This island life
Spurgin (Lewis)
Source: Aeon, 09 July, 2013
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Conclusion

  1. Political beliefs affect science at many levels, from decisions on what research is funded, to the subconscious biases of individual scientists. And for my part, I am sure that my political views have influenced my scientific research, and all along I haven’t had a clue. We constantly make subjective decisions as scientists: which questions get us fired up, which do we ignore, when do we consider a result significant enough to publish, how do we approach an analysis, and how do we interpret our findings. We strive for objectivity, but we can never truly achieve it. Instead we can but hope that the self-correcting process of science weeds out the rubbish, and that truth emerges over time.
  2. So maybe radical scientists are not such a bad thing after all. Perhaps the likes of Gould and Lewontin, who are able to take a step back and look critically at their whole field, play an essential role in keeping science in check, and therefore in moving it forward. They might have overstepped the mark at times, but their critique of adaptationism was one that needed to be made, and is one that has improved the scientific rigour of evolutionary1 biology overall. Biologists are now much more careful of inventing adaptive explanations for everything they see, and are more amenable to non-adaptive explanations.
  3. As for my paper on pipits, I’m at the nerve-racking stage of submitting it for peer review. After checking and double-checking I can only conclude for now that the founder effects were real, and hope that the peer-review and, more importantly, post-publication scrutiny of fellow scientists will ferret out any problems. Perhaps the best plan will be to find a capitalist lapdog to review it for me.


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