Monday, March 24, 2008

Nisbet Reveals His True Colors

 
Framing is about spin, censorship, and, above all, it's about agreeing with Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney. If you don't agree with them then it's because you just don't understand framing.

It's about time we started to ignore Nisbet and Mooney. Fortunately, they are making it easy by posting drivel like Why the PZ Myers Affair is Really, Really Bad for Science and PZ Myers, Mind Your Manners (see comments).

I'm opposed to censorship of any kind but I really wish Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney would voluntarily decide to keep their stupid mouths shut for a few years. I'm with PZ Myers on this one [I'm supposed to sit down and shut up?].

If anyone is really interested in seeing exactly what the blogosphere thinks of Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney you need only check the links that Greg Laden has posted at The Framing Critique (Dawkins-Myers-Expelled! -Gate). I really hope this spells the beginning of the end for the Nisbet/Mooney tag team.



78 comments :

  1. Technically, Chris Mooney didn't write that.

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  2. It's about time we started to ignore Nisbet and Mooney.

    I've been ignoring them all along, mostly because I don't find the concept of "framing" relevant to any role I'm likely to play (a very minor blogger who isn't a professional scientist?).

    But now I'll start ignoring them on purpose.

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  3. I dunno, I'll play devil's advocate. It would be kinda nice to see PZ and Dawkins shut up for a change, and have someone else grab worldwide attention for atheism. Just for some variety and perspective. As much as I appreciate what Dawkins and PZ have done, maybe we should let others assume the primary role for a while. Otherwise, one might get the impression that atheism has more to do with personal ambition and personalities, rather than principle.

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  4. @anon - PZ isn't stopping anyone from speaking. He's just a professor from a small town with a blog that has become very popular. He doesn't have a tv show, radio show, newspaper column or even a popular book. He rarely speaks in conferences or conventions, and he has a pretty open comment section where he encourages other people to speak. There are hundreds of other bloggers and dozens of people with books on atheism and PZ links out to them. How you go from this to "personal ambition" is beyond me, it certainly doesn't seem to be based on evidence.

    Compare this to people who aren't getting any scorn. Dan Dennet has written several books and has spoken on tours, conventions, and was even on TED so why isn't he accused of ambition?

    You act like there is only room for one or two spokespeople. Well, there's no official organization and anyone can step up and speak and look around, many people are doing just that. There have been people who have been trying to speak for years, so how can it be relative newcomers who are silencing people? It's because of their efforts that people like you can say "worldwide attention for atheism" without it being a bitter joke.

    Instead of telling PZ or Dawkins to shut up, Mooney & Nisbet should find someone else that's equally gifted at capturing attention and compete based on ideas and communication, the things they say they're skilled at. And if they can't find anyone who can drown out a couple of biology professors, then you must seriously ask whether it's because of the messenger or the message. And you've got to see that for all of Nisbet & Mooney's complaints that PZ & others are bad communicators, they've nevertheless gathered a large following based on nothing but their ability to communicate. You've got to consider the fact that the evidence is pointing towards Dawkins and PZ (and yes, Dr Moran and others) being much, much better communicators than some hacks would want you to believe. You can't run an A-list blog and get this much attention if you lack the ability to communicate!

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  5. Right on, Tyro.

    I'm active myself in a much more conciliatory mode of communication, through participation in a conservative Christian forum, as an open but friendly atheist, and an advocate for good science and education. I'm a stark contrast with Larry and PZ in tactics and focus... as both have noted themselves.

    But I like having Larry and PZ blogging, and find nothing of any value at all from Nisbet.

    I see plenty of good stuff from Chris Mooney; although I think he's not managed the framing well, and has been profoundly stupid in the recent Expelled blogfest.

    I want to see more science communicators, who may take a range of tactics in dealing with religion and creationism. Nisbet apparently wants to shut up those who don't toe his line; along with failing to give any clear lead or explanation of the line himself. I lost patience with him long ago.

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  6. Love it when darwinists fight.
    Mats

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  7. Hey mats, I grew up in Ireland during the troubles and I'm afraid I can't return the sentiment about when the religious fight. You are witnessing a minor argument over public relations strategy, not the Spanish Inquisition. Its highly unlikely that anyone will get crucified, stoned or burned at the stake over this affair - other than metaphorically - unlike religious conflicts where losing one's head can be the literal consequence of someones interpretation of what 'God' orders them to perform.

