Pharyngula

Sharon Begley, how could you?

Usually, Begley is reasonably good on science, but her latest piece is one big collection of misconceptions. It reflects a poor understanding of the science and of history, in that it confuses long-standing recognition of the importance of environmental factors in gene expression with a sudden reinstatement of Lamarckian inheritance, and it simply isn’t — she’s missed the point of the science and she has caricatured Lamarck.

Some water fleas sport a spiny helmet that deters predators; others, with identical DNA sequences, have bare heads. What differs between the two is not their genes but their mothers’ experiences. If mom had a run-in with predators, her offspring have helmets, an effect one wag called “bite the mother, fight the daughter.” If mom lived her life unthreatened, her offspring have no helmets. Same DNA, different traits. Somehow, the experience of the mother, not only her DNA sequences, has been transmitted to her offspring.

That gives strict Darwinians heart palpitations, for it reeks of the discredited theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). The French naturalist argued that the reason giraffes have long necks, for instance, is that their parents stretched their (shorter) necks to reach the treetops. Offspring, Lamarck said, inherit traits their parents acquired. With the success of Darwin’s theory of random variation and natural selection, Lamarck was left on the ash heap of history. But new discoveries of what looks like the inheritance of traits acquired by parents–lab animals as well as people–are forcing biologists to reconsider Lamarckism.

She’s describing real and interesting phenomena, but it isn’t new and it isn’t revolutionary. These are results of plasticity and epigenetics, and we aren’t having heart palpitations over them (you’re also going to have a difficult time finding any “strict Darwinians” in the science community who are even surprised by this stuff). We load up pregnant women with folate and maternal vitamins and recommendations to eat well, and we tell them not to get drunk or smoke crack for a few months, because it is common sense and common knowledge that extra-genetic factors influence the health and development of the next generation. Genes don’t execute rigid, predetermined programs of development — they are responsive to the environment and can express radically different patterns in different contexts. The same genes build a caterpillar and a butterfly, the difference is in the hormonal environment that selects which genes will be active.

It’s the same story with the water fleas. Stressed and unstressed mothers switch on different genes in their offspring epigenetically, which lead to the expression of different morphology. It’s very cool stuff, but evolutionary biologists are about as shocked by this as they are by the idea that malnourished mothers have underweight babies. That environmental influences can have multi-generational effects, and that developmental programs can cue off of the history of the germ line, is not a new idea, especially among developmental biologists.

This is just wrong on evolution:

Water fleas pop out helmets immediately if mom lived in a world of predators; by Darwin’s lights, a population of helmeted fleas would take many generations to emerge through random variation and natural selection.

It misses the whole point. The population of water fleas have a genetic attribute that allows the formation of spines under one set of conditions, and suppresses them under others. This gene regulatory network did not pop into existence in a single generation! If it did, then Begley would have a big story, evolution would have experienced a serious blow, and we’d all be looking a little more carefully into this ‘intelligent design’ stuff. The pattern of gene regulation was the product of many generations of variation and selection; only the way it was expressed in a phenotype experienced a shift within a single generation.

It’s also not Lamarckism. It’s another of those short and simple-minded myths perpetuated by high-school textbooks that Lamarck and Darwin had competing explanations for the same phenomena. They did not. This story of giraffes stretching their necks is an example of the purported inheritance of acquired characteristics … and here’s some headline news, Darwin proposed exactly the same thing! Darwin did not have a solid theory of heredity, and he himself proposed a mechanism of pangenesis which permitted the inheritance of characters by use and disuse and by injury or malformation. The key difference is that Darwin proposed that these variations could lead to the formation of new species; Lamarck believed in the fixity of species, and thought that a species would merely express a constrained range of forms in differing environments.

Both were wrong. A concept called the Weismann barrier emerged in the late 19th century, which suggested that the only influences that can be transmitted across generations are those that affect the germ line, the cells that give rise to sperm and egg, and that modification of the somatic tissues alone would not propagate. This is correct, and it’s still true: nothing in these reports suggest anything but that when perturbed by environmental stressors, gametes can switch on different genetic programs.

I think epigenetics and plasticity are important and play a role in evolution, certainly, but these kinds of elaborations on how cells interact do not imply in any way that there is a revolution in evolution, or that evolutionary biology has had it all wrong, or that this is heresy in progress. It’s also annoying to see all the vague handwaving about discrediting a “Darwinian model” — what Darwinian model? These discoveries are about mechanisms of genetic inheritance, and Darwin didn’t have a valid mechanism in the first place. In that sense, the only real heresy that counted was Mendel’s.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 22, 2009

    Silver Fox? Comments?

  2. #2 Lars
    January 22, 2009

    Lamarck believed in the fixity of species

    No – he didn’t believe in (hadn’t conceived of) divergence from a common ancestor, but envisioned evolution as progression up a ladder. Species weren’t fixed, they “improved” themselves. It was extinction that he didn’t believe in.

  3. #3 Scarybug
    January 22, 2009

    Also some ants have different castes based on environmental pressures such as nutrition.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070524145012.htm

    (though other species seem to have real genetic differences as well)

    http://www.physorg.com/news138279208.html

  4. #4 Carlie
    January 22, 2009

    I give a fangirl squee. This article brought me to raging incoherence when I saw it. I used it in my reproduction class yesterday as an example of really bad “journalism” that they would be able to critique by the end of the semester; it’s fabulous to have this to show them.

  5. #5 Mike P
    January 22, 2009

    Oof. I’m usually one to defend science journalists, but that is a really, really poor description of epigenetics. Very bad. Inexcusable, actually.

  6. #6 Steve_C
    January 22, 2009

    Hehe. Silverfox. Sit down.

  7. #7 Zifnab
    January 22, 2009

    Let’s assume Begley isn’t completely talking out the ass. This still doesn’t “validate” Intelligent Design any more than “irreducibly complex” microbes or the two-headed mutant ox.

    There is no discussion of a designer stepping in and flipping on and off flea spikes. There is no evidence of tiny angles giving benedictions over divinely birthed offspring.

    That gives strict Darwinians heart palpitations, for it reeks of the discredited theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). … But new discoveries of what looks like the inheritance of traits acquired by parents–lab animals as well as people–are forcing biologists to reconsider Lamarckism.

    Would be nice if writer, the editor, or the ombudsman spoke to any ACTUAL biologists. Hey, look! When I mix vinegar and baking soda, the combination foams up and explodes! But this is generating energy from where there was no energy before, thus giving strict Einstienian Physicists heart palpitations! :-p

    Begley wouldn’t make it a week as a high school science teacher with this kind of methodology.

  8. #8 Eric
    January 22, 2009

    She describes the epigenetics in the mouse early in the piece then misses the parallel application in the water flea? Not like her to miss that unless someone pushed this story with a certain angle.

  9. #9 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 22, 2009

    Is Billy Budd mistaking the 18th century for the 21st century?

  10. #10 Lowell
    January 22, 2009

    Who are these “Darwinians” anyway?

    I’ve seen plenty of examples of biologists like PZ explaining the things Darwin was wrong about. It was 150 years ago, for crying out loud! We’ve moved on.

