Home » Darwinism, News » Another textbook Darwin talking point bites the dust – Bateman’s sexual selection

Another textbook Darwin talking point bites the dust – Bateman’s sexual selection

From “Bateman’s Sexual Selection: Another Darwinian Pillar Falls” (Evolution News & Views June 18, 2012), we learn:

Angus John Bateman, working on fruit flies in 1948, published his findings which became known as Bateman’s Principle: the idea that males tend to be promiscuous (because sperm is cheap) while females tend to be choosy (because eggs are expensive). This principle, so impressive with its math, jargon, and presumed application of the scientific method, seemed to support Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.

It took on a life of its own, especially after R. L. Trivers in 1972 and S. J. Arnold in 1994 brought attention to it. According to Gowaty, Kim and Anderson, who decided to test it, citations soared and “Bateman’s Principle” took on paradigmatic status. They note that “legions of graduate students” have read the paper since it was published.

Then, on examination, it all collapsed, leaving the authors of the open access paper asking,

… why earlier readers failed to spot the inferential problems with Bateman’s original study. The main implication we take from the present study is one earlier critics made: The paradigmatic power of the world-view captured in Bateman’s conclusions and the phrase “Bateman’s Principles” may dazzle readers, obscuring from view methodological weaknesses and reasonable alternative hypotheses….

To say nothing of loss of a chance at tenure if doubt is expressed.

But at this point, why even be surprised? Almost all research into Darwinism these days is done in order to triumphantly announce some confirmation that is either imaginary (how music spreads selfish genes) or far too trivial to demonstrate the Darwinist’s theory of how new species form (the prevalence of one pigment colour over another, in a moth species, due to selective predation).

Darwin’s true believers don’t care if research is shoddy; they busy themselves trying to get papers that question their beliefs blocked from journals.

It would be fun to be in Texas when the next round of textbook approvals comes up, to hear the Darwin lobby demand that Bateman be given top billing anyway, for the same sorts of reasons as they don’t want the fact of stasis to be taught.

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12 Responses to Another textbook Darwin talking point bites the dust – Bateman’s sexual selection

  1. Umm . . . research countering Bateman’s Principle have been coming in for a long time now so this isn’t really news AND the people publishing that research have been mainstream biological researchers.

    Science doesn’t always get it right at first, all knowledge is provisional and needs to be updated with new data. Which is what is happening. It doesn’t make sense to not publish results in case new data comes along to refute it.

  2. Jerad:

    As “News” writes:

    The main implication we take from the present study is one earlier critics (8, 9) made: The paradigmatic power of the world-view (16) captured in Bateman’s conclusions and the phrase “Bateman’s Principles” (5) may dazzle readers, obscuring from view methodological weaknesses and reasonable alternative hypotheses explaining VNM and VRS.

    As you write your rejoinder, are you guilty of this—not in regards to “Bateman’s Principles”, but of Darwinian theory in general.

  3. “… so this isn’t really news …”

    Fair enough. It shouldn’t be news, but it’s news to me.

    “Science doesn’t always get it right at first, all knowledge is provisional and needs to be updated with new data.”

    And it shouldn’t be news, but it will be news to you, that what you have described is called ‘life’ not ‘science’. But the problem here it that, if the authors are correct, that the inferences made in Bateman’s original paper were unjustified. Such to say that Bateman’s work fell afoul of Pauli’s ‘Not Even Wrong’ at basic level of logic. Which is at least one of erroneous experiment, erroneous theory, or erroneous conclusions.

    Which is to say that Bateman’s work is Not Even Science for failing the terrible difficulty of spell-checking and pal-review. Whatever deontological forcing you state that science possesses it is first necessary that it be science at all. And if you have a refutation on offer then it should be offered on the issues at hand rather than by reliance on buzz-word pablum from stake-holders about ‘self-correction’.

  4. PaV,

    Hubris should always be avoided but it’s pretty common in lots of disciplines (including theology, physics, sociology, psychology, music, art, whatever) for someone to claim more than they probably should. It behooves the rest of us to be skeptical until more evidence comes in. I’m a human being so I assume I make both mistakes: in overstating my case and in sometimes accepting as truth things which are only tentative.

