Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dr. Francisco Ayala's response and my rebuttal

I posted the following on,

In case anyone is interested in what the NAS experts may respond to my email to them, I here make public the response from NAS member Dr. Francisco Ayala who headed the NAS panel that wrote the booklet. I also post here my rebuttal. I have yet to hear from Dr. Ayala again after my rebuttal of 11/18/2008, suggesting that he is no longer willing to engage in this exchange and in persuading me to his view. All I know is that if I have the truth, I would be very generous with my time to relentlessly persuade every honest truth seeker in the world to my view, even if I have to do it individual by individual.

Since these email exchanges are purely scientific in nature, I see no reason why they cannot be made public. Dr. Ayala is a very public person anyway and has in my view taught false information, perhaps unknowingly, to my children and millions of others', and should therefore be made publicly accountable for his views. But I have deleted any personal information such as email address. If this public exposure could stimulate anyone to debate me in public with the aim of seeking truth and teaching only truth to our children, I would indeed be very pleased. The well known policy of the Darwinian mainstream to not to engage in debate with competing parties is not conductive to seeking truth and is a pure sign of weakness.

Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2008 11:15:03 -0800
To: "Labov, Jay"
From: "Francisco J. Ayala" < email address deleted >
Subject: RE: evolution teaching
Cc: Shi Huang < email address deleted >

Dear Jay:

Our statements are correct as they stand, but of course we don't explain everything that can be said about the subject, including apparent and real variations around the expected average values in molecular and other differences. Perhaps Dr. Huang might be willing to read one of my numerous papers concerning the vagaries of the molecular clock, showing that the rate of molecular evolution is not stochastically constant (as predicted by the neutral theory of molecular evolution) and that it varies from gene to gene and from group to group of organisms, which does not invalidate the statements we make in the booklet, neither in the 1999 or in the 2005 versions. Would Dr. Huang consider invalid the statement that people who have a healthy diet and exercise live longer than those who don't, just because some people who do, die younger than some people who don't?

Two papers, among many, that Dr. Huang might want to read are:

-F.J. Ayala, "On the virtues and pitfalls of the molecular evolutionary clock," The Wilhelmine E. Key Award lecture of the American Genetics Association, J. of Heredity 77:226-235, 1986.

-F.J. Ayala, "Vagaries of the molecular clock," PNAS 94:7776-7783, 1997.

Best wishes,

P.S. I find it nothing short of amusing to read Dr. Huang's statement that "The experts [who prepared the NAS booklet] simply have not understood molecular evolution well enough to teach it." As you may know, over the years I have published in top journals well over 100 papers on molecular evolution (and edited a book with that title as early as 1976).

Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2008 4:04 -0800
To: "Francisco J. Ayala" < email address deleted >
From: Shi Huang < email address deleted >
Subject: RE: evolution teaching
Cc: "Labov, Jay" < email address deleted>

Dear Dr. Ayala,

Thank you very much for the comment and the papers. I appreciate very much as it helps me see where you are coming from in believing what you do. I now see that you are an honest true believer of what you do. The only way for an honest person to believe in an incoherent theory is to rationalize the contradictions in a mistaken way, which is what has unfortunately happened to most people in the molecular evolution field. People who are honest and did not happen to make a logical lapse have only one way to go, leaving the field, which is what happened to one of my college classmates after doing her graduate work on molecular evolution in Japan. She found contradictions that she could not resolve and have since held a very low regard of the field. In the recent 25 year reunion, she advised me not to touch this field but I told her that I have sorted it all out. Just an example of the absurd state of affairs in this field, experts could not even agree on whether the molecular clock is a hypothesis or a fact. Your papers show that you consider it a hypothesis. But professor Chung-I Wu of University of Chicago insisted to me that it is a fact not a hypothesis, when I met him this summer in Beijing.