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  8. dunbar says,

    Technically, Chris Mooney didn't write that.

    Good point. I added "see comments" to my posting to indicate that Chris' writings are in the comments section.

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  9. anonymous says,

    I dunno, I'll play devil's advocate. It would be kinda nice to see PZ and Dawkins shut up for a change, and have someone else grab worldwide attention for atheism.

    Are you generally in favor of silencing people you disagree with or just in this particular case?

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  10. Instead of telling PZ or Dawkins to shut up, Mooney & Nisbet should find someone else that's equally gifted at capturing attention and compete based on ideas and communication, the things they say they're skilled at.

    Precisely. Surely if their method of communication is more effective, they'll soon be able to overwhelm Dawkins, Myers, et al. and have the general public enraptured with their silky framing skills?

    If they in fact cannot do this, then how do they expect to win the much more difficult task they have in taking on the creationists?

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Tyro and Duae makes good points.

    I would like to see the debate move on from reactions on framing to pro-actions on science in society sooner. Larry (and PZ; and Dawkins) are actually working on that, but N&M blocks much of the debate, and makes AFAIU no positive suggestions of their own. Perhaps Dawkins web have this discussion though.

    In any case, framing was about short term tactics and had never any relevance for longtime strategy. The problem was that N&M effectively blocked that debate as well. I can see why they liked their new shiny toy. Pity it was all shell and no core.

    @ Mats:
    darwinists fight

    I assume you mean scientists - who are supposed to fight.

    Conveniently you don't mention that this particular instance is an effect of the fact that creationists fight against science and education, for their theocratic agenda.

    Now about creationists irreconcilable conflicts - is Earth YEC 6 ka or OEC 4.55 Ga? Remember, this is dogma; if you don't agree you have to start a new church for your blasphemy.

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  14. Matt Nisbet is a poopy-head.
    I used to respect Chris Mooney, but not since he became mini-Matt.
    Sheril Kirshenbaum can go ***** herself.

    I challenge any of them to write a book that will convince thousands of fundagelical Christians to accept evolution.

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  15. Hey mats, I grew up in Ireland during the troubles and I'm afraid I can't return the sentiment about when the religious fight. You are witnessing a minor argument over public relations strategy, not the Spanish Inquisition.

    Well, let's not start on the body count on darwinian crimes against humanity (yes, eugenics and all), crimes done by atheists (Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung), and the prophessing Christian's crimes against humanity.
    Don't bother coming up with the unhistorical nonsense that "those were not crimes done in the name of atheism".

    But it's always nice to see someone who doesn't believe in absolute moral laws making absolute moral judgments.

    Thirdly, the past conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland was NOT because of Bible interpretation, but because of politics, brittish imperialism, etc, etc. I would assume that you would know the history of the country you grew up, but, alas, since you believe that the universe, the animals, the plants created themselves, I guess it's a small step to make other mistakes regarding the past.



    Torbby said:
    I assume you mean scientists - who are supposed to fight.

    No, I mean darwinists.

    Mats

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  16. Larry said:
    Are you generally in favor of silencing people you disagree with or just in this particular case?

    Yes! Just call them "creationists" and that will do the job.

    *chuckle*

    Dr Rabid Darwinist, PhD


    (Mats)

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  17. Mats said
    "(Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung)"
    Wait a second Mats, aren't you forgetting one? What about Hitler?
    Oh yes, he was a Christian, wasn't he... oooops. Anyway, all four did have one thing in common in terms of religion - none of them were Hindus.

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  18. Mats,
    Animals and plants "create" themselves all of the time - it called reproduction. They don't need any help from supernatural powers at all.

    People were killing each other long before 1859 and they continue to kill each other after - Darwin had little or no effect on the capacity and desire for humans to kill.

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  19. Larry,
    I agree framing seems to translate into lying to fool people into agreeing to something they might not agree to if they knew the truth. It is not a valid strategy for the long term.
    We also have this strange acceptance of compartmentalism in the west - as eluded to in the section on Barbara King of the framing conference post. It sounds like she thinks she can objectively separate her nonscientific life from her scientific life by just not mentioning it. We scientists can be silly sometimes in believing that since science is objective that scientists are as well.