  11. #11 David
    January 22, 2009

    How important are epigenetic mechanisms in the long term?
    I know their effect can be seen across many generaitions, but can they cause irreversible evolutionary change?
    or should we consider epigenetics as a multigenerational form of phenotypic plasticity?

    cheers

    David

  12. #12 contradicting
    January 22, 2009

    But what can you judge from genes? Looking at genes you can’t tell if there is a catterpilar or a butterfly coded -or both! (not to speaking about color patterns on their wings – which are often also subjedted to temperature as Richard Goldschmidt’s phenocopies showed). Weren’t Richard Goldschmidt and John Davison right, that not genes themselves but their position (and repatterings) counts? Or better – their interpretation?

  13. #13 Greg Peterson
    January 22, 2009

    Alligator sex is determined by incubation temperature. That’s a fat epigenetic switch, probably more than spiny helmets, even. I admit to only having an interested layperson’s understanding of evo-devo, but this article smelled really funny. Thanks, PZ, for organizing the objections. And Billy Budd…what the hell are you talking about?

  14. #14 Rey Fox
    January 22, 2009

    99.9% of working biologists are the last dying embers.

    Or as Ichthyic would say, “WATERLOOOO!” (bastard probably thinks he’s too good for us now that he’s in the antipodes)

  15. #15 procyon
    January 22, 2009

    I blame this on the “paradigm shift” bandwagon. Causing a tempest in a tea cup.

  16. #16 Steve_C
    January 22, 2009

    hehe… yeah look at all those professors all over the country tossed out because evolution has be shown to be wrong…

    Billy. What planet are you from?

  17. #17 James F
    January 22, 2009

    PZ, this seriously demands a letter to Newsweek. Are you going to write one?

  18. #18 E.V.
    January 22, 2009

    Ignore Billy Budd, he’s a science-free drama queen.

  19. #19 Joe
    January 22, 2009

    Professor Myers,
    Thanks for posting this. I certainly hope you’ve sent it to Sharon Begley directly. Here’s an e-mail I sent her:

    Dear Ms. Begley,

    I’m a freshwater ecologist with a dual PhD in Zoology, and in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior. I’m afraid I must point out that your interpretation of the head spines on water fleas is simply and unequivocally incorrect. Please go back to the drawing board, learn the entire story, and print a correction.

    I work hard to teach biology to my students and to friends and family. It is an uphill battle all the time. Please don’t make my job harder by printing wrong information about my area of specialization. Do the right thing and print a retraction and correction.

    Sincerely,
    Joseph Gathman
    Assistant Professor
    University of Wisconsin – River Falls

  20. #20 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 22, 2009

    You represent the last glowing embers of a dying paradigm.

    What would you put forth that is taking its place?

  21. #21 Zifnab
    January 22, 2009

    You represent the last glowing embers of a dying paradigm.

    No, you’re a towel!

    http://www.garmentdistrict.com/store/popculture/southpark/collectibles/stupid_stick.jpg

  22. #22 James F
    January 22, 2009

    #15

    You represent the last glowing embers of a dying paradigm.
    The last of the true believers.
    I guess we’re going to have to carry you kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    It’s the imminent demise of evolution! Again!

    (I really need to keep a running tally on this blog alone)

  23. #23 -
    January 22, 2009

    It’s very cool stuff, but evolutionary biologists are about as shocked by this as they are by the idea that malnourished mothers have underweight babies.

    I’m not sure this is the best example. Underweight need not be a result of any environment caused genetic changes, it can just be the state the baby is in. Or are you saying the path to underweight must be:

    genes –> malnourishment –> changed genes –> body mass loss program –> underweight.

    My path would be:

    genes –> malnourishment –> normal metabolism –> body weight loss –> underweight.

    (I know gene expression is also changed by diet, but I am not sure it is necessary for this path to run).

    The point is, we have to be sure to distinguish between environmentally-induced epigenome changes and mere bodily states when making these kinds of examples, or else I think one is selling epigenetics short.

  24. #24 Jason
    January 22, 2009

    Yeah – this is not revolutionary.

    I remember in my psychopharm class reading about mice in cross-fostering studies.

    So, if the mother was stressed, she was a “bad” mother and didn’t lick/foster her pups.

    Those pups grew up to be afraid to walk in to the middle of a well-lit room.

    Pups who were licked/fostered were “confident” and would walk into the room.

    This was borne out through cross-fostering, so pups from “bad” mothers raised by “good” mothers shared the behavior of those who were born to “good” mothers and raised by good mothers.

    Now, where this gets interesting, is that they found methylation was the result of the licking by the mother in early pup-hood.

    I found that somewhat frightening, because the plasticity was, unsurprisingly, transient.

    So, a phenotype that’s both epigenetic and determined by maternal behavior.

    Seems like a parallel, no?

  25. #25 Steve LaBonne
    January 22, 2009

    I saw a story like this on my Science Daily feed the other day as well. Now, if there’s one thing journalists are supposed to understand it’s words, right? So if there’s ALREADY A WORD for a phenomenon- like EPIGENETICS, for instance- wouldn’t you think it might occur to these dimbulbs that the word exists because people ALREADY FUCKING KNEW about the phenomenon it denotes? Sheesh.

  26. #26 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2009

    Would be nice if writer, the editor, or the ombudsman spoke to any ACTUAL biologists.

    It looks like she did, though. She cites Emma Whitelaw, who found epigenetic expression in mice. I can’t help but wonder if the professor was unfairly quote-mined, though — did she says something after the sentences starting with “It fits with Lamarck” that would have qualified what she said?

    (I note that nowhere in the glossary of terminology used in medical and genetic research does Lamarck’s name turn up)

  27. #27 recovering catholic
    January 22, 2009

    Whoa!

    Lamarck believed in the fixity of species only with regard to the “primitive” species. He did, in fact, allow for the evolution of one species from another, a “progress” toward complexity.

  28. #28 ctenotrish
    January 22, 2009

    Nice write-up. I second (or third) the notion that you should send this on to the Newsweek author. Like we didn’t enough enough crap to correct about development and evolution already! Great example r.e. pregnant women, folate, diet, alcohol, etc. Simple to understand, and easily observed.

  29. #29 Alloteuthis
    January 22, 2009

    This story of giraffes stretching their necks is an example of the purported inheritance of acquired characteristics ? and here’s some headline news, Darwin proposed exactly the same thing!

    Wait…really? I thought that Lamarck believed that giraffe necks got longer over evolutionary time as individual giraffes stretched for higher leaves and somehow passed these slightly longer necks to their offspring, and this process continues for many generations, resulting in long-necked giraffes. By contrast, Darwin’s explanation would be that, on average, giraffes with longer necks were better able to acquire food than giraffes with shorter necks. As a result, they would, on average, have more offspring. Therefore, from one generation to the next, the average neck length in the population increased. The former is inheritance of acquired characteristics; the latter is natural selection. It’s true that Darwin (and, really, anyone but Mendel at that time) didn’t know much about inheritance, and also true that Darwin left the door open for inheritance of acquired characteristics, but that certainly doesn’t make Lamarck’s and Darwin’s views on adaptation the same. Or am I totally confused about Lamarck’s (or, worse, Darwin’s) views?