Indeed, the early death of a specific individual who eat healthy diet and exercise in no way contradicts the statement that people who have a healthy diet and exercise live longer than those who don't. The reason is obvious to everyone with a common sense. The statement is of course a statistical average of a population and has no predictive value when applied to any specific individual. Now, if the statement "If two species have a relatively recent common ancestor, their DNA sequences will be more similar than the DNA sequences for two species that share a distant common ancestor" is a statistical average of many splits, then it would have no predictive value to any specific splitting event. If on average, two species have 5% difference in DNA sequence after 25 million years of divergence, it could mean that some species may differ from another by 10% and some by 1%. Therefore when we see a chimp differing from human by 1%, we cannot conclude a split time of 5 million years. And yet that is precisely what has been done by the field. So, Dr. Ayala, if you want your statement to represent a statistical average that would perhaps accommodate the contradictions in your way, you have invalidated the whole molecular evolution field and most of your own work in this area. If even leaders like you would have to make this kind of logical lapses in order to justify a belief in the present theory, could anyone have any confidence in the theory?

I dont know how you got yourself into believing this but I bet it is a personal belief not widely shared by your colleagues. For the statement to be applicable in specific cases, it simply cannot be a statistical average. As far as I know no one else would consider that statement to mean what you have meant. For example, the 1969 PNAS paper by Wilson and Sarich used monkey-human divergence as calibration to date the human-chimp divergence time. Here, the monkey human data is definitely not an average.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the context of the booklet that would inform the readers that the statement means "on average". If it is about the average, then it has no use as a tool of molecular phylogeny and adds nothing useful to evolution studies or in terms of providing evidence to evolution. The fact that it is used by the field for molecular phylogeny studies of specific splitting event shows that it is not about average. If it is not about average, then it is contradicted by about half of all data. In either case, the statement as it stands is misleading and needs to be deleted from the booklet.

Another common way of making peace with a flawed theory is to overlook the contradicting facts as if they never existed. The most earth-shaking and conspicuous fact of molecular evolution that should be taught to everyone and should be the highlight of your booklet is the genetic equidistance result first reported by Margoliash in 1963. This result shows all descendants of yeast are approximately equidistant to yeasts, or more generally, sister species are approximately equidistant to a simpler outgroup. This is the most direct evidence for a constant clock and directly triggered the clock hypothesis. This result is extremely robust and universal. And yet greater than 99% of biologist dont know about it and I rediscovered it independently a few years ago. I was shocked by it, which was in part how I end up doing so much research in the molecular evolution area. The constant mutation rate interpretation of this result makes no sense to me and I want to find my own interpretation and I have now succeeded. This paper ( discusses the fallacy of the clock interpretation of the equidistance result. The paper here ( provides the real interpretation.

In your paper of 1986 that you sent me, you showed nicely that SOD does not have a constant clock and is therefore unlike CytC. But did you realize that the same data set reported in your paper can also lead me or anyone else to conclude that SOD has a perfectly constant clock, thus in direct contradiction to your conclusion. Data in table 4 shows that yeast is approximately equidistant (69-63 changes) to human, rat, horse, cow, fish, and fly. But you made no mention of this fact that shows that human, rat, horse, cow, fish, and fly all have similar mutation rate. I dont know why the field would let this kinds of contradiction go unnoticed for years. Your paper is not the only one of this kind. The Fitch and Margoliash 1967 Science paper is another that concludes non-equidistance of cytC while never mentioning the other side of their data that shows equidistance.

To falsify the constant mutation rate interpretation of the genetic equidistance result, you can ask your students to do this exercise. Use a complex organism such as human as the outgroup to compare with sister species from a simpler clade such as mollusks or the reptile/birds clade. You will find that octopus is closer to human than cockle is, or birds are closer to human than snakes are. But the constant mutation rate hypothesis would predict equidistance, regardless whether the outgroup is more or less complex. If you read my paper, you will find why the complexity of the outgroup makes a huge difference on the equidistance result.

If you read these papers of mine, you will find a completely different interpretation of all the major facts of molecular evolution. It is coherent and has no contradictions. I have no doubt that it is the correct and true story of nature. This is why I said that the experts have not really understood molecular evolution. I do not mean to be disrespectful and I value greatly the primary data generated by these experts. It is the interpretation that is in question. I realize that pointing out contradictions is no way of changing minds. The only way is offer your own theory as a target of attack by your opponents or competing parties. So please feel free to attack it anyway you wish. Real gold is not afraid of burning by fire (Chinese proverb).

