Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Darwinian reductionism   posted by p-ter @ 4/11/2007 04:32:00 PM

As a general rule, I find most philosophy of science unbearable, mostly for the reason that the amount of factual error made by these philosophers is impressive. I find it analogous to many conversations I've had outside the US about the US political system-- people maybe get the general outline, but often make confident and utterly wrong assertions about the details. So when I read this review of Darwinian Reductionism, I was fairly unsurprised to see that the reviwer pointed out factual errors. But still, this is pretty impressive:
The lack of concern with the genome is highlighted, for example, when in the course of a single paragraph he says that sculpting of the genome by natural selection has resulted in "a division mainly into genes" and refers to 95 percent of the human DNA sequence appearing to be "mere junk" (another hypothesis that has been widely rejected). It is conceivable that Rosenberg means to define genome so as to exclude the junk, although I have never encountered such a usage before
More striking is his remark that alternative splicing is "uncommon but not unknown," whereas it is actually widely accepted that such splicing occurs in more than 70 percent of human genes. Although Rosenberg has researched some biological topics in detail, the book contains other lapses as well. He appears to be unaware, for instance, that methylation occurs in contexts other than sexual imprinting. And I was struck by his remark that the world is now mainly populated by sexual species; in fact, the overwhelming majority of organisms now, as ever, are prokaryotes and (relatively) simple asexual eukaryotes