    And I agree with Lars — Lamarck believed in change in lineages over time (and continuous spontaneous generation of new lineages).

  30. #30 Ian
    January 22, 2009

    Thanks for fixing my confusion on Darwin and Lamark. :) My last biology class was in high school.

  31. #31 recovering catholic
    January 22, 2009

    Sorry, Lars, I missed your comment. But it’s good to know great minds run on the same track, more or less…

  32. #32 Longtime Lurker
    January 22, 2009

    Maybe Silver Fox should wear a spiky helmet, what with all that banging into walls, and all.

  33. #33 DTdNav
    January 22, 2009

    PZ,

    Thanks for clearing this up. When I read that article I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what because of my relative ignorance on this subject. Glad to know my skeptical training is paying off.

    I humbly request that all of you folks here who know what’s what with this follow Joe’s example and send a politely worded response. I imagine those who’re interested yet not proficient in this subject would probably appreciate it. I know I will.

  34. #34 Ginger Yellow
    January 22, 2009

    If mom lived her life unthreatened, her offspring have no helmets. Same DNA, different traits. Somehow, the experience of the mother, not only her DNA sequences, has been transmitted to her offspring.
    That gives strict Darwinians heart palpitations, for it reeks of the discredited theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829).

    It’s not even remotely Larmarckian. The parents don’t inherit a trait from the mother. An unhelmeted flea can produce a helmeted one and vice versa. That’s the whole point.

  35. #35 windy
    January 22, 2009

    Owlmirror: looks like Whitelaw co-authored a review last year which clarifies things

    “There is a trend for those outside the field of molecular biology to assume that most cases of transgenerational epigenetic effects are the result of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, in part because of a misunderstanding of the terms. Unfortunately, this is likely to be far from the truth.”, and

    “It should be emphasized that the examples of soft inheritance described in this review, although Lamarckian in their environmental determination, involve short-term adaptations that supplement the evolutionary processes of Darwin and Mendel. Thus, they are distinct from Lamarck?s proposed overall mechanism of evolution.”

    And of course these “short-term adaptations” appear to be a consequence of regular “long term” adaptations, like PZ’s example of the gene regulatory networks in Daphnia.

  36. #36 Feynmaniac
    January 22, 2009

    *** Silver Fox reads response and runs away with its tail between its legs***

  37. #37 Charlie Foxtrot
    January 22, 2009

    The comments under the article on the newsweek site are taking on a familiar theme…
    sheesh…

  38. #38 delosgatos
    January 22, 2009

    Zifnab wrote:

    There is no evidence of tiny angles giving benedictions over divinely birthed offspring

    That’s kind of acute image! ;)

  39. #39 herr doktor bimler
    January 22, 2009

    the idea that malnourished mothers have underweight babies.
    More to the point, the idea that malnourished mothers have babies whose metabolisms are predisposed to cope with an environment of scarcity.

    The water flea example strikes me as a nice example of Dawkins’ angle on evolution. When the gene in question (or team of genes) is exposed to particular conditions, it responds by switching on the shell development that will protect it, thereby increasing its chance of propagation. The trans-generational aspect — that the conditions and the shell development involve different generations — is not relevant from the gene’s perspective.

  40. #40 Brian
    January 22, 2009

    I read this article at work this morning and nearly lost my mind. Then I come to my trusty PZ and he rationally lays out everything I shouted at my monitor about two hours earlier. “God” I love this blog.

  41. #41 JY
    January 22, 2009

    I read that item & thought it was interesting both for the info presented and the errors associated with interpreting it.

    My last biology class was in 1976, & here & there since then I picked up a news piece about environmental effects on gene expression (e.g. identical twins diverging in various ways due to different “experiences” such as exposure to disease, injury, malnutrition, etc.) & so on & so forth. My profession involves some advanced technologies & engineering.

    Thus, if I could see the errors of the conclusions presented (this was NOT an expression of ‘Lamarkism’ or a discrediting of “Darwinism”, etc.) there’s really no excuse for the author to have done such a poor job of it.

  42. #42 Nerd of Redhead
    January 22, 2009

    Sniff, AAHH, the smell of real science. Nothing like it. Sniff.

  43. #43 Wolfhound
    January 22, 2009

    Waiting for asshat troll Supersport (“Ssssstan”) to sockpuppet his way in here to take a shit on this blog. Water fleas are his most extra-special, favoritist thing to bring up in his assinine rants against real evolutionary science.

  44. #44 Jaycubed
    January 22, 2009

    Thanks P.Z., that resolved some fuzziness I had too.

  45. #45 Nic McPhee
    January 22, 2009

    Our son stumbled across something on this over breakfast, so water flea evolution and development were the topic of conversation as we made our way in to school this morning. :-)

  46. #46 Loren Petrich
    January 22, 2009

    Lamarck is best-known for Lamarckism, but his main mechanism of evolution was orthogenesis, evolution by mysterious internal forces. That hypothesis was popular in the 19th and early 20th cys., but is now discredited. There’s no positive evidence for an orthogenetic force, and natural-selection and genetic-drift effects can easily mimic orthogenesis.

  47. #47 clinteas
    January 22, 2009

    For the new readers/commenters here,

    PZ had a nice overview of Epigenetics up a few months ago:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/epigenetics.php

  48. #48 mandydax
    January 22, 2009

    I’m not a biologist by a long shot, but even I saw how with epigenetics this is completely compatible with current evolutionary theory. I’ve read a couple of Dawkins’s books and can tell you that one of the most important factors is energy expenditure. Those spiky helmets probably take a bit more energy to create than the bare heads. In an environment where the mothers are constantly encountering predation where a spiky helmet would be selected, it would make her more likely to survive such encounters and pass that trait on to her daughters. If the risk of predation goes down and an epigenetic switch develops to create bare-headed fleas with the genetic information for making the spiky helmets, that would be selected because it takes less energy to make a bare-headed flea. In the case that a bare-headed mother with the suppressed spiky-helmet gene encounters and survives predation, the switch will cause her daughters to have the spiky helmet which will help them survive what is probably a more predatory environment. This of course is very useful when the reproductive cycle is on the matter of weeks and the predation dangers encountered by the mother are still likely to be around for the daughters to encounter.

    Duh. Even I could see that.

  49. #49 Robert K.
    January 22, 2009

    Thanks for this article. I about choked on my coffee when I read that Begley essay. I was sputtering and mumbling so much my wife asked what was wrong. Terrible to see in a national magazine.

  50. #50 A Free Man
    January 22, 2009

    As an epigeneticist (if there is such a thing) we like to invokew Lamarck, but in most cases it’s more of a tool for discussion. No self-respecting scientist is going to suggest that Lamarck and Darwin are either all right, all wrong or mutually exclusive. I think that Begley is doing what a lot of people in the epigenetics community do – getting a discussion rolling. Asking people to rethink the inheritence of acquired traits. Go easy on her.

  51. #51 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 22, 2009

    Our son stumbled across something on this over breakfast, so water flea evolution and development were the topic of conversation as we made our way in to school this morning. :-)

    Sounds like you’re doing a good job raising him.