    I feel that Darwinian theory has withstood the test of time and is gaining more and more supporting evidence every day. And it’s being modified at the edges as new data comes in. As one would hope. In fact it started off as a theory based on the fossil record (which was much less persuasive then), biogeographic distributions, morphology and breeding evidence. And since then it’s added possibly the strongest line of evidence: genetics. Despite the insistent of ID proponents I don’t see it being knocked over. Obviously I try and keep an open mind but the gaps are getting smaller and smaller. There’s less and less room for other explanations to get a wedge in. I also assume if there was a particularly productive area of counter-research it would be being pursued by folks like the Biologic Institute. But they seem to be producing very little and my impression is that most of their research is not geared towards ‘proving’ ID but attempting to find the limits of evolution, if they exist.

    The way I see it the big problem with ID is no one wants to hypothesise anything about the designer or his methods. And few people want to even speculate on when design intervention took place. And no one will touch the why question at all. So, I’m not sure what there is to research. Trying to find an edge to evolution is a negative argument (evolution can’t do blah) so that’s probably doomed to fail as well.

    As always I encourage ID proponents to support and carry out research. I hope someone is looking into some of the issues that are not openly discussed but I have no way of knowing if that’s the case. I think if ID is going to be accepted as science it needs to produced evidence and research that can be interpreted in no way other than as an example of design and I don’t think that has happened yet. Not when even many evangelical Christians disagree with the design inference.

  5. Maus,

    Well, I encourage you to critically examine new research and to provide counter research when you feel some work is in error.

    I’m afraid it does happen that stuff slips through, especially when conclusions uphold pet beliefs. Piltdown Man is a classic example. But that too was proven incorrect by mainstream scientists re-examining the data and research. That’s the reason the repeatability mantra is canted over and over again. Cold fusion got shot down very quickly but it, sadly, doesn’t always happen that way. And there are still cold fusion fans who haven’t given up the ghost just yet.

    What do you want me to say? Science is a human endeavour. But, like in the Bateman’s Principle case, it tends to self correct. And again, it wasn’t ID researchers who corrected things but mainstream scientists who thought they’d have another look at the result. Why does it take so long sometimes? Most people are focusing on their particular area, only have so much time and money, lots of reasons. But anything is a fair target. Newtonian physics did very well for a long time so . . . who knows??

  6. Maus,

    And how would you do things differently? The good thing about science is no person or body is in charge. There is no authority who gets to decide what is or is not science.

  7. Jerad, if nobody decides what is or is not science, then how are laypersons to determine the validity of scientific endeavors?

  8. Jerad:

    I disagree vehemently with your position that Darwin has withstood the test of time and is gaining a stronger foothold. Just the opposite is happening.

    Darwinism nearly died because of Mendelian genetics, and only survived via the neo-Darwinian Synthesis. But now that is even considered “dead” by many in the field. Not much left. And every day an experiment is performed that stretches neo-Darwinian mechanisms to the breaking point.

    OTOH, you say:

    The way I see it the big problem with ID is no one wants to hypothesise anything about the designer or his methods. And few people want to even speculate on when design intervention took place. And no one will touch the why question at all. So, I’m not sure what there is to research. Trying to find an edge to evolution is a negative argument (evolution can’t do blah) so that’s probably doomed to fail as well.

    What makes ID important is that it tells us that living beings have been designed, and designed in such a way as to be detected and understood by us. It is not imperative to know exactly when, and how, the Designer designed. This, I suspect, will always remain beyond the reach of science. However, understanding that we’re dealing with “designed” systems will help us better make predictions, and will make investigative pathways more productive.

    But this requires a complete paradigm shift. And until that happens, science will simply blindly move forward. What happens every day is that biological systems display “problem-solving” solutions that are beyond anything current humans can engineer; and this is simply credited to “Darwinism.” This is an absurdity. Unthinking, random variations, cannot problem-solve, except in the simplest of fashions, and only according to natural laws.

    So, as long as we “deify” Darwinism, then there’s no reason for a Designer—even though we see the Designer’s handiwork all over the place. This is blindness of the worst kind; and betrays a hubris born of irreligion.

  9. Barb,

    You gotta wait and see what pans out like everyone else!! The more background you have, the more you understand the issues and technical details the better you, personally, will be able to evaluate provisional results.

    PaV,

    I know you disagree. Sometimes reasonable people disagree.

    What makes ID important is that it tells us that living beings have been designed, and designed in such a way as to be detected and understood by us. It is not imperative to know exactly when, and how, the Designer designed. This, I suspect, will always remain beyond the reach of science. However, understanding that we’re dealing with “designed” systems will help us better make predictions, and will make investigative pathways more productive.

