It’s as if evolutionary biologists are beginning to take some of the problems of Darwinism seriously enough to discuss them openly, as failures in research. In this case, the failure of claims for sexual selection (females drive evolution by choosing the fittest mates) are openly publicized.
In the past five years, meta-analyses and reviews have generated more evidence of bias in ecology and evolutionary biology research. For example, biases have been found in the literature on ideas such as feather color affecting mate choice in blue tits and black bib sizes indicating male dominance in house sparrows. As with zebra finch leg bands, such biases don’t necessarily invalidate the hypotheses themselves, but undermine the strength of evidence for them, leaving researchers questioning concepts once considered well-supported. While scientists disagree on the extent of the reproducibility problem—which exists across disciplines, from psychology to cancer biology—they have begun to undertake efforts to reduce bias and improve transparency in ecology and evolution research.
Available data suggest that questionable research practices are common enough in ecology and evolution research to warrant concern. Last month, Hannah Fraser, an ecologist at University of Melbourne, and colleagues surveyed more than 800 ecologists and evolutionary biologists and found that many of the researchers—mostly midcareer and senior—admitted to at least one instance of selective reporting (64 percent), use of the flexible stopping rule (42 percent), or having changed hypotheses to fit their results (51 percent). Yao-Hua Law, “Replication Failures Highlight Biases in Ecology and Evolution Science” at The Scientist
This is neck and neck with the Nature review of The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, one wonders, are the staff at The Scientist competing with the staff at Nature to be first out of Darwin’s collapsing house of cards?
But the big problem lies in the sense of the closing quote: “Parker agrees. ‘If a study was worth doing because you thought the answer could be valuable, then we should really know what the answer is regardless of the answer.’” Yes, provided one is willing to face the possibility that basic thing one believes might not be correct.
In any event, researchers should not be banished for failing to produce the results everyone expected to see. Scientists are supposed to be truth seekers, not magicians. It’s nobody’s fault if, as Tom Wolfe (1931-2018) sensed would happen, Darwinism falls. It will be much less missed than some must think.
See also: At Nature: New evolution book represents “radical” new perspective. Including things you didn’t know about Archaea discoverer, Carl Woese. It’s true. Woese, the first to recognize the kingdom of life, the Archaea, was not a Darwinist and believed in a deity. Prediction: Soon only cranks will be Darwinists.
At Forbes: Overthrowing Darwin’s theory by better explanations? But if the bar is actually set at a better explanation, in the sense of an explanation that explains more of what we see more cogently and provides better predictions, ID theorists might be able to do it.
Replication crisis: New proposal suggests, Let scientists admit mistakes and move on
Fable: More on what happened when one team tried publishing a failed replication paper in Nature
Can sex explain evolution?