  52. #52 Silver Fox
    January 22, 2009

    I go off for a few hours, come back, have dinner, and is on my second glass of a good South African red, sit at my console and find all this trashing of the Fox. By the way, if you all promise not to accuse me of morphing I may change my pseudonym to water flea.

    I simply notified you of an article in Newsweek that might be of some interest to you. What was your response: “Newsweek has a history of flamboyant science stories”, “Newsweek is not a reputable science journal”, “I don’t need to read that, I know its wrong”. All this even though Newsweek cited what appeared to be reputable research studies. Now you’re trashing poor old Sharon Begley. “Sharon Begley, How could you?” However, its still not clear that anyone has studies the referenced research studies.

    Now fellows, I know just enough evo-bio to know there is a water flea. In all truth, I’ve never met one with a helmet. Way back when Green Version biology was in vogue, maybe the Moon, Mann Otto was being used, if you squeezed out frog eggs and sperm and hit the sperm with some ultraviolet rays, you would get some pretty weird tadpoles. I must admit that this never occurred to me as Lamarckism.

    The point being, when I brought this to your attention, no one was willing to commit to an intelligent response. But now that PZ has weighed in with his imprimatur, everyone wants to jump on the band wagon. Maybe there is something to this cloning business.

  53. #53 Allen N
    January 22, 2009

    How did this gal get all the awards cited in her bio? A couple of weeks back, she had a bit on scientists “backpedaling” if they changed their positions but also clinging to inaccurate beliefs if they did not change positions with every new hypothesis put forth. What caught my eye in that one was her problem with the lack of change on possible extinction causes: meteor vs. volcanic activity. She cited that as an example of scientists refusing to change. The fact that no change is yet warrented does not phase her.

    She does not seem to have a very clear idea of how science really works. Now, Olivia Judson who writes for the NYT – there’s a writer!

  54. #54 Nerd of Redhead
    January 22, 2009

    Silver Fox, people like myself are scientists. We knew what you reported was wrong long before PZ detailed it. We have expertise. You have none. You appear to be having problems understanding that. Who do you go to if you want to draw up a will? Or have a stomach ache? Or need your taxes done? If you were smart, you answered a lawyer, a doctor, and an accountant. Professionals all. But with science, you refuse to listen to the professionals? What is wrong with that picture?

  55. #55 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 22, 2009

    no one was willing to commit to an intelligent response

    You didn’t even answer my request for the actual research instead of the Newsweek article.

    Seems you may be ignoring responses to try and make a point that has no merit.

  56. #56 africangenesis
    January 22, 2009

    Yes, Silverfox, we are the experts, even when we can’t explain things or cite any evidence, you must accept our judgement. We don’t have to make sense. This isn’t any different from how you would never question your doctor and seek a second opinion, or you wouldn’t dare do your taxes yourself or represent yourself in court or mow your own lawn. I hope I have explained it to your satisfaction.

  57. #57 africangenesis
    January 22, 2009

    Silverfox, Don’t you dare bring news stories to us, especially from MAGAZINES! A news article is never well enough written for us to guess what phenomena it is referring to. Now we may link to blogs, but that is because, we as experts have reviewed them for veracity. Get it?

  58. #58 Ema
    January 22, 2009

    WOW.

    For a science reporter, that is a terrible article. I’m actually entirely dumbfounded. How could she not know about epigenetics!?

  59. #59 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2009

    However, its still not clear that anyone has studies the referenced research studies.

    Uh, I think you missed the part where PZ mentioned that he has in fact blogged about peer-reviewed studies in epigenetics.

    See? Here? This link that is right below, which is also linked to in PZ’s original post?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/epigenetics.php

    No-one is saying that the research into epigenetics is wrong. What we are saying is that calling a sometimes-inherited interaction of biochemistry with development “Lamarckism” is misleading (and wrong (on the internet)).

    I know science is hard. But do try to keep up.

  60. #60 africangenesis
    January 22, 2009

    PZ,

    “you’re also going to have a difficult time finding any “strict Darwinians” in the science community who are even surprised by this stuff”

    Come on, we can still be surprised by some of this stuff, that is part of the fun, I hope it is still fun for you. Of course, we assume that no physically laws have been broken and that there must be a naturalistic explanation for it, and we can even venture an educated guess at what that explanation is. But nature can still WOW us sometimes, and throw us a few loops and twists.

  61. #61 windy
    January 22, 2009

    The point being, when I brought this to your attention, no one was willing to commit to an intelligent response.

    Hey Foxy, CJO wrote you a multi-paragraph answer in the Darwin graphic novel thread and yours truly made a lesser contribution (have you educated yourself about inducible defenses yet?)

    If I were you, I wouldn’t lie about something that’s this easy to check.

  62. #62 Silver Fox
    January 22, 2009

    I wonder if any one read the first part of Sharon Begley’s commentary on science in the Jan. 12, 2009 issue of Newsweek Page 17.

    I must be missing a huge party over at the DI. The main course is a rack of lamb stuffed with chocolate covered water fleas.

    Here is what Sharon says: “Its fascinating how scientist with an intellectual stake in a particular side of a debate tend to see flaws in studies that undercut their dearly held views, and to interpret and even ignore ‘facts’ to fit their views”.

    This one by Sharon is going to be bronzed and hung on the foyer wall of the DI. “..We shouldn’t be surprised. Proponents of a particular viewpoint, especially if their reputation is based on the accuracy of that viewpoint, cling to it like a shipwrecked man to flotsam. Studies that undermine their position, they say, are fatally flawed.”

    Hey, Casey, pass me that bowl of roasted vegetables.

  63. #63 PZ Myers
    January 22, 2009

    Try reading for comprehension, Dull Fox. Nobody is saying epigenetic studies are “fatally flawed”. We’re saying that morons like you don’t understand them and misinterpret them, as you are doing here.

  64. #64 scottb
    January 22, 2009

    SFox,

    I want to thank you. I’ve used you and your web site (why don’t you link to it anymore?) as a shining example of ignorance, intellectual laziness, arrogance, and outright stupidity to my kids and their friends. My son even mentioned you to his high school bio teacher and they had a big laugh.

    Keep up the good work!

  65. #65 Jeff
    January 23, 2009

    It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating. I hate the terms Darwinians or Darwinists. No one calls themselves that, its a term made up by idiots to make people who base their thinking on logic and reason seem as fanatical as the idiots.

    Religion refuses to change. Science changes all the time as new information becomes available.

    It’s funny that people think they come up with Evolution shattering discoveries when all they are showing is their ignorance of the subject they are discussing.

    It makes Jeff angry.

  66. #66 Ryan Cunningham
    January 23, 2009

    Ugh. The details of the real story aren’t remotely interesting from a population genetics perspective. The frequency of alleles in the population haven’t changed at all. No evolution has taken place.

    BOOOOORING!

  67. #67 Silver Fox
    January 23, 2009

    Scottb:

    “I’ve used you and your web site (why don’t you link to it anymore?)My son even mentioned you to his high school bio teacher and they had a big laugh.”

    I don’t know who they laughed at because I don’t have a web site.

  68. #68 Michael Ralston
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox: There is nothing wrong with the study.

