lifes decipherings!

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:49:33 UTC | #614908

Notstrident's Avatar Comment 21 by Notstrident

I guess it can happen to anybody. In the 1950s the well-respected, much published American physiologist Andrew Ivy, already well up in years, began vigorously promoting some substance he had discovered or invented, which he called "Krebiozen." It was going to be the cure for cancer. He was strongly backed, even in Congress, by the venerable (but also in his dotage) Illinois senator Paul Douglas. In 1960 I heard Dr. Ivy speak at the University of Illinois. It was a load of non-scientific claptrap. I and just about all the audience of educated people, many from the health professions, came out of the lecture hall sadly shaking our heads. What a hideous end to a distinguished career!

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 12:56:29 UTC | #614911

Zelig's Avatar Comment 22 by Zelig

I am woefully ill-equipped to comment on the scientific details here (I presume J. Coyne is correct), but why is it necessary to use the word "disses" in this context? Isn't that part of the problem? I'm with Orwell here, I think such accommodations betray something quite significant and quite unflattering.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 13:09:13 UTC | #614914

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 23 by chawinwords

nunbeliever said: "It has always fascinated me how some eminent scientists go all woo-woo later in life. Perhaps we ought to label scientists with an expiration date?"

It's called becoming too lazy to go to the lab and research.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 13:25:46 UTC | #614917

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 24 by Cook@Tahiti

James Lovelock, aged 91, has his own non-consensus idea:

In his most recent book, "The Vanishing Face of Gaia", he... expects human civilization will be hard pressed to survive. He expects the change to be similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum when atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 450 ppm. At that point the Arctic Ocean was 23 °C and had crocodiles in it, with the rest of the world mostly scrub and desert.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock#The_revenge_of_Gaia

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 13:46:06 UTC | #614920

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 25 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by God fearing Atheist

There is only one problem with science - its done by humans.

Don't worry - NASA are working on that angle

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:24:12 UTC | #614934

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 26 by bendigeidfran

Comment 25 by Rtambree

Yes he has those. Kindest way I've ever heard it put.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:42:47 UTC | #614944

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 27 by KenChimp

I can only agree with the trend of comments here that simply because someone has made great discoveries does not mean they are infallible. I'll only add...

"Herein is the danger of science. As a tool it is so valuable, so useful and so irresistible that we incline to regard it as the arbiter of the absolute, giving final and irrefutable pronouncement on all things. This is exactly the position that the pedant, the dogmatist, and the dialectical materialist would have us take. Then, posing as a "scientist" or propounding "scientific" doctrine, he can persuade us to accept his values and obey his orders. Today must forever be free to overthrow its yesterdays. Otherwise it will degenerate into ancestor worship."

-John Whiteside Parsons

The point Parsons is trying to make, himself a very controversial figure in science in his day, is that we must never forget that it is not the ideas, their progenitors, or scientific organizations which govern our understanding. It is the facts that do so. Legitimate discoveries in science today must, if borne out by the facts, take precedence over older discoveries they abridge or even flatly contradict. That is, after all, how we advance knowledge through science.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson considers Isaac Newton to be the most brilliant human being ever, and I am not inclined to disagree. But we know Newton was no arbiter of the absolute, and nor was his work. He was a man, fallible as any human. He made mistakes and mistaken assumptions, and was, like we are today, limited in his measurements, and his experiments which relied upon those measurements, by the technology of his day. In spite of the fact that Newtonian mechanics work quite well to validate and predict motion, gravitational attraction, and other causes and effects in physics within specific boundaries, we do not today believe his ideas to be absolute in their portrayal of our physical universe.

Lynn Margulis has made the critical error of "resting on her laurels", and assuming that her brilliant discoveries of the past validate her as an arbiter of the absolute. It is a lamentable, but very human mistake.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:53:37 UTC | #614948

Metamag's Avatar Comment 28 by Metamag

Comment 1 by Nunbeliever :

It has always fascinated me how some eminent scientists go all woo-woo later in life. Perhaps we ought to label scientists with an expiration date? ;-)

That certainly happens a lot, a real shame. It is very hard to make science and rationality in general credible to the public with such phenomena frequently occurring.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 16:07:48 UTC | #614977

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 29 by Carl Sai Baba

Isn't she just buck-passing? If she thinks new genes can't evolve inside of a frog, how does it help to say that the genes evolved outside of the frog first and were then assimilated?

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 16:08:12 UTC | #614978

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 30 by Cook@Tahiti

Peak cognitive creativity is generally only between about 25-30. Most of the greats: Newton, Darwin and Einstein, Dirac, Watson etc had their big revolutionary ideas in their 20s.

That's the paradox of being a scientist these days: it takes 10 years of tertiary education to become one, and not long after you get your PhD, you're washed up.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 16:09:23 UTC | #614980