Not so much a defense of Watson as an indictment of modern biology

An interesting post on The Trouble with Jim Watson. Watson and biology are victims of a successful paradigm — you could still argue that that paradigm is partly Watson’s fault! — and you can’t really kick Watson unless you also take a few swings at how molecular genetics has produced a skewed, simplistic, and deterministic view of how life operates.

The trouble with Watson, then, is not how aberrant he is, but how conventional. He is no more—but no less—than an embodiment of late twentieth-century biomedicine. He exemplifies how a near-exclusive focus on the genetic basis of human behavior and social problems tends to sclerose them into a biologically determinist status quo. How that process occurs seems to me eminently worth observing and thinking about. Watson is an enigmatic character. He has managed his image carefully, if not always shrewdly. It is impossible to know what he “really thinks” on most issues, but I do believe this much: he believes that his main sin has been excessive honesty. He thinks he is simply saying what most people are afraid to say.

Unfortunately, he may be right.

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Aren’t we all more than a little tired of Michael Behe?

He keeps saying the same ol’ debunked crap over and over again, and nowadays when a paper comes out that shows he was completely wrong about something, he spins it into a triumphant vindication for his sycophantic fans, who are all, apparently, abysmally innumerate. The hobby horse he’s been riding for the past few years is the evolution of chloroquine resistance in the malaria parasite: he claims it is mathematically impossible. And that’s the secret of his success: he dazzles creationists with bad math. Really bad math. The kind of math creationists have been fallaciously using for decades.

Ken Miller has a tidy new article exposing Behe’s ridiculous rationalizations.

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Jerry Coyne is trying to defend evolutionary psychology again

Why, oh why, do EP’s defenders rely on throwing up armies of straw men to slaughter? It’s silly. Here’s how he starts:

There are some science-friendly folk (including atheists) who simply dismiss the entire field of evolutionary psychology in humans, saying that its theoretical foundations are weak or nonexistent. I’ve always replied that that claim is bunk, for its “theoretical foundations” are simply the claim that our brains and behaviors, like our bodies, show features reflecting evolution in our ancestors.

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Nature makes a big change

This is a surprise: Nature has gone to a limited open access model. Or has it?

All research papers from Nature will be made free to read in a proprietary screen-view format that can be annotated but not copied, printed or downloaded, the journal’s publisher Macmillan announced on 2 December.

The content-sharing policy, which also applies to 48 other journals in Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group (NPG) division, including Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine and Nature Physics, marks an attempt to let scientists freely read and share articles while preserving NPG’s primary source of income — the subscription fees libraries and individuals pay to gain access to articles.

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