    There is something wrong with the reporting on the study, because the reporter clearly does not understand what she is talking about.

    The fact is, the genes of these water fleas aren’t changing. All that changes is gene expression.

    Yes, this sort of thing is more complicated than the simple Darwinian picture taught in Bio 101. But … duh? It hardly contradicts it – it merely shows that in certain circumstances, there’s more going on. It’s not magic, it doesn’t disprove Darwinism, it just requires some biological machinery that wasn’t required before.

  69. #69 scottb
    January 23, 2009

    I don’t know who they laughed at because I don’t have a web site.

    Ah, don’t worry about that – it was probably something you linked to somewhere in the past. It was one of those “satire or mental illness – you decide” sites which I’m sure you frequent.

    The laughing was about your (lack of) science knowledge.

  70. #70 Kel
    January 23, 2009

    It seems to have gotten to the state where merely accepting a scientific theory on life my automation makes you a fundamentalist. If they don’t understand science, surely they can’t appreciate the way of tentative knowledge. It was never about if Darwin was right or Lamark was right or anyone else, it’s about what the evidence tells us. Things like this only go to show the absolute nature of the human mind.

  71. #71 Silver Fox
    January 23, 2009

    PZ

    “Try reading for comprehension, Dull Fox. Nobody is saying epigenetic studies are “fatally flawed”. We’re saying that morons like you don’t understand them and misinterpret them, as you are doing here.”

    “Usually, Sharon Begley is reasonably good on science.”

    That is what you stated at the opening of this thread. Now I am interested in evolution but I wouldn’t know if an epigenetic study is “fatally flawed” or not. However, I would think that a “reasonably good” science writer would. And, if she is saying that, I would like to know why.

    As for the sarcasm about the DI, it was just that. Again, from their point of view anything that compromises the Darwinian strangle hold on evolution is a step in the right direction. Right or wrong, they are going to get a lot of mileage out of it with the general public which makes decisions on what is taught in school science curriculums.

  72. #72 Tulse
    January 23, 2009

    I wouldn’t know if an epigenetic study is “fatally flawed” or not. However, I would think that a “reasonably good” science writer would. And, if she is saying that, I would like to know why.

    Given that PZ gave a pretty damned clear explanation, it seems that the issue of why Begley wrote as she did is a question of her personal psychology, and not a question of evolutionary biology.

  73. #73 Stanton
    January 23, 2009

    As for the sarcasm about the DI, it was just that. Again, from their point of view anything that compromises the Darwinian strangle hold on evolution is a step in the right direction. Right or wrong, they are going to get a lot of mileage out of it with the general public which makes decisions on what is taught in school science curriculums.

    If you actually read for comprehension, rather than try to play the part of the messenger-cum-martyr/apologist, you would notice that whenever the Discovery Institute mentions some particular breakthrough, it is solely to trumpet yet another alleged death knell of “Darwinism.” The Discovery Institute has no real interest in pursuing or even understanding science, period: its members are only interested in spreading misinformation in order to further their agenda, which is helping to contribute to the fact that the United States is one of the most scientifically illiterate countries in the world.

  74. #74 Silver Fox
    January 23, 2009

    “The laughing was about your (lack of) science knowledge.”

    Genetic drift
    Fragmentation
    Plasticity and epigenetics
    Pangenesis
    Weismann Barrier

    That’s the science knowledge that I do not know. I would venture to say that at least 80% in this country and on a world-wide basis, over 90% also don’t know it. That would be particularly true for people over 40 years old who did not have the advantage of studying modern biology.

    Is that what your son and his friends are laughing at. Those kids, and yours, need to be taught good manners and maybe their parents too.

  75. #75 Bacopa
    January 23, 2009

    OK, If I had come across this water flea thing I would not have begun to think it in any undermined neo-Darwinan evolutionary theory. My first thought would have been “cool trick”! Homegirl water flea got her a little genetic-switch edge against against true breeding spike heads and true breeding smooth heads, I wonder what the mechanism that switches whatever gene on or off looks like. Do water fleas have stress hormones or prostaglandins? I don’t know much about water fleas, and even less about gene regulation other than taking a class where we replicated Jacob and Monod’s experiments, but I at least have an idea that it’s possible that there could be water fleas with a gene for spikey heads that is usually turned off, yet there may be some hormone in the mother flea’s body that would turn the spiky head genes back on.

    I have no idea how this might work. I am not a biologist. Just an informed layman. I would nevre have seen thee water fleas as a challenge to conventional evolutionary biology. I could be totally wrong, but I think I mspeculating along the right lines.

    BTW, I breed the predators. Water fleas are the perfect food for my baby White Clouds.

  76. #76 Ryan Cunningham
    January 23, 2009

    I keep reading this again and again. The more I think about it, the more it’s hurting my head. It’s bothering me a lot that, aside from the evolution of the mechanism itself, this has nothing at all to do with evolution.

    I can imagine there are interesting epigenetic questions and scenarios related to evolution, though. Mechanisms in the mother that variably increase or decrease the rate of mutation in her offspring would be a fascinating example. Does anyone know if this happens?

  77. #77 heleen
    January 23, 2009

    Phenotypic plasticity has been studied since 1909 at least. Between 1985 and 2000 there were many studies in evolution journals, both examples and theoretical models of the evolution of phenotypic plasticity.
    An environmental maternal effect in any way whatso-ever mediated is let’s say 1980′s work.
    Begley just is not informed on the topic.

  78. #78 Feynmaniac
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    That’s the science knowledge that I do not know….

    Is that what your son and his friends are laughing at.

    Well, he also wrote you were “a shining example of ignorance, intellectual laziness, arrogance, and outright stupidity”. This ignorance of modern biology is forgivable and can be cured.

    However, the fact that you admit you know little of it and came here to ask those who do to revisit a dead theory, long ago disproven, because some journalist misinterpreted the results of a study does show “intellectual laziness, arrogance, and outright stupidity”. It is laughable.

  79. #79 Vinnie
    January 23, 2009

    Is that the same Sharon Begley that suggested marrying Buddhism and neuroscience? ‘Cause, if it is, I’m not surprised.

  80. #80 Stanton
    January 23, 2009

    Is that what your son and his friends are laughing at. Those kids, and yours, need to be taught good manners and maybe their parents too.

    If you actually read some of the comments, you would realize that people are taking you to task because you freely admit that you don’t know much about biology yet demand that we take an inaccurate and oversensationalized report written in Newsweek seriously.

  81. #81 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    The article was misleading and prominent enough to correct. — thanx

  82. #82 scottb
    January 23, 2009

    Whoa Foxy, why so serious all of a sudden? I thought we were all just joking around. At least you were anyway.

    My kids are extremely respectful and would never laugh at you in person. But given the anonymity of the internet, you’re like a cartoon character. Come on, who doesn’t laugh at Elmer Fudd?

  83. #83 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    “But given the anonymity of the internet, you’re like a cartoon character. Come on, who doesn’t laugh at Elmer Fudd?”

    Anonymity is associated with anti-social behavior.

    http://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/18481673

    “Mark my words, them’s the kind that puts strychnine in well”

  84. #84 scottb
    January 23, 2009

    Anonymity is associated with anti-social behavior.

