Friday, July 31, 2015

A theory in crisis

It is really satisfying to hear some honest voices from the leaders of the field, despite the fact that most in the field would never say anything like it when challenged or when one submit a paper challenging their bread and butter theory.

"As this short history demonstrates, population genetics has made
remarkable strides in understanding both the phenomenology and the
theoretical models of molecular evolution. However, it also demonstrates
that we have yet to find a mechanistic theory of molecular evolution that
can readily account for all of the phenomenology. Thus, while the 1990s
will most likely be a decade dominated by the gathering of data, we would
like to call attention to a looming crisis as theoretical investigations lag
behind the phenomenology."

Ohta, T. and Gillespie,J.H. Development of Neutral and Nearly Neutral Theories. Theoretical population biology 49, 128 142 (1996)

The existing theory is at least incomplete and will forecast many false things, because it has not even accounted for all the phenomenology known at the time of 1996 as acknowledged by the above quote from Ohta and Gillespie. Maybe the difference between me and some people in the field is that to me a correct theory means accounting for all relevant data without a single contradiction. If anyone does not think that is possible, in biology at least, just remember that all seemingly impossible things are viewed as quite simple after they have been accomplished. Also keep in mind, a single contradiction to a theory is equivalent to an infinite number of contradictions. When a theory allows a single contradiction or refuses to be falsified by it, it no longer qualifies as testable (it would be meaningless to use the word test). 

So, what one really needs is a more complete or correct theory, which was what the above quote means. 

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