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  20. Mats wrote:

    But it's always nice to see someone who doesn't believe in absolute moral laws making absolute moral judgments.

    Hi, Mats, how are you?

    Regarding moral judgments - When God tells Abraham he doesn't have to sacrifice Isaac, is that a relief to you, or would you feel just as comfortable if God had required Abraham to go through with it?

    If you wouldn't feel just as comfortable with a more bloodthirsty God, what is the source of your moral judgment on the matter?

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  21. Good Math, Bad Math has a good easy to understand explanation of framing today. The funny thing in Larry's rant is not just that he's using framing -- as Mark Chu-Carroll explains, it's inherent in communication -- but that he's using it so dishonestly, especially that first sentence. That's as bad as the stuff the rightwing or creationists use, just spinning like a top and trying to poison the well so debate doesn't happen. Maybe you should try the fingers in the ears "LaLaLaLaLaLaLa!" method. :)

    I can't imagine Larry would get anything out of Mark Chu-Carroll's post, but others might.

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  22. CrazyQat - read PZ's comments on Mark C-C's post. I think you may see why Larry and PZ are reacting strongly and why they can be right and Mark can also be right. The problem is that Larry and PZ are talking about "framing" in terms of Nisbet & Mooney's specific recommendations, whereas Mark is talking about framing as a general principle of communication. Of course Larry and PZ frame their discussion and of course they think it's a good and valuable element, but when they decry "framing", I think they're talking specifically about N&M's advice.

    At least that's the way I've interpreted their writing.

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  23. qrazyqat,
    I agree with Mark and that our awareness of our communication is helpful (sounds sort of buddhistic). I don't see how Mark's post in any way helps Mooney and Nisbet in this matter. If the supposed experts on framing can't frame an argument that resonates with scienceblogs readers, then what should we conclude?

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  24. Mark's post in no way helps Matt and Chris, nor was it designed to do so. Mark is quite correct in asserting that Matt has no idea what framing is and that, because of Matt, everyone else is now unwilling to listen to the actual theory of framing, as studied by people who do understand it. Matt has ruined the word "framing" for us, and is thus preventing us for approaching the concept in an unbiased, open-minded way, which is a pitty as it is potentially useful. We need to reframe
    'framing'. Call the real thing framing, and Matt's gibberish, well, how about 'Matt's gibberish'.

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  25. Nisbet's expertise on display

    BROOKE GLADSTONE: How would you have advised Copernicus to advance his highly controversial and unpopular sun-centered theory of the solar system?

    MATTHEW NISBET: Well, again, you know, there are certain ideas that come about in science that clash so strongly against prevailing world views that any type of short-term communication effort is going to run up against a wall.

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  26. Are you generally in favor of silencing people you disagree with or just in this particular case?

    Larry, you seriously need to learn how to read. Show me where I said I disagreed with them? I just said that it might be a refreshing change to hear others speak from the dominant atheist positions. But I know PZ's your close buddy, so you're probably more than a little biased, and maybe it offended you.

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  27. Martin said:
    Mats said
    "(Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung)"

    Wait a second Mats, aren't you forgetting one? What about Hitler?
    Oh yes, he was a Christian, wasn't he... oooops.


    Oh, yeah, I overlooked eugenicist evolutionist Hitler, of whom evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith said:

    "‘The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.’"

    (Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics, Putnam, NY, USA, p. 230, 1947.)

    Thanks for reminding me of him, Marty.

    "Anyway, all four did have one thing in common in terms of religion - none of them were Hindus."

    Wait a second Martin, aren't you forgetting something concerning Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin? What about their atheistic worldview?
    Oh yes, they were all atheists, weren't they... oooops!

    Mats

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  28. Matt Nisbet is a poopy-head.
    I used to respect Chris Mooney, but not since he became mini-Matt.
    Sheril Kirshenbaum can go ***** herself.


    Tegumai, you have every right to disagree with these folks but could I ask, as a fellow scientist, that you not make such personal and vitriolic statements against Sheril.

    Thanks, David.

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  29. "Oh, yeah, I overlooked eugenicist evolutionist Hitler, of whom evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith said..."

    Argument from bald assertion from a third-party, fascinating.