I wish I have expressed my ideas clearly so that you have no need to spend time in getting back to me with questions. But I am always at your service if you would find it helpful. If my ideas are sound to you, I wish you would consider revising the booklet. If you can find flaws in my ideas, please offer your rebuttal.

Best regards,


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Misleading teachings in “Science, Evolution, and Creationism, A view from the National Academy of Sciences, 2008”

Today I sent an email to Jay Labov, cc. Francisco Ayala, of the National Academy of Sciences, asking them to correct a misleading statement on molecular evolution.

Dear Jay:

I find it sad that a group of scientists of the NAS caliber simply cannot make a true statement in the field of molecular evolution. 

I have written to you in 2005 about a misleading (part truth part lie) statement in the 1999 booklet 'Science and Creationism, A view from the National Academy of Sciences, 1999.' This statement is: “The more closely related two organisms are, the less different their DNA will be.” The reality is that vastly different species differ little in DNA and similar species differ vastly in DNA. Hippos should be more related to pigs in morphology, but hippos are more related to whales in DNA/protein than to pigs. Crocodiles are similar to lizards in phenotypes but are more related to birds in DNA/protein. The variation in brain power and gross phenotype between human and chimpanzee is much greater than between the mouse species Mus musculus and Mus spretus, although the sequence difference in the two cases is similar.

I am glad to see that the expert panel has now deleted this misleading statement in the 2008 edition “Science, Evolution, and Creationism, A view from the National Academy of Sciences, 2008”. But I am also sad to see that they again made a misleading statement that is part truth part lie. This statement is : “If two species have a relatively recent common ancestor, their DNA sequences will be more similar than the DNA sequences for two species that share a distant common ancestor.”

Here are just three examples of the factual contradictions to this statement. Two different mice strains that separated no more than 12 million years ago had more dissimilarity in DNA than human and monkey that shared a common ancestor 20-30 million years ago. (see Xiang et al., Human Molecular Genetics. 17(1):27-37, 2008.)   At the DNA sequence level, Apodemus and Mus differ by 18% as estimated from neutral sites of genes. In comparison, genome divergence is 8% between human and the Old World monkeys.  Two madaka fish populations that separated 4 million years ago had more dissimilarity in DNA than human and chimpanzees that separated 5-7 million years ago. (see Nature, 447:714-719, 2007, June 7). Two flowering plants (Arabidopsis and apple tree) that shared a common ancestor no more than 125 million years ago have more dissimilarity in DNA than humans and birds that shared a common ancestor 310 million years ago. (see my paper, submitted, preprint available at

Why cannot the experts just make a truthful statement that has no factual contradictions? I have given the question some thoughts. My answer is simple. The experts simply have not understood molecular evolution well enough to be able to teach it.

Please make a quick revision to your booklet, deleting the part on molecular evolution. After repeated tries, the experts have shown that they are incapable of stating truth without also stating lies. The only way out is to say nothing on something you don't really understand. 

Yours truly,

Shi Huang

Friday, August 29, 2008

Complete Neandertal mitochondrial genome by Green et al. Cell

The paper shows that for amino acid or non-neutral sequences neandertals are more distant to an outgroup than modern humans are. This confirms what my earlier paper has found for neandertals, dinosaurs, and mastodons.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Response to a comment on my fossil paper and to the recent Cell paper on Neanderthals

leigh van valen commented at Nature precedings on my fossil paper

"There is ample evidence for a variable clock. Unless the divergence from constancy here is greater than what is found elsewhere, the paper unfortunately adds nothing useful."

My response below:

Thank for you this opportunity to address a common mistaken reaction to my paper. I will also here respond to the recent Cell paper on Neanderthal complete mtDNA that has provided independent confirmation of my paper and show that your interpretation of my result is invalid.

Indeed, nearly all the evidence is for a variable clock. I believe that the original molecular clock hypothesis claiming similar mutation rates among different species is largely false. I am like most classical evolution biologists of the 1960s who consider the idea of a constant clock ‘unthinkable’. The tide has now turned that even molecular evolutionary biologists have given up on the idea of a constant clock, faced with mounting evidence of variable clock accumulated after the 1980s.

