Over at Wired, Brian Romans noted what he considers the best scientific comment-and-reply sequence ever published. Well, I’m not sure it’s the best, but it’s certainly the most honest!
Here’s part of the critique of a paper published in The Journal of Geology in 1963:
It is obvious that this error in presenting sedimentation rates has no effect whatever on the ages given in the paper. Therefore, the main body of the paper and the conclusions reached by Rosholt et al. require no modification.
And here’s the authors’ reply:
Only once in my life do I remember a biologist admitting he screwed up in a paper. That was my advisor, Dick Lewontin, in response to a pretty severe criticism of a paper that he wrote with Jesse Kraukauer. I can’t remember the details, but I’m sure at least a few others have admitted error when called out in a journal. The custom, of course, despite the idea that scientists freely and willingly admit error, is to dig in your heels! After all, we’re human. If you know of any stories to the contrary, post them below.
h/t: Ed Yong for the “tweet”
UPDATE: I remember now that
Steve Gould Richard Dawkins,* in one of his essays books, recounts the story of one of his professors who, after hearing his own pet theory demolished in a lecture, announced to the audience that his theory was indeed wrong and then shook the hand of his opponent, congratulating him for having shown him the light.
*I was WRONG! LOL!