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  30. The problem is within biology and preexists Behe and the Discovery institute. It's called ultradarwinism, or the facile ideology of "selfish genes" or "the tyranny of self-replicators", further presentd as positive scientific truth. With these ideas, a person that knows about as much natural history and development as a hairdresser can fool himself into thinking he already knows what has to be known about how evolution works.

    Plus you know the ramifications of these ideology are nasty, from the london school of economics, Watson, and even at our blog level, Caledonian, that fascist insolent commenter PZ was so in love with for so long.

    Let's fight bad "evolutionary" science first before we whine and blame damn dumb ole creationists for all our woes. Science needs to correct itself, not be self- complacent

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  31. Another thing:
    Bad science is an expected result of a poor understanding of what science is.
    Such is the case with Dawkins.

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  32. I was "in love" with Caledonian? Please. Caledonian drove me up the wall; he's like scores of other commenters at my site who I find aggravating, irritating, annoying, boring, and downright poisonous, but who I permit to yammer because it takes a fair amount of effort for someone to get banned on Pharyngula. That I allow lots of obnoxious people to comment is not an indication that I support them in any way, but only that I try to tolerate a fair amount of dissent.

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  33. "...he's like scores of other commenters at my site who I find aggravating, irritating, annoying, boring, and downright poisonous, but who I permit to yammer because it takes a fair amount of effort for someone to get banned on Pharyngula."

    I am now officially spazing...

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  34. Well, you certainly "put up with him" for an extraordinarily long time. Much, much longer than what you put up with me. When you banned
    me, Caledonian was clapping.
    I think he could not have been that bothersome to you. I must have been much more disturbing than that dumb racist,huh.

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  35. You must be one of the most pig-headed intellectual wannabees. Nice for a Carlton grad. Ha!

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  36. Plus I know where you live...

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  37. I should stop by to say hi... there's a lot of catching up we have to do.

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  38. @ coturnix:

    Right. And awesome reframing.

    I'm not entirely sure what the original concept of framing was, but I believe it described the political strategy of creating a mind frame that a general audience could easily understand and accept. Such as when the tobacco industry framed early negative health research as "inconclusive and ongoing for your protection".

    So I would frame it "strategic framing" and "Matt's tactical spinning". Which of course, being Matt, could as well be "gibberish".


    @ Mats:


    No, I mean darwinists.


    O noes, I'm overwhelmed by your ability to correctly describe biologists and science supporters.

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  39. Dear anon.,
    You wrote the following: You must be one of the most pig-headed intellectual wannabees. Nice for a Carlton grad. Ha!
    The university is spelled "Carleton". Is there a reason for your enmity and your vaguely threatening messages?

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  40. Sanders: No, you were much more boring. I'm more likely to kick someone out for saying the same thing over and over and over again than I am for someone saying vile things but at least mixing it up a little and showing that they are vaguely aware that they're supposed to be in a conversation.

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  41. Haha. Sure, PZ. Anyways thanks for banning me; hammering stupid shallow posers for science is fun but is a bad way to burn spare time.
    Specially when papa bear stepa in to to disemvowel and protect the frail mids of the herd.
    Byebye PZ

    P.s.: YOu suuuuuck (singing)

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  42. Caledonian, aware of conversation??? Gimme a fucking break. You're deluded, PZ.
    Anyway, you just admitted it. You loved caledonian way more than me.
    The thing is , both of you were insolent religion haters. Your ideas and feeling were similar where it was "important".
    Mine not; hence, you loves me not.

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  43. Well, Sanders, it is not difficult to dislike you. The imbecility you have shown in the comments to this post speaks of a huge efort on your part to be obnoxious, dishonest and rude that simply must be rewarded!

    And, anyway, banning dickheads is not a zero-sum game: being as abrasively idiotic as you are leaves a lot of space for kooks such as Caledonian to be abrasively idiotic as well.

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  44. Anyway, you just admitted it. You loved caledonian way more than me.

    So does your mother.

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  45. Did I hurt your feelings? Sorry then, but when you guys confront creationists, do you try NOT to be abrasive? Do you behave like milquetoasts? No. You call people that behave like that "appeasers" and you hate them more than you hate creationists. And then you want me to be all pretty please with sugar on top. Which is why you "sssssZZZuuuuuuuucK"

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  46. plus, wasn't I supposed to be simply "boring"? (wink wink)

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  47. All I can say is:

    It feels good to be disliked by the right people

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  48. Sorry then, but when you guys confront creationists, do you try NOT to be abrasive?

