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OVERLY attached




Excuse me for using all capitals, but I think the point is that one should not become *OVERLY* attached. You have to be somewhat attached to effectively defend a position over time (and it often takes a long time). But if you become so OVERLY attached that you lose your perspective, it's going to eat you up in the long run.
The biggest example of this, Carl Woese's being OVERLY attached to the idea of a highly thermophilic origin of life, has yet to play itself out. But don't be surprised a few years down the line if both scientists and the public turn on him. Three domain trees of life will look a little silly, bacterial phylogenies will be properly rerooted, and "Archaea" will go back to "Archaebacteria" or the more appropriate "Metabacteria". Woese's early positive contributions will be largely forgotten, and his OVER attachment to his other ideas will probably result in cruel Woese jokes.
His early attachment to the importance of rRNA sequence data was justified (although he even overdid that somewhat), but in the long run he will probably be remembered for tenaciously clinging to thermophilic origins and badly misrooted trees of life, and ignoring evidence which called his theories into question. If you pay attention to what happens to his theories in the next several years, you will witness first hand what happens when a prominent scientist gets OVERLY attached.
-----Ken Kinman
********************************************************
From: "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." <tholtz@geol.umd.edu>
Reply-To: tholtz@geol.umd.edu
To: <Dinogeorge@aol.com>, <Chapman.Ralph@nmnh.si.edu>, <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Subject: RE: Origins (was: Re: Sharovipteryx)
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 14:35:58 -0400

> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu]On Behalf Of
> Dinogeorge@aol.com
>
> In a message dated 5/26/00 12:55:47 PM EST, tholtz@geol.umd.edu writes:
>
> << *Try not to get overly attached to your own hypothesis!!; >>
>
> Would definitely not take this piece of advice. One MUST become
> attached to
> one's own hypotheses, otherwise one will not feel much urge to
> defend them.

And I would instead warn everyone (budding scientist, old professional,
person shopping for cars, etc.) TO take this advice.  It is extremely,
extremely critical, although it is one of the hardest things to do in
science.

To quote Sagan in full:
"Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
It's only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge.  Ask yourself why you
like the idea.  Compare it fairly with the alternatives.  See if you can
find reasons for rejecting it.  If you don't, other's will."

To think of this another way, this is another manifestation of the principle
of "ideas by merit, not by source".


              Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
              Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology          Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland         College Park Scholars
              College Park, MD  20742
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/tholtz.htm
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone: 301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661      Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-314-7843
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