Margulis does it again

| 32 Comments

We all know of once-respected scientists who ended up going off the deep end, adhering to an unproven idea despite massive evidence to the contrary. Linus Pauling and his advocacy of megadoses of Vitamin C, or Peter Duesberg’s descent into HIV denial. It’s all the more disappointing when the one taking a dive is a woman, since there are, compared to men, relatively fewer female “big names” in the sciences. So when one goes from views that were outside of the mainstream (but later proven largely correct) to complete science denialism, it makes it all the more depressing. Even worse, mainstream popular science magazines like Scientific American (with this article by Peter Duesberg) and Discover (Duesberg again) give these ideas reputable press. And now Discover has done it again by giving “maverick” biologist Lynn Margulis a profile in their latest issue. More over at Aetiology.

32 Comments

Actually, there’s nothing in what Margulis says in a technical sense that’s all that distressing, and certainly creationists would be flatly misrepresenting her to say she gave any authority to their cause.

Modern evolutionary science says that species evolved, and that they did so spontaneously (no Designer or Director riding the process); Margulis wouldn’t say any different.

Alas, there is a substantial problem in style here, in that Magulis, rather than saying she’s got a new and actually very interesting chapter for the book of evolution, is saying the old book needs to be thrown out – though she doesn’t remotely have a case on that score.

Of course that’s not only being wrongheaded, but entirely convenient to creationists – despite the fact that Margulis is absolutely as much an “evolutionist” as Richard Dawkins, she’s just got a different take on the details.

Comparing her to Duesberg is a bit much. There might have been a case for HIV denial into the 1990s, but there isn’t now, and it’s not like he’s overplaying a valid argument; he’s just flat-out wrong.

Worse, in his case he is assisting a system that has killed people by the hundreds of thousands by crime of omission – and he’s so hung up on his crank ideas that he doesn’t even ask himself if he might be doing something monstrous.

Creationists, especially the ID kind, will love this article in Discover. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Yeah. The part I could read without being a subscriber had her saying that Behe and company were right to criticize evo science … but then she added that ID was complete nonsense. Of course, I immediately tracked down a creo website that said: “Margulis agrees that ID is right.”

Margulis is being driven by a pleasure in being obnoxious for its own sake. Her ego, left unleashed, has become a brain parasite.

If I read correctly, Lynn Margulis is saying that all speciations involve symbiosis events. So for example the White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), the Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla), and the White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) form a clade, and the two speciation events that separate them involve symbiosis events … how?

Well, speciation in insects can be driven by Wolbachia bacteria, so the idea’s not 100% looney … but sparrows, yeah, we’re somewhere above the 50% looney threshold.

I hear Margulis also makes much of horizontal gene transfers. A fascinating subject in themselves, but if they were more than a marginal phenomenon in multicellular organisms, it would make genetics-based phylogenies really interesting.

If I read correctly, Lynn Margulis is saying that all speciations involve symbiosis events.

I believe that’s a fair interpretation. Elsewhere she has said that all speciation involves “genome acquisition.”

So what are the symbiosis events separating chimps from humans? It should be easy to track down, what with both genomes being available.

So it sounds to me like she pulled an Einstein: making a brilliant contribution to a field of study, then turning around and calling into question equally brilliant contributions to the same field of study.

Since when is Discover a science magazine?

Mainstream & popular, yes. But actual science?

Calling Discover a science magazine is not that different from saying that Fox News is a genuine news network.

At best, Discover is a “sciencey” magazine (to coin a “Colbertism”).

mharri said:

So it sounds to me like she pulled an Einstein: making a brilliant contribution to a field of study, then turning around and calling into question equally brilliant contributions to the same field of study.

Maybe a bit more of pulling a Hoyle: making a brilliant contribution to a field of study, then going off the deep end in old age.

Even if symbiosis is a major player in evolution, doesn’t it still require natural selection? I assume that any acquired genome or new symbiotic relationship would need to be more fit in order to be carried forward into a new generation. Is she saying that something other than survival of the fittest would determine that a symbiotic relationship would or would not be adaptive?

Wolbachia infection might result in speciation in insects true, but what leads to the differences in Wolbachia strains that creates the two groups that result in host organisms being unable to hybridize?

“Nature red in tooth and claw” is sort of an outdated concept in most circles anyway isn’t it?

Tara Smith, you forgot to mention that Margulis was the first wife of Carl Sagan and the mother of his first two children.

You also failed to point out that she is a follower of Peter Duesberg on the issue of AIDS denialism, even while mentioning Duesburg himself!

