- 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.
- 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 evolutionary biology overall. Biologists are now much more careful of inventing adaptive explanations for everything they see, and are more amenable to non-adaptive explanations.
- 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.
- Sub-title: "The strange biology of island populations highlights the role of chance, not just selection, in evolutionary change."
- For the full text, see Aeon: Spurgin - This island life
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)