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Lynn Margulis... WTF happened?

 
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E-boy



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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Location: Virginia (Much barfiness)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:41 pm    Post subject: Lynn Margulis... WTF happened? Reply with quote

So, back in the day I read a good deal of her work on symbiosis as a driving force in evolution. I was pretty impressed. I've always known she had a fondness for weird theories...

Recently I read an interview in which she quite matter of factly stated to the interviewer that AIDS is caused by the Syphilis bacteria... I did a double take. Yep, she actually said that... WTF?! Then a few weeks later I thought, well maybe it was a big April fools joke, but I couldn't remember the date of the interview. So I tried doing an online search of the periodical I read it in and came up with more weirdness. Apparently she fast tracked a rather bizarre paper on a theory suggesting Butterflies are the result of accidental breeding between an insect and a velvet worm(With no supporting evidence) in a reputable journal. It was beaten to a pulp in peer review, and she was asked very pointedly to provide a reason for this weirdness (she basically cherry picked peer reviewers to get the requisite positive reviews necessary for publication and by personally sheparding it bypassed many of the usual obstacles to publication. The loop hole she used is now in the process of being closed). I don't recall what her reason was except she really liked the ideas the guy had, evidence or no. Anyway, I no longer think the interview was an April fools joke. I think Lynn has gone from unconventional to batshit crazy. She's certainly not the only scientist to be, frankly, fringe. The guy who developed PCR believes in alien abductions, I'm just a bit shocked I guess. I know I shouldn't be, but I am. She's certainly not the first well respected scientist to be a crank (The guy who developed PCR believes in alien abduction, for example). But Ugh... Just Ugh.
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WheelsOfConfusion



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep she's nuts.
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E-boy



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pardon the double use of my example, by the way. I was half awake. I brought the whole issue up here because I actually dreamed about that blasted interview in Discover. Seriously, WTF?!

I'd love to see the letters to the editor on this one. Smile
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mouse



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i started checking out the "discovery" article that prompted wheel's article - right off the bat, it sounds like she's sorta unclear on the evolutionary concept:
Quote:
This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: they teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection.
...
Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn't create.


well of course it doesn't create! it can only act on whatever mutations turn up - _that's_ the creative bit. and natural selection also doesn't set the direction, the mutations happen as they happen.

she seems to feel it's all due to unicellular organisms adding capabilities to multicellular ones. i'm not saying that the unicells don't have their place - but if it's all about symbiosis, where do the new unicells come from? how did spirochetes come to differ from ciliates and blue-green algae and all those other things?
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Michael



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a fun bit on QI about someone who'd suggested that butterflies and caterpillars may be two separate species who [DETAILS WERE LACKING, MIXED SPERM & EGGS? DEVELOPED SOME KIND OF INHERITABLE SYMBIOSIS?]
As far as I could gather it was basically a reputable person who had suggested that some species with two highly different stages of life may be 2 separate species evolving together within a single body

Does that have anything to do with this?
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E-boy



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She is more than a bit harsh. Her ideas add to how life can diversify, but they in no way replace natural selection.

I very much doubt we will have a truly full picture of all the myriad ways evolution can work (and all the factors involved) any time soon, but after 150 years of enthusiasitic attempts to discredit the basic premises of evolution I don't see the continued filling in of the picture as a real threat to the basic understanding we have gained of the process. I think we will learn amazing and wonderful things that re-enforce the power of the theory. I believe it will continue to be tweaked and added to without being undermined any time soon. At present, in the vein of some of Lynn's less batshit ideas, they are looking into the role viruses play in evolution and it's fascinating stuff. A new wrinkle if you will (Even if it's not so much new as they've finally got the technology to really investigate it).
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nathan



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be fair, if I remember correctly, the guy who developed PCR credits its discovery to his hallucinogenic habits. So that's not so much of a turn, as a continuation.

Regarding our patron saint of syphilis, though, I'm reminded of Nietzsche's assertion that sometimes great insights/criticisms come from - and can only come from - those who fundamentally misunderstand the subject.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nathan wrote:
Regarding our patron saint of syphilis, though, I'm reminded of Nietzsche's assertion that sometimes great insights/criticisms come from - and can only come from - those who fundamentally misunderstand the subject.

I'm willing to give Nietzsche the sometimes. It kind of makes sense in a Kuhnian way. Thinkers who understand the nuance of a complicated paradigm are more likely (though not certain) to be indoctrinated to believe the paradigm. So someone who maybe doesn't understand it all that well might spout off something that turns out to have a grain of truth. I think this is probably rare and their contributions more likely to be minor, but it seems workable.
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