But most people, when criticizing the constant clock idea, ignored or were simply ignorant of the original value of this idea as a speculative interpretation of the most remarkable result of molecular evolution, the genetic equidistance result first reported by Margoliash in 1963. This result can be restated as the clock: different species have similar mutation rate. This result is extremely robust and universal but has been ignored for 45 years. What is being publicized is not the result itself but the clock interpretation. Even most people within the molecular clock field are not aware how universal this result is and most biologists are completely ignorant of it. Most biologists (greater than 99% based on my informal polling) would guess incorrectly that frogs, for any given protein, are closer to fishes than humans are. The correct answer is that frogs and humans are approximately equidistant to fishes in sequence identity. Humans in fact are slightly closer to fishes than frogs are. I did not know about this genetic equidistance result until a few years ago when I independently rediscovered this result. I was really surprised to find this and soon realized that the clock interpretation of this result is merely a tautology rather than a real explanation. I have now come up with a real scientific explanation with the ‘maximum genetic diversity’ (MGD) hypothesis as you can find in my papers posted here.

So, you see that there are evidence (the genetic equidistance result) that are seemingly consistent with a constant clock, as well as ample evidence against a constant clock. How can a hypothesis be both correct (consistent with the equidistance result) and wrong (inconsistent with evidence for a variable clock)? Either there is a clock or there is not. Only one can be true, constant or variable clock. But what happens in the field is that people use the clock idea to explain one part of reality (the genetic equidistance result) and use the negation of this idea to explain another part of reality (ample evidence of variable clock). This is self-serving and has rendered the clock idea non-testable or non-falsifiable. In my view, the clock interpretation of the genetic equidistance result is dead wrong and the result has a very different explanation. The clock idea is true in only very limited scope, for truly neutral sequences during divergence of two very similar or identical organisms. But most amino acid changes between two distinct species are in fact not neutral for one of the two diverging species and cannot be explained by the clock idea.

Let me explain this. If we can create a yeast cell and human being by using identical genes for their shared homologs and let the two organisms diverge for an infinite amount of time or about 1 billion years, a gene in yeast would have changed a lot to a maximum of, say 50%, while its homolog in human would have changed very little, say less than 1%. Any more changes than 50% would be lethal to yeast and any more changes than 1% would be lethal to humans. The reason that yeast can change much more than human is because a gene in human encounters far more functional constraints than its homolog in yeast. Thus the genetic distance between human and yeast is mainly determined by the mutations in yeast. In this case, the 50% change in yeast would account for the genetic distance of 50% identity between human and yeast, as well as 50% identity in within species distance in yeast. The different residues between yeast and human would be neutral changes only for the yeast but not for human. The mistake of the modern evolution theory is to assume that these changes are neutral for both yeast and human. But the theory is correct only for two diverging species that have similar degree of functional constraints. It is correct to say that the 50% changes between two substrains of yeasts are neutral changes for both substrains. So the modern evolution theory is a theory of microevolution or a theory of population genetics, relevant only to divergence of similar or identical organisms. It does not describe macroevolution because it fails to take into account the obvious fact that functional constraints on mutations differ tremendously in different kinds of organisms.

The idea of functional constraints is not new and is widely accepted. But most people regard gene function as merely that which can be assayed in a test tube and assume the maximum limit on mutation/distance has not been reached during evolution. But test tube function is merely a bare bone function. The functional role of a gene in a test tube is much less than that in a live cell, which is still less than that in an organism with 100 distinct cells types, which is still less than that in an organism with 10000 cells types, and so on it goes …Two variants of a gene may not show any difference in a test tube or in a single cell organism but may be life and death/disease in a human being.