    Pretty obvious. What’s your point?

  85. #85 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    One would think that your awareness of the anti-social behavior associated with anonymity would enable you to better control it, rather that use it as a ready made excuse.

  86. #86 scottb
    January 23, 2009

    What exactly do you think I need to control?

    Fox started joking around about the DI so I decided to yank his chain a little and he got all bent out of shape.

    Who here hasn’t laughed at some of his ridiculous posts?

    I have done nothing that needed an excuse. If you think my posts were anti-social, I think you need some perspective.

  87. #87 Ben
    January 23, 2009

    “One would think that your awareness of the anti-social behavior associated with anonymity would enable you to better control it, rather that use it as a ready made excuse.”

    Are we back to this again? AG, I know you read this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/open_season_on_fresh_meat.php

    Maybe you need to read it again. Repeated whining is something that will get you banned eventually.

    It’s absolutely possible to dissent here and still have a civil conversation. But you come across as a patronizing know-it-all.

  88. #88 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Ben,

    I notice at the end of that thread, that you did not criticise Eric Saveau for coming across as a patronizing know it all. Does that mean you find the attitude to be OK as long as one is wrong? Or do you mean that it is OK to ridicule and call names, but impolite to correct their mistaken perceptions.

  89. #89 Ben
    January 23, 2009

    AG, I’m not real fond of people who come across as know-it-alls, even when I think they’re right.

    For me, a smug attitude can be as annoying as faulty logic or lack of evidence. Sorry I’m human that way.

  90. #90 Feynmaniac
    January 23, 2009

    africangenesis,

    One would think that your awareness of the anti-social behavior associated with anonymity would enable you to better control it, rather that use it as a ready made excuse.

    This sort of anti-social behavior is good. People have been taught that in face-to-face interactions you have to be “polite” and “respectful”. This is just an artifact created to have a false sense of harmony and to prevent ideas from being scrutinized. It stymies good debate and prevents a lot of people from being called idiots, especially the ones who deserve it.

    Someone resurrecting a dead biological theory from the 19th century while at the same time admitting to be ignorant of modern biology is laughable. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions”.

    Whining about “tone” isn’t going to accomplish anything. People are still going to unleash through anonymity what they can’t in everyday life. If you have something of substance to say, say it. If not, fuck off.

  91. #91 Pat
    January 23, 2009

    When I read that article in the magazine my first thought was “who the hell is this person and why are they writing this crap?” I hope you wrote in a letter to the editor, PZ, (though unfortunately they wouldn’t print something as long as your online rebuttal…) Maybe they would print it as a corrective article on its own.

  92. #92 CG
    January 23, 2009

    Ugh, I just came back from reading some of the comments on the Newsweek site regarding this article that someone posted in the Darwin Graphic Novel thread Linky in case anyone missed it. Wading through the “THEN WHY ARE THERE STILL MONKIEZ?!?!?!” nonsense was painful but I think the worst is the people who insist (rather coherently) that there is not one shred of proof of evolution. I just don’t understand how it’s possible that someone could believe that.

    My other “favorite” is the idea that somehow science is this rigid construction and any tiny piece of it that is not completely accurate is some sort of DEATH BLOW and it just brings it all crumbling down. Talk about projection, sheesh. Science changes constantly. Yes (OMGZ!!eleven!), Darwin was wrong about lots of things, TONS of things. Every scientist admits that, it’s not news, it’s not even mildly interesting. It also doesn’t mean that evolution is somehow debunked because one person was wrong about some things. These people need to learn about the scientific method, and then read a book about evolution that has been written in the last couple of decades maybe, but of course they won’t.

    I know… you guys know all this already, but I had to vent about the stupid over there, it is just painful. There’s also some patient people trying to explain to them the difference between science and dogma but they are talking to some brick walls over there.

  93. #93 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Ben,

    I’m only a know-it-some, I have my limitations, and have admited it when I was wrong, even here on this site. I’ve been accused of lying even when I was able to show I was right. The accusers just disappear without any apology. If you read carefully what PZ said, he only intended the incivility for actual liers and charlatans who want to mask their lack of substance. He also intended it to be accompanied by substance, “the heart of the issue and shred the frauds”. However, it seems a general incivility has been the result. Do you really think someone should be banned for encouraging questioning incivility?

  94. #94 Ben
    January 23, 2009

    “I’ve been accused of lying even when I was able to show I was right.”

    I don’t think you’ll find many people here willing to agree with that last part. (I’m not issuing an invitation to debate this, by the way. If you want to think you were right, that’s fine with me.)

    “Do you really think someone should be banned for encouraging questioning incivility?”

    I never said that. It’s not my blog.

  95. #95 KnockGoats
    January 23, 2009

    If you think my posts were anti-social, I think you need some perspective. – scottb to africangenesis

    Well, africangenesis thinks that anyone who has ever voted for any candidate who supports the FDA (this includes himself) is a mass-murderer. Perspective is not his strong point.

  96. #96 Sara
    January 23, 2009

    Explains why even exact genetic clones often don’t resemble the original.

  97. #97 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Ben,

    You are right. They don’t tend to agree when they were shown to be wrong. No, I don’t want to “think” I was right. I want to “know” it. That is why read the peer review literature, and drill down until I understand the issues. It is also why I qualify statements, because there is a lot we can’t know. What I don’t understand, is why you still want to “think” I was wrong, when you don’t know it for yourself, and noone has been able to show it. Why do you want to believe in AGW, despite having been shown problems with the evidence, without having been shown how those problems could be overcome?

  98. #98 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Well KG@95,

    Exactly who do you think is responsible for the mass murder by the FDA? Or how do you think it can be justified?

    Do you think there there is no responsbility for what goes on in the anonymity of the voting booth? Perhaps, it is hard for you to accept responsibility for something like mass murder. Consider something less instead

    Have you supported politicians who voted for turning food into ethanol? If so, do you accept some responsibility for that? Or do you just refuse to accept any responsibility for the consequences of your actions?

  99. #99 Ben
    January 23, 2009

    Are you implying that Larry Fafarman might be right about creationism? He feels that he is right, just as strongly as you feel that you are right. He also denies the Holocaust and has “evidence” for his opinions. Should I spend my time listening to all the Fafarmans of the world?

  100. #100 KnockGoats
    January 23, 2009

    Exactly who do you think is responsible for the mass murder by the FDA? Or how do you think it can be justified? – africangenesis

    I know of no such mass murder.

    No, I haven’t supported politicians who voted to turn food into alcohol. However, I have almost certainly in my life voted for politicians who then voted for measures that caused avoidable deaths. So what? In voting, I must decide on the basis of what I know, and often am voting for the least bad candidate. I am not thereby responsible for everything they do, and have never set out to kill people by means of my vote. That is exactly what I meant by alluding to your lack of perspective: mass murder implies an intention to kill that was not present. (Not voting, of course, is also a moral choice with possible consequences.)

  101. #101 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 23, 2009

    Exactly who do you think is responsible for the mass murder by the FDA? Or how do you think it can be justified?

