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New Coynage: E.O. Wilson calls Richard Dawkins a “journalist”

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My my.

From Jerry “Why Evolution is True” Coyne’s blog:

I’ve been an admirer of Ed Wilson for a long time (after all, he helped me get into Harvard). He founded the discipline of evolutionary psychology, which is a branch of sociobiology, has been an ardent conservationist, and his work on ants is unparalleled, though he’s not really incorporated the latest statistical methodologies into his phylogenetic work. …

But as he gets older, Wilson seems to me to be getting more concerned with securing his place in scientific history—a place that is already secured—by attacking one of the most fruitful and innovative theories in modern evolutionary biology: inclusive fitness (sometimes called “kin selection”). I’ve written about Wilson and his colleagues’ scientific errors on this site (some of the links are here), and about Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson’s paper in Nature that argues against kin selection’s importance in the evolution of “eusociality” (the division of labor among castes and the presence of queens and sterile workers seen in ants, bees, and other hymenopterans). Wilson et. al broach instead the importance of “group selection” in the evolution of these phenomena. I saw, and still see, that paper as misguided, its theoretical basis flawed, and I find little evidence for their preferred mechanism of group selection as a promoter of adaptations in nature.

Well, it isn’t pure enough Darwinism, right?

Anyway,

From the Guardian:

The war of words between the biologists EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins has reignited after the Harvard professor described his Oxford counterpart as a “journalist”.

In an interview with Evan Davis on BBC2’s Newsnight to promote his latest book, Wilson was asked about his differing view of natural selection compared with that of Dawkins.

Wilson answered: “There is no dispute between me and Richard Dawkins and there never has been, because he’s a journalist, and journalists are people that report what the scientists have found and the arguments I’ve had have actually been with scientists doing research.”

The Guardian story here.

You can tell new atheism is imploding when, never mind group selection, top guns don’t much care whether group detraction causes reasonable people to assume that they are all a bunch of academic charlatans.

See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants.” Just what has Wilson’s contribution, evolutionary psychology, amounted to except ever new pop science stories for increasingly gullible media?

Oh, and the “conservation” thing? He advocates, give half the planet to wild animals. The bicoastal elite will keep their mansions (they always do), but developing nations will be toast.

Why the uproar around E. O. Wilson’s new “group selection” book?

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10 Replies to “New Coynage: E.O. Wilson calls Richard Dawkins a “journalist”

  1. 1
    Sirius says:

    “Journalist” is an interesting accusation. Dawkins also the best writer in the Darwin camp. That’s why I am happy to study what he writes.

    Any comments here on Wilson’s preference for group selection over kin selection? Is it important? I am hazy on it.

  2. 2
    keith s says:

    Denyse writes:
    See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants.”

    Yes, I remember that thread. It’s the one where you closed comments because the ID supporters were getting shellacked and UD’s double standards for moderation were being exposed.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    Best writer in the Darwin Camp, Siruis? I agree with you, but I consider it an insult not the compliment I’m sure you meant it to be.

    Just finished reading Chapter 1 “What Darwin Didn’t Know” in Andreas Wagner’s new book “Arrival of the Fittest”. Dr Wagner is at the cutting edge of BioScience, Dawkins is painfully out of date.

    Chapter 1 is the best summary of BioScience History I have ever read. From Plato to now when “Biologists are being transformed into information scientists.” Having just finished reading “Being as Communion” by Dr Dembski where he places information upstream from matter – “Arrival of the Fittest” will be an interesting comparision.

  4. 4
    keith s says:

    ppolish,

    Having just finished reading “Being as Communion” by Dr Dembski where he places information upstream from matter – “Arrival of the Fittest” will be an interesting comparision.

    Warning — Arrival of the Fittest is a good book, but it contains lots of bad news for ID, as discussed in this thread. Be emotionally prepared. 🙂

  5. 5
    ppolish says:

    Keith, read Dembski’s new book and we can compare emotions:)

    Dembski shows information creates innovation and chance is born out of intelligence. Shows it very convincingly. Information upstream of matter too.

  6. 6
    keith s says:

    ppolish,

    Keith, read Dembski’s new book and we can compare emotions:)

    It’s a deal. I got a copy (for the low pre-publication price of $22.95!), but I haven’t started reading yet.

    I’ll let you know what I think.

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    Ouch!! . A journalist as opposed to REAL scientists like him! thats what he said and is a accusation! Nasty eh.

    This coyne dude is funny. He says wilson has a OTHER motivation for his ideas. to get scientific historical credibility etc.
    Another accusation about motivation thus saying wilson is not just honestly intellectual wrong!
    this is what they say about creationists!
    if motives can be accused and surely extreme accusations then why can’t educated suspicions about evolutionists or anybody be bROUGHT UP??
    Just looking at the equations here.

  8. 8
    sparc says:

    Is this the same E.O. Wilson who said the following about ID proponents

    The reasoning they offer is not based on evidence but on the lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a default argument advanced in support of a non sequitur. It is in essence the following: there are some phenomena that have not yet been explained and that (most importantly) the critics personally cannot imagine being explained; therefore there must be a supernatural designer at work. The designer is seldom specified, but in the canon of intelligent design it is most certainly not Satan and his angels, nor any god or gods conspicuously different from those accepted in the believer’s faith.

    Flipping the scientific argument upside down, the intelligent designers join the strict creationists (who insist that no evolution ever occurred) by arguing that scientists resist the supernatural theory because it is counter to their own personal secular beliefs. This may have a kernel of truth; everybody suffers from some amount of bias. But in this case bias is easily overcome. The critics forget how the reward system in science works. Any researcher who can prove the existence of intelligent design within the accepted framework of science will make history and achieve eternal fame. They will prove at last that science and religious dogma are compatible. Even a combined Nobel prize and Templeton prize (the latter designed to encourage the search for just such harmony) would fall short as proper recognition. Every scientist would like to accomplish such a epoch-making advance. But no one has even come close, because unfortunately there is no evidence, no theory and no criteria for proof that even marginally might pass for science.

  9. 9

    Any researcher who can prove the existence of intelligent design within the accepted framework of science will make history and achieve eternal fame. They will prove at last that science and religious dogma are compatible. Even a combined Nobel prize and Templeton prize (the latter designed to encourage the search for just such harmony) would fall short as proper recognition. Every scientist would like to accomplish such a epoch-making advance.

    The truth is more like: only religious explanations are here allowed “within the accepted framework of science” or else the Theory of Intelligent Design is scientifically unacceptable. A researcher who develops such a scientific theory gets to die broke.

  10. 10

    And from http://www.templeton.org/what-.....-questions

    Does the Foundation support “intelligent design”?
    No. We do not support the political movement known as “intelligent design,” which denies large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge in evolutionary biology. As a matter of policy and in keeping with our legal status, we do not support or endorse political movements of any kind.

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