If you are going to disuss science…..know some science first, ok?

Jerry Coyne started a discussion on the concept of “group selection” in evolution; his point is that this idea has been considered and dismissed by the community of professional evolutionary biologists.

I am not a member of that community, but I was interested in reading a bit about it.

Richard Dawkins carried the discussion to his site but made the following statements:
statement 2 said that human beings is probably not the best species to use to determine whether or not “group selection” is a valid concept. His first point:

Please pause before offering your own common sense view. There are topics in science, of which this is one, where common sense is not a good guide. If it were, professional biologists would not have been arguing about it for five decades. There is a large back literature in which the likelihood is strong that whatever commonsense view you put forward has already been proposed and exhaustively discussed. As an analogy, common sense is notoriously misleading when we try to understand quantum mechanics. If you could do physics by common sense, we wouldn’t need physicists. To a lesser extent, something like the same thing applies here.

(emphasis mine)

AMEN!!!! You see this all of the time: some expert (scientist, economist, etc.) who has had a ton of experience, respected work, honors and credentials discusses a technical topic in public, then a bunch of unaccomplished nobodies rush in to TELL the said expert that they overlooked something breathtakingly elementary.

I am not talking about someone saying “I don’t understand this” or “I don’t see how it follows that…” but rather “let me correct you” on an issue that they have spent many hours/days/weeks/months/years studying….and with far greater success.

June 25, 2012 - Posted by | biology, blogs, evolution, science


  1. […] he made “elementary mistake X” he just blew me off! How arrogant!”. Yes, it is correct to dismiss cranks outright (Fox News types on the right, woo-woos on the left) . Professor Krugman is talking about his […]

    Pingback by Coolness and Self Doubts « blueollie | October 14, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] this is a topic I’ve discussed numerous times (here here here and […]

    Pingback by If you aren’t the best in YOUR field, why do you think that you know more than the best in other fields? « blueollie | April 29, 2014 | Reply

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