Evolution’s first model organism was the pea

pea by crabchick

feature: How Mendel started genetics by getting it mostly wrong
[Via Ars Technica]

Pity Gregor Mendel. Far enough ahead of his peers that his work wasn’t appreciated in his own lifetime. When the world was finally ready to deal with his results, the scientific community almost instantly went to work demonstrating that Mendel’s Laws were wrong—or at least applied to such a narrow subset of inheritance that it was nearly impossible to generalize them. Yet, despite all these problems, most of the phenomena associated with inheritance, including the majority of exceptions to his eponymous Laws, continue to be termed Mendelian inheritance.

Why does the scientific world celebrate Mendel’s achievement despite the fact that his work languished and then was quickly left in the dust? If we look at the history of his ideas (as we’re about to do here), one key factor seems to be the fact that other researchers quickly linked his laws to the underlying biology. But perhaps more significantly,we’ll see that, even if his laws were wrong, they provided some testable predictions that helped organize an otherwise mystifying field. It’s OK to be wrong in science, as long as you’re wrong in ways that lead to fruitful research.


Not only is this report a great historical piece on Mendel and his pea plant, it places that work in the proper perspective when compared to the work of TH Morgan and fruit flies.

This is a nice way to gain some understanding of how important Mendel being right was, and how important it was that he was wrong. It is critical in science to be wrong in the right way – by providing testable hypotheses that lead to further study. A good researcher knows that a wrong hypothesis can, if examined correctly, provide insights that lead to true knowledge.

Trying to make ‘God did it’ a hypothesis is not only wrong, it leads to scientific dead ends.