My paper here on the fossils (now published in Riv Biol. 2008, 101: 93-108, after more than a year of peer review) falsified the clock interpretation of the genetic equidistance result and the fundamental notion of the modern evolution theory that genetic distance has always increased with time in the past history of life on Earth. Every biologist today would predict that the genetic distance between ancient fossil organisms should be smaller than their extant descendants. But my finding shows the opposite: the genetic distance between ancient birds (dinosaurs) and ancient mammals (mastodons) is greater than extant birds and mammals. I do not see how this information did not add anything useful to human knowledge. It is easily among the two most earth shaking results in evolution since Darwin. The first is the genetic equidistance result that is completely unexpected from classical new-Darwinism. The incorrect interpretation of this result known as the molecular clock has created the modern evolution theory. The fossil result of mine is completely unexpected from the modern evolution theory and would not have been earth shaking if we had in the beginning understood the first result correctly.

My result certainly did not add anything useful to the modern evolution theory but that is to be desired if that theory is not completely correct. We often infer what happened in the past but the fossil can tell us directly the story in the past. It is beyond me if someone cannot see the value of fossil sequence in testing the claims of the modern evolution theory or any evolution theory for that matter. Does the theory predict what the fossil data should be like? If it does, then let’s test it as I did. If it does not or only give vague predictions or predicts everything, then it is useless, non-scientific, and irrelevant.

Your comments indicate that you have not read my paper carefully, since my paper has addressed your point. I quote from my paper: “while my analysis showed that humans and chimpanzees are equidistant to gorillas, it also showed that ancient Neanderthals are significantly more distant to gorillas than chimpanzees are. It suggests that the difference between Neanderthals and chimpanzees in their distance to gorillas is outside the variation range that is allowed by the genetic equidistance result. By the same standard that is used to justify the conclusion that humans share the same distance to gorillas as chimpanzees, Neanderthals clearly do not share the same distance to gorillas as chimpanzees.”

My finding reports Neanderthals as a violation of the genetic equidistance result. It has nothing to do variable clock since the equidistance result holds regardless of variable clocks or not. See my paper posted here ‘The genetic equidistance result is independent of mutation rates.’ None of the results showing variable clocks violated the genetic equidistance result. The equidistance result is not an outcome of a constant clock and is independent of clock variations. Most of the variable clock results interpreted minor deviations from exact equidistance as being meaningful when they are in fact not. In short, the genetic equidistance result has no known violations among all extant organisms but is violated by all three ancient fossils for which we have sequence data. Such violations cannot be explained by variable molecular clock since the equidistance result has nothing to do with clock rate variations. I have shown that genes or organisms with variable clocks still do not violate the equidistance result.

The recently published Cell paper on the full mitochondrial genome of Neanderthal is completely consistent with my paper and provided more and independent evidence for my conclusion (Cell 134, 416-426, 2008). The Cell paper states:”A striking observation from the analysis of the 13 protein-coding genes in the mtDNA is that the ratio of nonsynnonymous to synonymous evolutionary rates is significantly higher on the Neandertal lineage.” In other words, at the amino acid level, Neandertals are SIGNIFICANTLY more distant to the outgroup chimpanzees than humans are. Of 7 informative proteins, 6 showed Neanderthal to be more distant to chimpanzees than humans are while 1 showed less. I of course have already found this by studying the hyper variable regions, which has control functions and therefore are non-neutral sequences.

For neutral or synonymous sequences the Cell paper did not find significant difference in distance to chimpanzees for the neandethals relative to humans. So the clear difference between synonymous and non-synonymous sites is unexpected from the molecular clock hypothesis. The hypothesis is supposed to say that most amino acid changes are neutral.

Your comment suggests that you want to explain away my finding by the non-testable ad hoc speculation of a faster mutation rate for the Neanderthals. Unfortunately for you, such speculation has been proven wrong by the Cell paper, which shows that neutral/synonymous mutations have normal mutation rate in the Neanderthals while non-synonymous mutation rate seem to be higher. It is not possible to imagine that a fast mutation rate should only apply to non-synonymous sites but not to synonymous sites. Probably for this reason, the authors of the Cell paper did not invoke the variable clock idea to explain their data.