    It may not be imperative but it means ID lacks explanatory power as it’s not explaning why, how and when life forms arose. I don’t know about you but those are the kinds of things science likes to know! And, when they’re not pursued, they lead to claims of ID being a science stopper.

    I’m not sure that knowing things are designed does make a difference in what we can discover; I can see that it would perhaps slightly shift what is examined though.

    But this requires a complete paradigm shift. And until that happens, science will simply blindly move forward. What happens every day is that biological systems display “problem-solving” solutions that are beyond anything current humans can engineer; and this is simply credited to “Darwinism.” This is an absurdity. Unthinking, random variations, cannot problem-solve, except in the simplest of fashions, and only according to natural laws.

    I agree actually that Darwinian mechanisms can only ‘solve’ in very small and incremental steps. It’s the accumulation of lots and lots of steps that matters. And it’s not the random variations that are doing the ‘problem solving’, it’s the cumulative selection which is very powerful.

    So, as long as we “deify” Darwinism, then there’s no reason for a Designer—even though we see the Designer’s handiwork all over the place. This is blindness of the worst kind; and betrays a hubris born of irreligion.

    I don’t think we ‘deify’ Darwinism but I do think there’s no place in science for anything supernatural. AND that science is not attempting to answer some of the questions which philosophy and theology address. It may be a blindness . . . I tend to think of it as being a narrow focus. Science can only address those things and processes which can be measured, weighed, limited, isolated, defined, etc. Things that can be demonstrated repeatedly and on command. Supernatural entities do not fit in that catagory and so are exempt.

  10. Jerad: “That’s the reason the repeatability mantra is canted over and over again.”

    And the Lord’s Prayer is canted out far more often than anything from Karl Popper. Trotting out tropes doesn’t make the worthwhile, and is often a good first indication of where you ought be looking for fraud.

    For example, repeatability. The last of many repeat tests of repeatability that I’m aware of was the Lancet. But by and large the med journals are finding out that 90% of the papers are non-replicable. Which is to say that, at best, 10% of the published medical papers bear any possible relation to reality.

    But then it’s also been repeatably shown that psychics and astrologers produce predictions that bear a possible relation to reality? About 10% of the time.

    In your replies there is a commonality in that it is up to me to provide ‘an alternative’ be it for pedagogy, consequence, or as explanatory myth. This is nonsense, but I’ll humor it anyways: Let’s replace Scientists with Tarot Card readers.

    They’re just as accurate, won’t cost near as much in tax subsidy, and the art is better.

  11. Maus @ 10

    But by and large the med journals are finding out that 90% of the papers are non-replicable. Which is to say that, at best, 10% of the published medical papers bear any possible relation to reality.

    What is the definition of ‘non-replicable’ you’re referring to here, and how was the 90% statistic calculated?

    Cheers

  12. Maus,

    And the Lord’s Prayer is canted out far more often than anything from Karl Popper. Trotting out tropes doesn’t make the worthwhile, and is often a good first indication of where you ought be looking for fraud.

    Well, I for one have a lot more faith in a result or finding that has been arrived at by similar experiments being carried out by different researchers in different labs with different funding sources. That’s why I find repeatability a valid criteria for things more likely to be true.

    For example, repeatability. The last of many repeat tests of repeatability that I’m aware of was the Lancet. But by and large the med journals are finding out that 90% of the papers are non-replicable. Which is to say that, at best, 10% of the published medical papers bear any possible relation to reality.

    I don’t get the idea of repeat tests of repeatability. I also haven’t heard the 90%-10% stat before. Do you have a reference I can consult?

    But then it’s also been repeatably shown that psychics and astrologers produce predictions that bear a possible relation to reality? About 10% of the time.

    Really? My impression most of their hits are from cold readings and, occasionally, fraud (having info relayed to them via radio, etc).

    In your replies there is a commonality in that it is up to me to provide ‘an alternative’ be it for pedagogy, consequence, or as explanatory myth. This is nonsense, but I’ll humor it anyways: Let’s replace Scientists with Tarot Card readers.

    I’m interested when someone is critical of the existing theories or practices in ways they think things could be done better. You can stand on the sidelines and criticise all you like of course. But if you’re not playing in the game or have good suggestions for ways of improving the system then you run the risk of people not taking you very seriously.

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