    Curious

  102. #102 mjfgates
    January 23, 2009

    I think it’s just fascinating that Darwinian evolution has resulted in mechanisms that make it *look*, in some lights, as though Lamarckian evolution works. I’d already known about some of those mechanisms before, but I’d never thought of it that way.

    Biology is just damned cool.

  103. #103 Sharon Begley
    January 23, 2009

    Thanks much for the write-up, PZ. Couple of points.

    One is that a few of your readers think I mangled quotes or explanations or took things out of context. I sent the story, before publication, to Whitelaw, who okayed it word for word. That doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes, but if so they are ones that one of the leaders in this field didn’t catch.

    Also, a number of the commenters think all we have here is epigenetics (something I have written about many times, starting when I was at the WSJ). But what I discussed in the column goes beyond that. To the scientists I interviewed, these are qualitatively new phenomena in this sense: epigenetic marks (mostly methylation) acquired during adulthood were long thought to be erased, or reset, during meiosis, with the result that the germ cells do not have them and progeny do not inherit them. That now seems not to be the case, hence the appearance of papers talking about ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.’ And the new Lamarckism.

  104. #104 windy
    January 23, 2009

    One is that a few of your readers think I mangled quotes or explanations or took things out of context. I sent the story, before publication, to Whitelaw, who okayed it word for word. That doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes, but if so they are ones that one of the leaders in this field didn’t catch.

    Sharon, thanks for the response. That makes some of the criticism directed at you unfair, but I find Whitelaw’s response strange because in the review I linked to in #35, the authors warned precisely of the kind of misunderstanding that is present in your article.

    In the review, Youngson and Whitelaw wrote:

    There is a current trend for those outside the field of molecular biology to assume that all cases of transgenerational epigenetic effects are the result of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, in part because of a misunderstanding of the terms. This is misleading. When
    discussing transgenerational epigenetic effects, care must be taken not to make assumptions about the underlying mechanisms.

    Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I am not aware of any evidence whatsoever that the Daphnia case involves inheritance of epigenetic marks or gene silencing or any epigenetics in the hot modern sense of the word. Even if you hold that some newly discovered molecular mechanisms of inheritance should trouble ‘strict Darwinians’ (I disagree), your article is giving the wrong impression about the Daphnia case.

  105. #105 KnockGoats
    January 23, 2009

    windy@104,

    Could you expand on your last paragraph@103? Do we know the meachnism in the Daphnia case? What newly discovered molecular mechanisms of inheritance?

  106. #106 Ema
    January 23, 2009

    I emailed Sharon the following:

    “Hi Sharon,

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to bring this to your attention, and I truly do not mean to sound rude:
    Have you heard of epigenetics?
    It’s a very well known and documented occurence. I suggest you read up about it.

    Ema
    (A molecular biology and genetics major at the University of Guelph, Ontario Canada) ”

    And she responded,

    “Thanks very much for your note, Ema. I have written numerous times about epigenetics, starting many years ago. My science columns at The Wall Street Journal were, as it happens, the first treatment of the subject for a general audience.

    But what I discussed in the column goes beyond that. To the scientists I interviewed, what we have here is a qualitatively new phenomenon, in this sense: epigenetic marks (mostly methylation of CpG groups) acquired during adulthood were long thought to be erased, or reset, during meiosis, with the result that the germ cells do not have them and progeny do not inherit them. That now seems not to be the case, hence the appearance of papers talking about ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.’

    But thanks again, and allbest—

    Sharon Begley
    Science columnist
    Newsweek
    251 W. 57th St.
    New York, NY 10019″

    Anyone want to take her on?? :P

  107. #107 Ema
    January 23, 2009

    I emailed Sharon the following:

    “Hi Sharon,

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to bring this to your attention, and I truly do not mean to sound rude:
    Have you heard of epigenetics?
    It’s a very well known and documented occurence. I suggest you read up about it.

    Ema
    (A molecular biology and genetics major at the University of Guelph, Ontario Canada) ”

    And she responded,

    “Thanks very much for your note, Ema. I have written numerous times about epigenetics, starting many years ago. My science columns at The Wall Street Journal were, as it happens, the first treatment of the subject for a general audience.

    But what I discussed in the column goes beyond that. To the scientists I interviewed, what we have here is a qualitatively new phenomenon, in this sense: epigenetic marks (mostly methylation of CpG groups) acquired during adulthood were long thought to be erased, or reset, during meiosis, with the result that the germ cells do not have them and progeny do not inherit them. That now seems not to be the case, hence the appearance of papers talking about ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.’

    But thanks again, and allbest—

    Sharon Begley
    Science columnist
    Newsweek
    251 W. 57th St.
    New York, NY 10019″

    Anyone want to take her on?? :P

  108. #108 Ema
    January 23, 2009

    Whoops, sorry about the repost, there. It said the page had timed out and I had to resend it…

  109. #109 windy
    January 23, 2009

    Could you expand on your last paragraph@103? Do we know the meachnism in the Daphnia case?

    No we don’t (unless something’s come out recently and I missed it) and that’s why it’s a bad standard bearer for the “new” epigenetics.

    We know that the response is triggered by substances produced by the predator (kairomones) but not what’s going on inside the water flea.

    What newly discovered molecular mechanisms of inheritance?

    Maybe I phrased that badly, I meant the kinds of stuff Sharon Begley listed in her response above, like inheritance of methylation marks. It’s possible something like that is involved in Daphnia but to me, speculating about that is missing the point – it could be plain old hormones mediating the response for all we know. As heleen said in #77, phenotypic plasticity and maternal effects are not new concepts. What’s exciting about Daphnia is that people found adaptive maternal effects on a phenotypically plastic trait in the offspring.

  110. #110 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    KG@100,

    “I know of no such mass murder”

    Oh really. The ignorance excuse. The FDA has delayed access to life saving drugs. Beta blockers (e.g. inderal, tenormin, etc) and clot busting drugs (e.g. streptokinase, TPA) alone are estimated by the Cato institute to have 10s of thousands of lives.

  111. #111 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Ben@99,

    There is plenty of peer review evidence of problems with the climate models that call into question their skill in attributing and projecting the recent warming. You know I have cited examples. A review of the literature and IPCC reports reveals no research or argument that shows how such issues can be overcome in a nonlinear dynamic system. Further problems with the models have been published since the fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4). The magnitude of the “global brightening” aerosol issue that contributed to a significant percentage of the European warming wasn’t appreciated at the time of the AR4, and necessarily wasn’t a part of the validation of the AR4 models.

    So what do I claim to know? I know that AGW is a plausible hypothesis for the cause of the recent warming but that the IPCC model based case for its “very likely” conclusion is seriously flawed. I know that with peer review research indicating an unusually high level solar activity (a “Grand Maximum”, one of the highest in 8000 years)during the 20th century that there is another plausible hypothesis. And I know that there is research showing that aerosols significantly impacted the most recent warming.

    So, what I “know” is not just a “feeling”, it is an assessment qualified by the evidence and open to revision. If that is comparable to Fafarman, then evolution is in trouble.

    The “basis” for the IPCC conclusion amounts to Anthropogenic Global Warming in the gaps. Sound familiar?