Instead, they interpreted their ‘striking observation’ by another equally wild and speculative ad hoc idea of less purifying selection due to an imagined small population size for the Neandertals than modern humans. Such idea is not testable and hence not scientific. It can never be proven correct. It is extremely strange that population size becomes an issue only when we are dealing with fossils. All hundreds of extant primate species are equidistant to an outgroup such as rodents. To explain this equidistance by the clock idea, we would have to assume that all these primate species have similar population size as well as similar mutation rates. If so, then it would be extremely rare or strange for a primate species to have significantly different population size from others. It is even more strange then that the only exception should turn out to be the only ancient fossil primate for which we have sequence data. The truth is that population size has nothing to do with the equidistance results. It is pretty safe to say that different species have very different population size just like having very different mutation rates. If the equidistance result is not all related to population size or mutation rates, then of course any violations of the result, such as findings in my paper and the Cell paper, cannot be related to population size or mutation rates.

When one does not have the truth, one simply cannot tell a coherent story. Using an ad hoc idea to explain away one un-expected result would inevitably be contradicted by another fact (s). The idea of less purifying selection for the Neanderthals has another major contradiction. If the equidistance result is an outcome of constant clock, then it cannot be related to natural selection. The constant clock idea requires that most mutations are neutral. So, if the equidistance result is a consequence of neutral mutations, it simply cannot be a consequence of purifying selections. Therefore, any violations of the equidistance result simply cannot be explained by any selection schemes if one accepts the molecular clock hypothesis.

The genetic diversity of Neanderthals in mtDNA is known to be similar or slightly greater than modern humans or Europeans. This is against the idea of a small population size since small population size should have lower genetic diversity. The authors of the Cell paper also wrote some of those early papers on Neanderthals genetic diversity.

Krings, M., Capelli, C., Tschentscher, F., Geisert, H., Meyer, S., von Haeseler, A., Grossschmidt, K., Possnert, G., Paunovic, M., and Paabo, S., 2000. A view of Neandertal genetic diversity. Nat Genet 26, 144-6.

Orlando, L., Darlu, P., Toussaint, M., Bonjean, D., Otte, M., and Hanni, C., 2006. Revisiting Neandertal diversity with a 100,000 year old mtDNA sequence. Curr Biol 16, R400-2.

It is very self-serving for them to ignore these papers that are damaging to their speculation of a small population size. They act as if those papers do not exist by not citing these relevant papers and by stating the following: ‘Future work will reveal if a small effective population size is compatible with the extent of nucleotide diversity seen in the Neandertal nuclear genome.’ Well, existing data have already shown at least for mtDNA that the idea of small population size is invalid.

No theory in the molecular evolution field right now can explain more than half of all data. The constant clock idea explains away the equidistance result but is contradicted by all other data showing variable clock. The variable clock idea explains away a lot of data but cannot explain the most fundamental result, the genetic equidistance result. One should always aim at a theory that explains everything and is contradicted by nothing. The new MGD hypothesis is the only theory that can explain every relevant facts of evolution in a consistent and coherent fashion. It does not invoke any ad hoc speculations or just so stories. It makes numerous precise predictions which have all been confirmed. There is no known factual contradiction. Best of all, the hypothesis is self-evident and stands valid based on logic alone. By contrast, the constant clock idea is against all reason and logic and is openly acknowledged by experts as ‘unthinkable’.

For a true explanation of the equidistance result and the fossil violations of the result, see my paper on the MGD hypothesis posted here ‘Inverse relationship between genetic diversity and epigenetic complexity.’ The main idea of this paper has now been published as a peer reviewed book chapter: Huang, S. (2008) Histone methylation and the initiation of cancer. Cancer Epigenetics, Ed. Tollefsbol, T., CRC Books.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interesting papers from the Editor in Chief of Medical Hypothesis

I enjoyed very much the following two papers by Bruce G. Charlton, Editor in Chief of Medical Hypothesis.

