Doubting Darwin: Algae Findings Surprise Scientists

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One of Charles Darwin's hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.

Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh water green algae failed to support Darwin's theory — at least in one case.

"It was completely unexpected," says Bradley Cardinale, associate professor in the University of Michigan's school of natural resources & environment. "When we saw the results, we said 'this can't be."' We sat there banging our heads against the wall. Darwin's hypothesis has been with us for so long, how can it not be right?"

The researchers — who also included Charles Delwiche, professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, and Todd Oakley, a professor in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara — were so uncomfortable with their results that they spent the next several months trying to disprove their own work. But the research held up.

"The hypothesis is so intuitive that it was hard for us to give it up, but we are becoming more and more convinced that he wasn't right about the organisms we've been studying," Cardinale says. "It doesn't mean the hypothesis won't hold for other organisms, but it's enough that we want to get biologists to rethink the generality of Darwin's hypothesis."

Preserving species

The assumptions underlying Darwin's hypothesis are important for conservation policy, since they essentially encourage decision-makers to prioritize species preservation based on how evolutionarily or genetically unique they are. "We don't have enough time, people or resources to save everything," Cardinale says. "A large number of species will go extinct and we have to prioritize which ones we will save.

"Many biologists have argued that we should prioritize for conservation those species that are genetically unique, and focus less on those species that are genetically more similar," he adds. "The thinking is that you might be able to tolerate the loss of species that are redundant. In other words, if you lost a redundant species, you might not see a change."

But if scientists ultimately prove Darwin wrong on a larger scale, "then we need to stop using his hypothesis as a basis for conservation decisions," Cardinale says. "We risk conserving things that are the least important, and losing things that are the most important. This does bring up the question: How do we prioritize?"

The scientists did not set out to disprove Darwin, but, in fact, to learn more about the genetic and ecological uniqueness of fresh water green algae so they could provide conservationists with useful data for decision-making. "We went into it assuming Darwin to be right, and expecting to come up with some real numbers for conservationists," Cardinale says. "When we started coming up with numbers that showed he wasn't right, we were completely baffled." 

The National Science Foundation is supporting the work with $2 million over five years, awarded in 2010.

Experiments with green algae

The researchers sequenced 60 species of algae most common in North America and can describe with a high certainty their evolutionary relationships. "We know which ones are ancient and have become genetically unique, and which are new and recently diverged," he says.

Their experiments involved taking closely related species and competing them against one another, and taking evolutionarily ancient distantly related species and similarly pitting them against each other.

Written By: Marlene Cimons
continue to source article at livescience.com

39 COMMENTS

  1. The comment on the website from Dr Bradley Cardinale (pictured above) should help clear matters up:
    >
    1. There is nothing in this research that refutes Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. When scientists use the word ‘theory’, they use it to refer to a hypothesis that has withstood thousands of attempts to disprove it, but yet, continues to hold true. To date, no one has been able to demonstrate Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to be incorrect.
    >
    2. Darwin had a lot of ideas other than just those about natural selection, and our work was focused on one of his other hypotheses. In particular, we were testing a hypothesis that is sometimes called the Competition-Relatedness-Hypothesis (CRH), which proposes that competition is stronger among closely related species than among distantly related species because the former should be more ecologically similar. We are not finding support for the CRH, which is a surprise … but again, it has nothing to do with Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
    >
    Although I worked with this reporter to comment on her story, some of the final editing of the text, and the caption “Doubting Darwin” are not things that I approved. But we need to be clear that scientific theories have withstood the test of time, while hypotheses have not yet passed that test. And we need to be clear that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that supports Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

  2. @OP – Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh water green algae failed to support Darwin’s theory -( http://www.livescience.com/43880-charles-darwin-psychobiography.html) — at least in one case.

    This article by Marlene Cimons, is very misleading! The above link (http://www.livescience.com/43880-charles-darwin-psychobiography.html), is about the effects of Darwin’s life and psychology on his work.

    @link – NEW YORK — How much did Charles Darwin’s personal anxieties influence his work on the theory of evolution? Did the tragedy of losing his mother at an early age shape the type of scientist he would become?

    Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, and David Kohn, founder and director of the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History, discussed these and other intimately personal questions about Darwin on Monday (March 3) here at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

    The speakers examined the so-called psychobiography of Darwin, which involves using modern psychological research and theory to peel back the mystique of historical figures, in an effort to better understand their lives.

    This has absolutely NOTHING to do with the scientific validity of the Theory of Evolution by way of Natural Selection.

    The author appears to be referring to some peripheral hypothesis of Darwin:-

    One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.

    ..but by ineptitude or design, wrongly refers to this as “Darwin’s Theory” which could be ambiguously taken mistakenly to be the “Theory of Evolution” by the casual reader who does not look up links.

    One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.

    I have no doubt that the likes of prides of lions compete strongly with other prides of lions, but I find it rather strange that biologists (ecologists?) would think this was a hard and fast rule, rather than looking at individual field-work situations and individual species, on their individual merits!

    Lions will also compete with leopards and cheetahs, but more so than with wild dogs or hyenas??

    I don’t think there is any dogma on this! There are huge ranges of relationships in ecological, symbiotic, parasitic and interspecies interactions.

    I think organisms competing for the same resources in the same niches, will be very competitive, regardless of the relationships in their ancestry.