    Please recall that at the Texas Freedom Network site that you thought persons here at pharyngula would probably know how to address these issues, if they haven’t shown themselves more knowledgable as you expected, perhaps it is not because of any deficiency on their part, but the “knowledge” to fill the gaps doesn’t exist. Please recall the discussions on these threads:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/open_season_on_fresh_meat.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/actually_its_theists_who_belie.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/the_ways_of_the_bush_administr.php

    Gavin Schmidt was consulted on one of them.

  112. #112 windy
    January 23, 2009

    Btw off-topic, but I just noticed this in the review I quoted:

    Agrawal and colleagues (2) examined the defensive responses of the water flea, Daphnia, which is subject to predation by other insects.

    *facepalm*

    oh well, nobody’s perfect :)

  113. #113 Blake
    January 24, 2009

    Thank Jake that we got PZ correcting people like this…

  114. #114 Ben
    January 24, 2009

    AG,

    All of your arguments have been well-refuted here. In some cases, some people have been wise enough to quit debating you. That doesn’t mean you won. It only means that they decided to quit wasting their time. I’m about to join that group.

    You said: “Please recall that at the Texas Freedom Network site that you thought persons here at pharyngula would probably know how to address these issues…”

    You know very well that this is dishonest. We never discussed AGW on the TFN site. We were discussing your erroneous views on atheism. Challenge yourself to be more honest.

  115. #115 africangenesis
    January 24, 2009

    Ben,

    One of us discussed AGW with you at TFN in at two different threads. But you didn’t specifically address the AGW points. One of those times was the thread where you wrote: “I?m not nearly as well-read or knowledgeable on these topics as the nice people at Pharyngula. They will give you a much better debate, if you want one. Go on over there and quit wasting your time with me.”

    Hmmm?

    “All of your arguments have been well-refuted here.”

    Who is the denialist now? How about my argument that the models fail to reproduce the amplitude of the signature of the solar cycle found in the observations? Can you point out where that was “well-refuted”? Since it was cited from the peer review literature, it probably takes a later study to refute it.

    It is the same for any number of other “arguments”. Does your denialism and self deception know no limits?

  116. #116 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    HeWhoYouDespise, still the pointless ignorant idiot. What else is new. Read some real science. It can only help your mind.

  117. #117 Ben
    January 24, 2009

    AG, when I made that remark you cite, it was in response to your remarks on atheists, when you said:

    ‘The ?average? atheist believes in nationalism, environmentalism and ?scientific management?, i.e., central planning. These faiths are responsible for much of the destruction of the wars and totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and threaten to destroy trillions of dollars of wealth this century. Their ?progressive? ideology has devolved into worship of the ?noble? subsistance-culture savage as an apologia for a ?materialism? that produced LESS material wealth.’

    I’ve been much more civil to your bullshit than most of the people here, but I can understand why people repeatedly tell you to fuck off. Take your OCD medicine.

  118. #118 africangenesis
    January 24, 2009

    Ben,

    Yes, you have been more civil than most here, that is not a very high standard, but refreshing nonetheless. Thanx.

  119. #119 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    HWYD, still no point, no idea about science. Go read some journal articles.

  120. #120 HeWhoYouDespise
    January 24, 2009

    Not to mention the false barrier erected by neodarwionians between “prximal” and “ultimate” evolutionary causation. The study of phenotypic plasticty and development could be the study of “proximal” causation, but it was no true part of evolutionary biology.

    Redhead, despisal will lead you nowhere.Go read west-eberhard Developmentla plasticity. (it’s PZ-recommended, in case you’re “scared”)

  121. #121 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    HWHD, big words don’t impress us. We use them everyday. Still don’t know anything, but using big words accelerates your proof of idiocy.

  122. #122 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Why would I despise you? You are nothing. For you to be despise, you would have to have some substance.

  123. #123 HeWhoYouDespise
    January 24, 2009

    again?

  124. #124 Sprout
    January 24, 2009

    > Sharon Begley, how could you?

    Easy answer: postmodern ideology.

  125. #125 Ben
    January 25, 2009

    AG, you complain about the civility but you keep hanging around. You’re like the guy at the restaurant who says, “This food is horrible, and the portions are too small.”

  126. #126 Africangenesis
    January 26, 2009

    Ben,

    You have it reversed, what better place to set an example of civility than where it is most needed? What better place to demonstrate that substance is more powerful than mocking and namecalling? The incivility is also an interesting phenomenon of the left and it may well be Karl Marx that set the example with his artificial class definitions to convince the people that they were victims of exploitation and to daemonize and dehumanize the others. But it has also invaded our general culture with shock jocks, commedians, pundits and booksellers on both sides of the spectrum mocking, shouting and going to extremes for entertainment and to get attention. Corporations, colonialism and AGW skeptics are all daemonized irregardless of the evidence. The “rude boys” movement of Jamaican ska has been explained as “Being rude was a way of being somebody when society was telling you were nobody.” That only explains some of it here. But I’ve noticed how much of rudeness comes from those who most seldom have any substance to offer.

    I am not complaining or whining, but when discussing an issue, it is legitimate to point out how empty what others have said was, and how weak it makes them look if they are shown to be wrong after pretentiously arrogant mocking and vapid namecalling. Your claims of lying and refutation without being able to back it up, is, to your credit, just one of the minor examples of this. regards

  127. #127 John Morales
    January 26, 2009

    AG expounds on civility:

    I am not complaining or whining, but when discussing an issue, it is legitimate to point out how empty what others have said was, and how weak it makes them look if they are shown to be wrong after pretentiously arrogant mocking and vapid namecalling. Your claims of lying and refutation without being able to back it up, is, to your credit, just one of the minor examples of this. regards

    :)

  128. #128 Ben
    January 26, 2009

    AG, you continue to miss an important distinction. PZ does not encourage incivility simply when one person disagrees with another, and he doesn’t encourage incivility for incivility’s sake.

    Some people here tell you to fuck off because A) they see you as willfully ignorant, B) they think you’re a liar, C) they think you are deluded but too stupid to see it, D) they think you are a danger to our planet, and that kind of pisses them off, or E) all of the above, and possibly some related reasons. (It doesn’t help that you often come across as smug and patronizing, and that you continue to beat dead horses, so to speak, even after those horses have been proven dead.)

    It appears that you have repeated this pattern on a variety of websites. You even tried to force your views into Wikipedia, but they weren’t having any of it. Have you commented on realclimate.org? I’m guessing you have, and I’m guessing the same happened there as happened here, meaning that people finally got fed up with you, then you claimed victory.

    You also have to understand that, eventually, people become comfortable not caring what you think. In other words, even though you may taunt them by saying they haven’t bested you in the debate, they KNOW that they have and that you are perhaps incapable of grasping reality. If you were delusional, would you know it?

  129. #129 Africangenesis
    January 26, 2009

    Ben,

    wikipedia climate issues was controlled by a cadre lead by William Connelley. But the issue shouldn’t be decided by votes but by the evidence. The horses haven’t been proven dead. I’m prepared to review the evidence with Gavin Schmidt but not at a site that he controls. I thought I was going to get to for awhile. Too bad.

  130. #130 Tophe
    January 26, 2009

    Discover magazine had a much better article about this a couple years ago.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.