December 31, 2010 • 7:00 am

By some fluke I was elected president of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) for 2011. My tenure begins tomorrow.

Given this position, I want to make clear that, as always, my posts on this site reflect my own personal opinion, and are not to be taken as official positions of the SSE or of any other organization. I will not speak for the SSE on this website—I do that only in official communications from the Society—nor will I mention the Society except, perhaps, to call attention to the annual meeting or to highlight a particularly noteworthy paper in our most excellent journal, Evolution.

39 thoughts on “Disclaimer

  1. Congratulations, Jerry, but do you have to start with a lie.
    It was not some fluke, but a well deserved appointment.

  2. Hmm, so the tricky bit of this is that you’re stuck in an official capacity where you have to play nice with accommodationists. Good luck!

    1. Um, why?

      Coyne has taken the position that science organizations should be neutral towards all religion. That is consistent with SSE activities, and should lead to some interesting conflicts with accommodationists and such science organizations that takes the opposite position.

      Not that I would expect SSE to put the science house in order, but at least to stand out as a shining light against accommodationist un-Enlightenment tapestry.

    2. OTOH I browsed the SSE constitution, and it seems already neutral (and not overly concerned with superstition).

      Good work!

      1. Somehow, I just don’t see the good doctor being interested in heading any other kind of organization.

        Their constitution isn’t a good place to look for that sort of thing; it’s just Robert’s Rules-type stuff.

        Rather, you want to have a look at the resources page, which includes these two exemplary statements:

        Statement on evolution by the Society for the Study of Evolution

        “Evolution” refers both to a set of scientific facts and to a theory explaining such facts. “Evolution” refers to the scientific fact that biological organisms have changed through time, and that all life, including humanity, has descended with modification from common ancestors. Evolution is as well documented as are other currently accepted scientific facts. The theory of evolution is a comprehensive and well-established scientific explanation, based on natural processes, of the fact of biological evolution.

        Statement on the teaching of evolution by the Society for the Study of Evolution

        Evolutionary theory should be taught in public schools because it is one of the most important scientific theories ever generated, and because it is the accepted scientific explanation for the diversity of life. As a scientific theory, it is testable and has been extensively tested. As stated by the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The theory of evolution is subject to refinements and revisions, but this is no different from any other major scientific theory, such as the those providing the explanatory frameworks of geology, physics, or chemistry. There is no pedogogical or scientific reason to treat evolutionary theory any differently than any other well-accepted scientific theory, and it should be taught in public schools as the firmly established, accepted unifying scientific principle that it is.

        I truly can’t imagine better statements on both subjects, especially given the current climate. Both statementsmake all the points that need to be made and — perhaps more importantly — don’t make points that shouldn’t be made in this context.



        1. These statements are reassuring, for sure. However, the free pdf textbook Science, Evolution, and Creationism that’s quite clearly displayed on the bottom left of the homepage of the SSE is more disconcerting (http://www.evolutionsociety.org/). I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but note that the chair of the committee for the most recent edition of this work was Francisco Ayala. Note also the last paragraph of the Preface: “As Science, Evolution, and Creationism makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future.” This isn’t a publication of the SSE. I’m sure that this is displayed on their website isn’t Professor Coyne’s fault. Nonetheless, this was something I saw that worried me.

  3. By some fluke

    That strikes me as an odd mechanism to point out.

    More likely it was selection – survival of the slowest to duck.

    [Seriously though (well), wouldn’t fitness among scientists be defined as “differential reproducibility”?]

    1. By some fluke

      Hmm, for some reason, in my mind I was picturing a sort of horizontal information transfer via parasite.

    1. I keep picturing Jerry with some barbed flukes on his arms like some modern superhero – Parasite Pal or maybe Lamprey Lad. For the life of me I can’t figure out how this would help his academic career, nor whether this would be intelligent design or some evolutionary quirk.

      I do hope your magazine editors will avoid the temptation to trot out these credentials on your witty book reviews or editorials like they do with some other people (who then have to adopt a coquettish blush and cry “oh wow, how could you ever think that I was speaking for organization X?”. Hmm, I wonder how that confusion arose?)

      Congrats to Jerry and his new-found fluke-based super powers.

  4. Congratulations, Jerry!

    @Ebonmuse, I assumed that the dolphins had rigged the elections again as they often do. But in any event, of course trematodes have voting rights. I was a grad student when I was in SSE and WE had voting rights. So if there are grad students then they can’t leave out flukes in good standing.

  5. All hail! We are not worthy!

    You’re going to have to get some boots made with the SSE presidential seal tooled in.

    (or is it a walrus?}

  6. Congratulations, and I, for one welcome our new evolutionary education master. I hope that you don’t become Dark Jerry with the savage abuse of power. Or if you do, can we watch? 🙂

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