A wonderful biological argument of interest to a few

freemasonby mrbill

Can Biologists Admit We Are Wrong? Dunno. But We Will Say Other Biologists Are Wrong
[Via Mike the Mad Biologist]

Because we are human after all. Jason Collins at Evolving Economics, in response to my post about one economist’s misunderstanding of biology, asks a very good question:

On the flip side, did Dawkins or Gould (or their respective supporters) ever concede to the other side that they were wrong and substantially change their world view?

I agree with Razib about what happened:

My own attitude is that both Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould retreated from maximalist positions when it came to the gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium arguments of the 1970s substantively. But rhetorically they often seemed to downplay their modifications, and assert more that their own positions were a change of degree, while their antagonist in the argument would have to make a change of kind to align with the evidence. This sort of semantic gamesmanship is disappointing, though alas rather conventional. But since I’m not a thorough master of the oeuvre of both men I’d be curious what readers think.

Let’s consider two areas where Gould and Dawkins both backed off: punctuated equilibrium and levels of selection (it’s interesting that they disagreed on both issues, and I don’t think the two issues are necessarily related). So onto punk eek.


I loved reading this because it is to deep and hard.  You require a strong biology background with a lot of history of the field to understand what is being discussed.

It’s like reading some Third  Degree Mason discussing lore that only other higher ups are party to. I had fun.

I am so thankful for the Internet.


2 thoughts on “A wonderful biological argument of interest to a few

  1. Quote from original article: ” Statistics can be as misused as theoretical models. Take the back-and-forth on “more guns, less crime” or the impact of legalised”. Quote from Twain:”Lies, Damn lies and Statistics”.
    Please explain to one of the great unwashed why talking about biologists answers questions about economics. Thank youl

    1. Let me be a little clearer, since I simply put up a short post here mostly for my own benefit. I was commenting on the discussion of punctuated equilibrium, levels of selection, saltation, Dawkins, Gould, neutral selection, memes, and so on, all to answer the question of whether some biologists would admit they were wrong. To understand the particulars here, having a deep understanding of the issues and the players would be needed to determine whether they WERE right or wrong.

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