    No, we don't try not to be abrasive to the. After all, stupid is as stupid does, so I treat you the way I treat an arrogant creationist idiot, because you do the same things only with different names.

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  49. Creationist are dishonest and phony. I'm for real. You just say I'm dishonest, but you don't say why. I don't like Dawkins, ergo I' dishonest? Typical pharynguloid "debating" level.

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  50. It depends. If someone says morality can only come from religion, we can reason with him. If someone says the earth is 6000 years old and does not change his mind even if supplied with overwhelming evidence, we can honor his assertion only with an abrasive reply.

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  51. Creationist are dishonest and phony.

    I call dibs on this quote mine!

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  52. Okay, Sanders, see this post?:

    The problem is within biology and preexists Behe and the Discovery institute. It's called ultradarwinism, or the facile ideology of "selfish genes" or "the tyranny of self-replicators", further presentd as positive scientific truth. With these ideas, a person that knows about as much natural history and development as a hairdresser can fool himself into thinking he already knows what has to be known about how evolution works.

    Everything you wrote in that post is complete and utter crap. And nearly everything you said when you were called on it was either a lie or an insult. Perhaps you do sincerely beleive all this, but it hardly casts your motives in a good light.

    Ordinarily I would have ignored you, because I will almost certainly have no effect on you other than increasing you blood pressure, but somehow on thursday I felt combative.

    But now, I'm kinda bored..

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  53. Since you are obviously not an evolutionary biologist I ask you:
    Do you really think that Dawkins "evolutionary biology" is what flies among true evolutionary biologists?
    You may want to know the reality about the status of Dawkins ideas, from some actual evolutionary scientists like me. Even PZ and larry, who are no evolutionary biologists, know better: PZ knows dawkins is a gentic reductionist; Larry knows he is a sickly ultraadaptationist.

    So, I thought I'd inform you about the reality. Evolutionary scientists are not about to pick up Dawkins on their shoulders. In fact, most that I know despise him (though there are a few fans still around)


    The only academic places where Dawkins views are taken seriousy are precisely in the non-biologicla places that wish to call themselves "evolutionary", such as, such as "evoutionary" psychology, and the london school of economics.


    Do you know much evolutionary biology? If you want your car fixed, and you KNOW you don't know how to fix it... would you take it to a mechanic, or to a car-salesman?

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  54. Do you really think that Dawkins "evolutionary biology" is what flies among true evolutionary biologists?
    You may want to know the reality about the status of Dawkins ideas, from some actual evolutionary scientists like me.


    Or you might want to talk to some of them who don't erect these strawmen about ultradeterminist Dawkins. I know that even many evolutionary biologists don't understand gene selection, but about the status of Dawkins' ideas: Dawkins basically popularizes Hamilton, one of the most original thinkers in evolutionary biology after the modern synthesis. If you want to take on the ideas instead of ad homineming Dawkins, take on Hamilton and modern researchers of kin selection like Stuart West. Or read Burt and Trivers' recent huge book on selfish genetic elements (which shouldn't exist if Dawkins is so full of crap as some people claim)

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  55. Kin selection and selfish genetic elements are hardly "uncontroversial", to say the least. In any case, both altruistic genes and the book you mentioned are only conceptually applicable to a subset of biological phenomena and further seem to be condemmned to eternal controversy and extreme intellectual entanglement. You may want to read what Lewontin and Gould have to say about this, or E. Wilson himself for that sake (the notable ant expert and sociobiologist that recently flipped to group selection as an alternative to "altruistic genes")

    The truth being, that biology is simply not as genetic as Dawkins or Hamilton would think. Things just don't work that way.

    Windy, do you do research? How often do you use the conceptual framework of "selfish genes" (or altruistic genes) in your publications? Care to show us a reference?

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  56. Alternatively, just refer me to the nicest paper you know that empirically studies "selfish genes". I guess that if the evidence is appalling, I should shut up, shouldn't I?

    We'll see if selfish genes can indeed be a "genral framework" for evolutionary understanding.

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  57. Windy, get a grip.
    dawkins porposal is that evolution is, in essence, GENE selection: not even of individual organisms, which are but "lumbering robots".
    Do you really believe this? Because Mayr and Gould certainly didn't. And neither do I.

