Last year I noted the publication of a paper in Nature by Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita and Edward O. Wilson, which claimed that kin selection is not a sufficient explanation for anything in biology. My post (“Inclusive fitness works”) basically expressed my incredulity that Nature published the thing.
This week, Nature published several comments on the paper, including one signed by 137 evolutionary biologists. I think the best source to read is Jerry Coyne’s post about the commentary (“Big dust-up about kin selection”):
If the Nowak et al. paper is so bad, why was it published? Thats obvious, and is an object lesson in the sociology of science. If Joe Schmo et al. from Buggerall State University had submitted such a misguided paper to Nature, it would have been rejected within an hour (yes, Nature sometimes does that with online submissions!). The only reason this paper was published is because it has two big-name authors, Nowak and Wilson, hailing from Mother Harvard. That, and the fact that such a contrarian paper, flying in the face of accepted evolutionary theory, was bound to cause controversy. Well, Nature got its controversy but lost its intellectual integrity, becoming something of a scientific National Enquirer. Oh, and boo to the Templeton Foundation, who funded the whole Nowak et al. mess and highlighted the paper on their website.
“Scientific National Enquirer”…wow, harsh words, but then the Weekly World News was unavailable for comment…
Oh, and Richard Dawkins shows up in Coyne’s comments section, including the awesome response, “You are still wrecked among heathen dreams.”