I slammed both of them on my blog:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2008/0[…]do-research/

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2010/0[…]uld-be-next/

Her references to AIDS in the Discovery article are laughable. She asserts that “There’s no scientific paper that proves the HIV virus causes AIDS,” and she refers to another scientist, Kary Mullis, as having looked for such a paper and finding no such document. You know what is missing from that article? Any statement of Margulis HERSELF doing actual research on the HIV/AIDS issue! She literally does not know what she was talking about because she never did any of the work on it! She merely takes as true what someone else says because it appeals to her prejudices, which is the very opposite of being a capable scientist. I saw her doing that several years ago on P Z Myers’ blog and now in the Discover article she does that crap again!

We know the difference between syphilis and AIDS, because the first is caused by a bacteria. There is a HUGE difference between a bacteria and a virus and even I, never trained in microbiology, know that! Why haven’t syphilis bacteria been found in most AIDS patients? If they have, that would have been discovered long ago!

Hmm, I guess Margulis is as bad as Duesberg.

“Pride makes some people foolish while preventing others from becoming so.”

Margulis has gone beyond ego-driven intellectual laziness to outright sloth.

Dale, I did link some of her previous HIV craziness in the rest of the post at my blog. You’re correct that I didn’t mention Sagan–honestly, I wish his name wasn’t associated with her. Their son Dorian is named in the acknowledgements of the HIV denial paper she co-wrote with another “prominent” denier, Andrew Maniotis. Terribly depressing.

I didn’t realize Margulis is wacko enough to support Duesberg. Have to agree with mrg, she’s now AS BAD as Duesberg. Thanks for pointing this out Dale and Tara.

C’est incroyable!!!

Given that there is a concept of “war criminal”, I think a category of “science criminal” should be established as well, with Duesberg at the top of the WANTED list.

She’s also a 9/11 troofer and, I have read, sometimes p

John Kwok said:

I didn’t realize Margulis is wacko enough to support Duesberg. Have to agree with mrg, she’s now AS BAD as Duesberg. Thanks for pointing this out Dale and Tara.

C’est incroyable!!!

She’s also a 9/11 troofer and, I have read, also palls around with a Holocaust denier.

How long before Margulis becomes a senior fellow at the DI? She appears to be on the fast-track.

It should be remembered that Margulis was not the first to suggest the endosymbiotic origns of eukaryotes and their mitochondria and chloroplasts) (see quite good wikipedia article on endosymbiotic theory). While there was some “excitement” about the possibility that eukaryotic basal bodies had associated chromosomal dna (like mitochodria and chloroplasts) this has since been found not to be the case (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19196504).

SLC said:

She’s also a 9/11 troofer and, I have read, sometimes p

John Kwok said:

I didn’t realize Margulis is wacko enough to support Duesberg. Have to agree with mrg, she’s now AS BAD as Duesberg. Thanks for pointing this out Dale and Tara.

C’est incroyable!!!

She’s also a 9/11 troofer and, I have read, also palls around with a Holocaust denier.

I’ve just learned about this too. Outrageous. But she’s no different than some Muslim-American demonstraters I saw here in New York City who claimed that 9/11 wasn’t caused by Muslim terrorists (This was during an anti-war rally and march that I participated in only to support opposition to our war in Libya and to take some memorable photographs - which I succeeded - on Saturday.).

Lynn Margulis has been attacked for a long time for expressing and defending her ideas about symbiosis as the basis of evolution. This is not new.

Guess what? She has backed up her ideas with great research. If symbisis is not important, why are there many times more non-human symbiotic microbes living in the human body than human cells?

Life forms are made up of cells which which were created symbiotically, not by Darwinian mutation. This is a fact.

Roger A. Sawtelle said: This is a fact.

And one that is no longer disputed.

I thought the objection to her ideas wasn’t the importance of symbiosis, but the claimed lack of importance of some other things that current theory does regard as important.

Roger A. Sawtelle said:

Lynn Margulis has been attacked for a long time for expressing and defending her ideas about symbiosis as the basis of evolution. This is not new.

Guess what? She has backed up her ideas with great research. If symbisis is not important, why are there many times more non-human symbiotic microbes living in the human body than human cells?

Life forms are made up of cells which which were created symbiotically, not by Darwinian mutation. This is a fact.

The development of eukaryotes from prokaryotes was obviously a huge event in the history of life on earth. It seems to me that something much more than simple mutations of DNA must have driven it, and Margulis’s hypotheses about a symbiotic event or series of events at that time seems very persuasive. As I understood the current situation, though, Margulis is claiming all speciation events are driven by symbiosis rather than standard Darwinian explanations (including mutation, selection, geographical separation of subpopulations, and so on.) Specialists in the area, who fully accept that, for instance, mitochondria were once free living, are having a lot of trouble seeing why, say, chimps and bonobos would have needed a symbiotic event to separate into two species.

Henry J said:

I thought the objection to her ideas wasn’t the importance of symbiosis, but the claimed lack of importance of some other things that current theory does regard as important.

