14 thoughts on “Dick Lewontin interview

  1. Trifling point, but I want to know if he and Gould already knew that the ‘spandrels’ of San Marco were really ‘pendentives’.

    Seems like they may have been planning an alliterative title like “Pendentives and the Panglossian Paradigm” and then decided to change it.

    1. Also, I wonder if his views on the existence of human ‘races’ have changed, and what his reaction was to the paper called “Lewontin’s Fallacy”.

    1. Alan, why in the world would you think that Lewontin would answer your hobbyhorse question any differently than everyone else does?

    1. Sigmund, don’t bother Lewontin with those trivialities when Karen Carpenter will do. You see, just like me, they long to be. . .close to you.

  2. I’d like to hear him talk clearly about adaptation–what criteria are necessary and sufficient to to call some phenotypic trait an adaptation?

  3. In his book ‘Biology as Ideology’, he claims that medical advance is more a result of trial and error than of theoretical understanding. How can he maintain such a position in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (such as knowledge of cancer genetics benefiting cancer research and knowledge of evolution benefitting infectious disease research)?

    1. Curing a disease is not same as understanding the mechanisms of the development of a disease. The former is what medicine does and the latter is what science does. Their purposes and methods are completely different. You do not necessarily need a theoretical understanding for curing a disease. Ever since human beings existed people tried to cure diseases without much theoretical understanding. Without knowing what a living cell is, early civilizations successfully developed antiseptic solutions through trial and error method. This is what Lewontin is talking about.

  4. I would really like to hear the answer or a similar question to that posed by Ostman above. How have the political beliefs of Lewontin guided his scientific endeavors and criticism? Does he also think that religious beliefs should influence the career paths of scientists?

  5. Assuming that the Great Man can see further than most of us, it would be interesting to know whether he has expectations of any sorts about things going on in biology.

    More specifically, I would ask what he thinks of cliodynamics (Peter Turchin): does he see anything promising, or irremediably faulty, in that field?

    More generally, I wonder if he has observed noticeable progress in population biology (i.e., ecology and evolution). Can we hope in further papers coauthored with Levins?

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