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  58. You may want to read what Lewontin and Gould have to say about this, or E. Wilson himself for that sake (the notable ant expert and sociobiologist that recently flipped to group selection as an alternative to "altruistic genes")

    And has been soundly criticized by kin selection experts like Stuart West. Just because Wilson flipped, doesn't mean everyone else is required to.

    And group selection is not an "alternative" to gene selection in the Hamiltonian framework, since you need to distinguish between what Dawkins terms 'vehicles' and 'replicators'.

    Windy, do you do research? How often do you use the conceptual framework of "selfish genes" (or altruistic genes) in your publications?

    I do population genetics where this is not directly applicable. I'm planning a new project where it is, though. Stay tuned!

    Alternatively, just refer me to the nicest paper you know that empirically studies "selfish genes".

    Selfish genetic elements or anything in a Hamiltonian framework?

    For the latter, check out "Self-recognition, color signals, and cycles of greenbeard mutualism and altruism" by Sinervo et al in PNAS 103: 7372-7377 (2006).

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  59. HUH?
    If the recognition genes are interspersed in the genome, and not linked into a supergene along with the OBY locus, then the study has proven conclusively that there was NO Hamiltonian supergene in this case. I am not impressed; we'll just have to keep on waiting for the legendary supergene, I guess.
    I mean, if its not the selection of an isolated supergene, how can you say this situation exemplifies "gene selection" ruling over individual selection? Since the combination of genes is crucial, individual selection is crucial.

    Also notice, Windy, that "greenbeard" situations are not the general logic of evolution. Dawkins's vision is that gene selection is the general evolutionary mechanism. Remember, the lumbering robots thing? Honesty, Windy, even among the most darwinian people I know, few would think that greenberad or conflict research would somehow justify dawkins cartoonish views of gene-centered evolution.

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  60. If the recognition genes are interspersed in the genome, and not linked into a supergene along with the OBY locus, then the study has proven conclusively that there was NO Hamiltonian supergene in this case. I am not impressed; we'll just have to keep on waiting for the legendary supergene, I guess.

    *headdesk* No, that's not the point. They are expanding on Hamilton's work.

    I mean, if its not the selection of an isolated supergene, how can you say this situation exemplifies "gene selection" ruling over individual selection?

    What the fuck is an "isolated supergene"? i don't remember Dawkins saying anything about selection on isolated genes floating in space or something, but genes working in tandem with other genes. And how does individual selection explain the bluebeard effect?

    And aren't you usually the one who's advocating for single genes of large effect being very important in evolution? So what have you got against supergenes all of a sudden?

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  61. Windy, unless you don't know it, the supergen of Hamilton is by no means defiend by magnitude effect, but rather, it is a "compound" gene, a stretch of the DNA that includes several genes and that can be all selected together as upon a single locus. The idea of the Hamiltonian supergene is that, by providing simutaneously both color and recognition of it, it would be gene able to favor the replication of copies of itself, regardless of the "interests" of the "vessel" of the individual.

    Starting to click by now?


    By isolated I meant precisely that independence from individual genetic background. This can only happen if a gene makes a contribution to fitness regardless of genetic background, that is, it's effect can be "isolated" form the background.

    Now, read my comment again. See which is my point now?

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  62. No gene makes the same contribution "regardless of genetic background". You are attacking a strawman. (In case you want to claim that this implies individual selection, individuals don't have a fixed fitness independent of their environment either)

    If you claim that the PNAS article is a refutation of Hamilton, instead of building on his ideas and modifying it in light of better evidence, you are deluded.

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  63. Well, I f you do not understadn my point, all I can do is shrug. To those who understoood: Isn't it funny how things are? Some are allowed to presnet what actually should have been a disappointment, as an "expansion"...and on PNAS, no less...
    Obviously the "greenbeard" hypothesis will keep on surviving, impervious to any new data and with no supergene ever been docuemtned. Such is the way it goes with some.

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  64. "No gene makes the same contribution "regardless of genetic background". You are attacking a strawman"

    If a gene does not have a consistent effect under normal, (standing) variation of genetic background (viable mutations), that gene is going to be difficult to select.