I think the element of personal style, if it can be called that, is the most of the issue. Obviously, someone who lowballs her colleagues, embraces HIV denialism, and jumps on the Troother bandwagon not only is working hard to provoke people, but expects it and enjoys it.

HIV denialism is one of the wackier and more destructive of science denialisms out there.

Christine Maggiore was a HIV+, HIV/AIDS denialist. Her young child died…of AIDS. She herself is now dead,…of AIDS.

I once saw a list of HIV denialists who died of AIDS. It was a long list.

Faith in the wrong things can and does kill people.

raven said: HIV denialism is one of the wackier and more destructive of science denialisms out there.

I have problems understanding what the motivations behind it are. There seems to be a range of them – one, for example, being dedication to crank health regimens (“My Super Diet will cure AIDS and CANCER!”).

It does give a frightening peek into the mind of a crank to think that suchlike would tell an AIDS patient to stop taking the antiretrovirals (“They’re what’s REALLY making you sick!”) without consideration of the possibility that such advice would almost certainly kill the patient. Worse than creationists any day.

raven said:

HIV denialism is one of the wackier and more destructive of science denialisms out there.

Christine Maggiore was a HIV+, HIV/AIDS denialist. Her young child died…of AIDS. She herself is now dead,…of AIDS.

I once saw a list of HIV denialists who died of AIDS. It was a long list.

Faith in the wrong things can and does kill people.

That’s why I want to see Peter Duesberg charged with a felony and brought to trial. I want him sent to prison!

Dale Husband said:

raven said:

HIV denialism is one of the wackier and more destructive of science denialisms out there.

Christine Maggiore was a HIV+, HIV/AIDS denialist. Her young child died…of AIDS. She herself is now dead,…of AIDS.

I once saw a list of HIV denialists who died of AIDS. It was a long list.

Faith in the wrong things can and does kill people.

That’s why I want to see Peter Duesberg charged with a felony and brought to trial. I want him sent to prison!

I understand your sentiment Dale, but since Peter Duesberg is a fellow American citizen residing in the United States - and thus subject to American laws - he is free to say or to write whatever he wishes, protected by the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights (The First Ten Amendments of the United States Constitution for those who are not familiar with the United States Constitution.) which protects the rights of Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers Bill Dembski, David Klinghoffer, Casey Luskin and their DI colleagues to say or to write whatever they wish - provided that such statements are not seen as libelous or felonious statements.

I detest 9/11 Truthers and pro-Palestinian zealots who want to see Israel absored into a greater “Palestine” state. However, like Duesberg, they have their First Amendment rights to bark whatever they so wish provided that their comments are not libelous or felonious.

John Kwok said:

I detest 9/11 Truthers and pro-Palestinian zealots who want to see Israel absored into a greater “Palestine” state. However, like Duesberg, they have their First Amendment rights to bark whatever they so wish provided that their comments are not libelous or felonious.

CORRECTION: A TYPO now corrected - I detest 9/11 Truthers and pro-Palestinian zealots who want to see Israel absorbed into a greater “Palestine” state.

I have problems understanding what the motivations behind it are.

I once dealt with the HIV denialists. It isn’t too hard to figure them out.

1. Some are HIV+ and don’t want to believe they have a virus that will kill them without treatment. They commonly die of AIDS.

2. Some are right wingnut christofascists who think AIDS is god’s punishment sent to gays. They try to encourage nature to take its course and kill gay people. This is, of course, pure evil but they don’t care if they are persuading people to commit slow suicide. That is rather, the whole idea.

3. Lots of them are just crackpots with mental problems. It gives them something to babble on about all day but they don’t really have any other motivation. Some of these are also Germ Theory of Disease Deniers or anti-modern medicine.

Regarding class 2 HIV denialists, they really do think that way. By coincidence, I just saw this on Ed Brayton’s blog.

Scarborough: AIDS is God’s Judgment on Gays Posted on: April 15, 2011 10:01 AM,

by Ed Brayton

At last weekend’s Awakening conference at Liberty University, dominionist pastor Rick Scarborough made it absolutely clear what he believes:

This was right at the front end of the AIDS epidemic and pastors who care were reading everything they could find out because

I happened to have believed - and haven’t changed by mind - that it was a judgment as a result of an immoral act. It was interesting, in those days it was still largely called GRIDS: Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome. And to this very day, the overwhelming majority of those who are transmitting that disease are still homosexuals. It is a homosexual disease.

It is a homosexual disease.

This is simply a lie. The vast majority of HIV/AIDS cases worldwide are heterosexually transmitted. The majority of victims are women and children.

No one with two eyes should wonder why they are called xian death cultists.

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on April 11, 2011 10:48 AM.

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