False, trivial, obvious: Why new and revolutionary theories are typically disrespected

Bruce G. Charlton,

Medical Hypotheses 2008; 71: 1-3

An old joke about the response to revolutionary new scientific theories states that there are three phases on the road to acceptance: 1. The theory is not true; 2. The theory is true, but it is unimportant; 3. The theory is true, and it is important – but we knew it all along. The point of this joke is that (according to scientific theorists) new theories are never properly appreciated. The ‘false’ phase happens because a defining feature of a revolutionary theory is that it contradicts the assumptions of already-existing mainstream theory. The second ‘trivial’ phase follows from a preliminary analysis which suggests that the new idea is not in fact contradicted by the major existing evidence, but the new theory seems unimportant because its implications do not seem to lead anywhere interesting when explored in the light of current theory. A stronger version of this second phase happens when the implications of a theory are regarded as not merely unimportant but actually dangerous, because a scientific revolution is certainly destructive (especially of established reputations) yet its potential benefits are conjectural. However, once a new and revolutionary theory is in place, its importance is ‘obvious’ such that it becomes hard to imagine how anybody could ever have believed anything else. Theory for scientists is like water for fish: the invisible medium in which they swim. Observations and experiments, on the other hand, are like toys in the fish tank. New toys are attention-grabbing; but when the tank gets cloudy, its water needs changing.

full text here

Mavericks versus team players: The trade-off between shared glory and making a personal contribution
Bruce G. Charlton
Medical Hypotheses 2008; 71: 165-167


The modern world is characterized by progressive specialization of function and ever-larger-scale coordination of these ever-more-specialized functions. More and more of science is done by increasing-sized teams of specialists, and the ability to engage in ‘teamwork’ is regarded as an almost essential attribute for most scientists. But teamwork does not suit all personality types. Some ‘maverick’ individuals would rather have personal credit for a relatively modest scientific contribution which they achieved (mostly) by themselves, than a share of credit in a much larger scientific contribution generated by a large team. The present system of medical science is organized to discourage mavericks and, on the whole, this is probably justifiable on the basis that scientists are not natural team players. Extra inducements are necessary to get people to adopt the relatively self-effacing behaviours necessary for building the large organizations of complementary specialists that are necessary for tackling many of the most intractable modern scientific problems. However, an ethos of teamwork does carry substantial disadvantages. Although most scientists are dispensable, and do not make a significant personal contribution, the very best scientists do make a difference to the rate of progress of science. And top notch scientists are wasted as team players. The very best scientists can function only as mavericks because they are doing science for vocational reasons. The highest intensity of personal commitment requires individual rewards from distinctive contributions. In conclusion, the current incentive system that encourages teamwork involves a trade-off. The majority of modestly talented scientists can probably achieve more when working as members of a team. But the very best scientists probably need to work as mavericks.

full text here

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fossil paper published

The paper titled "Ancient Fossil Specimens of Extinct Species Are Genetically More Distant to an Outgroup than Extant Sister Species Are" is now published,
Riv. Biol. 2008, 101: 93-108

I am very happy to get these words published in a peer reviewed journal: "Therefore, while the molecular clock hypothesis is consistent with some data from extant organisms, it has yet to find support from ancient fossils. Far more damaging to the hypothesis than data from extant organisms, which merely question the constancy of mutation rate, the study of ancient fossil organisms here challenges for the first time the fundamental premise of modern evolution theory that genetic distances had always increased with time in the past history of life on Earth."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Maximum Genetic Diversity Hypothesis posted on Nature Precedings

The latest version of the paper on the maximum genetic diversity hypothesis is now posted on Nature Precedings. It can be cited as:

Huang, S.
Inverse relationship between genetic diversity and epigenetic complexity, Submitted.
Available from Nature Precedings at

I also posted a related paper introducing the 45 year old outstanding puzzle of evolution, 'the genetic equidistance result', that has remained unexplained by any scientific theory until now by the maximum genetic diversity hypothesis.

Huang, S.
The genetic equidistance result of molecular evolution is independent of mutation rates. Submitted.
Available from Nature Precedings at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fossil sequence paper posted on Nature Precedings

Today, Nature Precedings posted my paper on Neanderthals/dinosaurs/mastodons that falsify the molecular clock hypothesis. The paper can now be cited in publications as follows:

Huang, S.
Ancient fossil specimens of extinct species are genetically more distant to an outgroup than extant sister species are.
Available from Nature Precedings at

The manuscript is in the final stage of a long review process and should be published by a journal soon.