    That is why the more independent the effect of a gene becomes from that background, the more easily it is for it to be selected and the better candidate it becomes for a properly selfish "GENE", a la Hamilton.

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  65. (not sure why I'm bothering, but:)

    Well, I f you do not understadn my point, all I can do is shrug. To those who understoood: Isn't it funny how things are?

    Sanders, maybe you've noticed by now that NOBODY understadns [sic] your various "points." Your communication style ensures that little you may have to say will ever be understoood [sic].

    Your view of Dawkins's views (and, by extension, Hamilton's and Williams's) is a caricature. Do you really know other "true" evolutionary biologists ("like you") that have your level of disdain and vitriol about those views? Because I don't.
    (For the record, I am a comparative physiologist for whom these arguments are tangential. I know a lot of biologists, though, and I have never encountered another that feels so strongly that gene selection is purely a crock of shit. I will say, though, that my studies, directly of organisms rather than theory or genes or molecules, have convinced me that adaptation is nearly ubiquitous, within various well-established constraints, of course.)

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  66. I consider instances of selection of genetically determined differences is an important part of evolutionary understanding. What I think is up for discussion is whether this is enough as an explanation of adaptation (such that epigenetic adaptation can be ignored) and thus whether indeed selection, be it of groups, individuals or genes, is the general framework for evolution.

    If you're an ecophysiologist, you're most probably measuring oxigen consumption, increasing conductivity by putting some mammal into helium, measuring the calories put in in food and out as droppings, relating everything to climate of each species, perhaps measuring heritability for some physiological trait... I've done a bit of it myself, studying the energy value of different furcoats in fossorial and non-fossorial rodents.

    What does all this have to do with the notion that gene selection takes priority over individual selection?
    The fact you are a Dawkins fan is
    quite separate from the actual demands of the science you do.

    Have you ever heard of the phenomenon of climatization, Sven?

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  67. "That is why the more independent the effect of a gene becomes from that background, the more easily it is for
    it to be selected"

    In the PNAS article the idea is that certain backgrounds are more likely than others!

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  68. Not only have I heard of it, I know how to spell it (usually acclimatization). Fascinating examples of phenotypic plasticity. I've done some work on the laboratory-experiment version (acclimation). What's most interesting is that not all species have the capacity to acclimate, i.e. phenotypic plasticity itself has a genetic underpinning. I don't see much of a role for epigenetics here (but I confess I don't know much about epigenetics).
    I actually agree with you that selection at the level of the individual organism is sufficient to explain the kind of physiological adaptation that most interests me. The value of the gene-level approach is most clearly seen in the cases like kin selection for "altruism" etc. Remember that Dawkins's training is in behavioral ecology, probably the most adaptationistic of all biological disciplines.
    Pluralism!!!

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  69. "Fascinating examples of phenotypic plasticity"

    Truly so.

    "I don't see much of a role for epigenetics here (but I confess I don't know much about epigenetics)"

    You are right, you haven't even thought about properly. Let me help you out. Say you have two different sister species, that live in different climates and have different physiologies. Now, their different physiologies may have a genetic component, for sure. But is there not still an epigentic component, such that you could make their physiologies more similar if you grew one species in the climate of the other? What difference remains you may call genetic, but then you must also acknowledge there is still an active, important epigenetic factor determining the differences between species.

    Would you say acclimatization has had no role in the evolution of these species to different climates? remeber that o matter how large my gentic capacity for responde may be, wihthout the epigentic factor acting upon it, there is no new phenotype.

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  70. "The value of the gene-level approach is most clearly seen in the cases like kin selection for "altruism" etc."

    No: empirical evidence for any such thing is murky and controversial at best. Further, as new data comes along it just becomes more ugly, contorted and full of parches (what you guys call "expanded), demonstrating a remarkably irrefutable status for a "scientific" hypothesis. It shows all the barroque hallmarks of a "soft" and confused science.

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  71. I don't see how your example involves anything I would call "epigenetic." The heritable differences are all genetic--both the residual difference in the common garden experiment and the capacity for acclimatization that caused the larger differences in different environments. Unless you are arguing that descendants "inherit" their environments from ancestors that also lived there, everything is being inherited genetically. Perhaps you are using "epigenetic" in a nonstandard way?

    Not sure what to make of your second post--it's my impression that there's a large and thriving field of behavioral ecology that still takes stuff like kin selection pretty seriously.

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  72. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  73. "it's my impression that there's a large and thriving field of behavioral ecology that still takes stuff like kin selection pretty seriously"

    We also have lots of academia dedicated to string theory and "evolutionary psychology"(shrug)

    Even so, a few behavioral ecologists are wisening up to epigenetic plasticity. Mary Jane West- Eberhardt, for one.

    Plus you seem to completely ignore that fcat that for a long while the school of behavioral ecology has been opposed by the school fo developmental psychology and developmental sistems theory (Susan Oyama). These people are much more cogent when it comes to putting genes in their proper place. I recommend you read Lewontin, too.

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  74. "The heritable differences are all genetic--both the residual difference in the common garden experiment and the capacity for acclimatization that caused the larger differences in different environments"


    OK, let's talk like developmental biologists. The development of a phenotypic trait is said to be determined when changing the environment no longer can change the course of the development of that phenotype.

    Talking about "capacity genes" does not make a trait "genetically determined", in which case having the genes would be sufficient to develop the trait. The genetic component is necessary, but not sufficient, for the development of the trait. Environment is necesary too (even if on its own it may also be insufficient).

    Your position can appear to be condensed as following: "everything, in the end, is genetic". This is, in fact, pretty silly.

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  75. Well, I think we're back to differing definitions of "evolution." Say I have a population of lizards. I take half the population and move it North . Some decades later I return and do some comparative demography. I find that the Northern population grows more slowly, has a later age of first reproduction, smaller clutch sizes, maybe even larger eggs and hatchlings. Seemingly important life-history differences no? Different phenotypes.
    Now I take representatives of both populations and run a common-garden experiment. Lo and behold, all those differences disappear--they were all due solely to phenotypic plasticity.
    Has evolution occurred in generating those differences? I (and I think most) would say no; I get the impression that you would say yes. The plasticity was already built into the original population's genome.
    But you're right that I should probably read more widely in this area before arguing much about it. I attended a series of lectures Lewontin gave at UCLA in the late 80s and was very impressed. People keep mentioning West-Eberhard but that book looks pretty intimidating and I have many more proximately pressing tasks!

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  76. "The plasticity was already built into the original population's genome"

    According to that logic , no new phenotypes ever arise if not by genetic mutation. Which makes no good structural-developmental sense. Environmental interactions are very capable of producing new phenotypes.

    Also, try this: What if you are not comparing subpopulations, but sister species or clearly distinct subspecies. Say important differences disappear in the garden experiment. If you had not run the garden experiment these would simply be listed as species differences of a phenotype that is, in fact, representative for that species.

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  77. What is the "Selfish Gene" thing?

    Genes Are Primal And Genomes Are Evolved Organisms


    A. In view of the information we now have about life and its evolution:

    Earth Life: 1. a format of temporarily constrained energy, retained in temporary constrained genetic energy packages in forms of genes, genomes and organisms 2. a real virtual affair that pops in and out of existence in its matrix, which is the energy constrained in Earth's biosphere.

    Earth organism: a temporary self-replicable constrained-energy genetic system that supports and maintains Earth's biosphere by maintenance of genes.

    Gene: a primal Earth's organism.

    Genome: a multigenes organism consisting of a cooperative commune of its member genes.

    Cellular organisms: mono- or multi-celled earth organisms.


    B. Update of life sciences conceptions is now feasible and urgently desirable:

    - Earth's biosphere phenomenon is a distant relative of black holes, a form of constrained
    energy pocket.

    - First were independent individual genes, Earth's primal organisms.

    - Genes aggregated cooperatively into genomes, multigenes organisms, with genomes' organs.

    - Simultaneously or consequently genomes evolved protective and functional membranes, organs.

    - Then followed cellular organisms, with a variety of outer-cell membranes shapes and
    functionalities.


    This conception is a scientific, NOT TECHNOLOGICAL, life-science innovation.

    It is tomorrow's comprehension of life and its evolution.

    IT EVOKES INTRIGUING DARWINIAN IMPLICATIONS.

    IT IS FRAUGHT WITH INTRIGUING TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS POTENTIALS.


    Suggesting,

    Dov Henis

    http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-P81pQcU1dLBbHgtjQjxG_Q--?cq=1

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