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      The speakers examined the so-called psychobiography of Darwin, which involves using modern psychological research and theory to peel back the mystique of historical figures, in an effort to better understand their lives.

      I admit I haven’t looked at this in any detail, but my strong gut feeling is the so called “modern psychological research” is Freudian or some other form of pseudoscience. Hence, essentially worthless.

      Trying to actually determine the psychological causes of something as complex as why a scientist chooses to do the research they do is IMO a ridiculous goal for anyone who takes science seriously. We can’t accurately predict the behavior or good neurological/psychological models for most animals at this point. And a psychological model for say a chimp is trivial compared to a human because humans have language and far more complex social structures. Attempting to explain such complex human behavior is just pointless given the current maturity of any psychology worthy of being called science. It’s like trying to figure out the Big Bang or the theory of relativity before you understand Newton’s laws of motion.

      • In reply to #3 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

        The speakers examined the so-called psychobiography of Darwin, which involves using modern psychological research and theory to peel back the mystique of historical figures, in an effort to better understand their lives.

        I admit I haven’t looked at this in any detail, but my strong gut feeling is the so called “modern psychological research” is Freudian or some other form of pseudoscience. Hence, essentially worthless.

        I only quoted this to illustrate that it was irrelevant to the biological theory of evolution, but you have a good point. It is perhaps unsurprising that a journalist whose confusion mixes a little known hypothesis with a well known scientific theory, also links pseudoscience!

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      This article by Marlene Cimons, is very misleadin…
      I guess, this could be an honest mistake by the author. But, I’m way too cynical with regard to journalists to accept that explanation. Of course she knows that this will give her article lots of attention. That’s pretty much all journalists these days seem to care about. Intellectual honesty and integrity seem to be of little importance.

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      but I find it rather strange that biologists (ecologists?) would think this was a hard and fast rule, rather than looking at individual field-work situations and individual species, on their individual merits!

      Exactly. I mean, it’s not all that hard to find examples of species that are genetically related to each other that nonetheless do not in any way compete with each other. The hippo is one good example. The hippo competes with species that are very distant relatives. If this hypothesis was true the hippo’s biggest competitor would be whales. To some extent it is of course true that species that are genetically similar tend to have similar niches. But, I think there many obvious examples that demonstrates that this should be considered a rule of thumb and not some definitive law of nature.

  3. “Maybe species are co-evolving,” he adds. “Maybe they are evolving together so they are more productive as a team than they are individually.

    This sounds an awful lot like group selection. I thought we had gotten rid of that corrupt idea decades ago…

    • In reply to #4 by Nunbeliever:

      “Maybe species are co-evolving,” he adds. “Maybe they are evolving together so they are more productive as a team than they are individually.

      This sounds an awful lot like group selection. I thought we had gotten rid of that corrupt idea decades ago…

      If you are implying that species are not co-evolving, then you are wrong. In fact, one could say that all species, and all genes, co-evolve to different degrees.

      Other species are part of the environment that a species adapts to. Other genes in the cell are part of the environment that a gene adapts to.

      Adaptation can be through competition or cooperation, it really doesn’t matter that much, if you think about it. The only thing that matters is if the adaptation leads to more offspring. Predators and prey co-evolve in one way, the algae and fungi in lichens co-evolve in another way, but it’s still all co-evolution.

      The problem with group selection is that it picks out certain cases of cooperative adaptation and talks about it as if it was really something different. But it isn’t, those cases can be understood just as well within the standard theory, so group selection is a redundant and misleading perspective.

  4. From the article

    One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.

    Not withstanding the vageries of reporting this seems like an easy fact to understand and one that still stands.

    It does support convergent evolution though, wasn’t this something Darwin contemplated? The statement that close relatives are more similar than distant relatives but some distant relatives may still have a diet more similar than their closest cousins seems so obvious that it may not be worth pointing out in a limited “origin of the species” type publication with only 477 pages.

    While I applaud the efforts of the commenters who are trying to preemptively head off the tsunami of comments from the creationist/evolution deniers this seems like cold comfort.

    It’s evolution baby, suck it!

  5. I was steamed when I read this on my Zite feed yesterday. I was talking to the damn iPad, stewing over the language that was chosen and how utterly misleading the piece is. My irritation is somewhat mitigated when I read the lead scientist’s comments and his clear (after the fact) statements. I realize that my ire was originally misplaced and should rest on the shoulders of the editor who came up with the headline and the reporter who has their head up their ass.

    BTW, I still have some residual chafing with the scientists because they could have (depending on the timing) simply told these “ratings seeking” vultures to shove off.

  6. Who is this stupid woman leading an attack on Charles Darwin in every sentence? No subtleties, no explanation of how science is constantly modifying and refining the great principles that form our understanding of the real world. This discovery might have been more interesting if it hadn’t been presented as a “Aha! Gotcha, Darwin!” article. Sounds like so many “why atheists are wrong” rants.

    • In reply to #12 by justinesaracen:

      This discovery might have been more interesting if it hadn’t been presented as a “Aha! Gotcha, Darwin!” article. Sounds like so many “why atheists are wrong” rants.

      Yes, despite the fact atheism says nothing about evolution. Deism, (the belief a god created the universe and took no further part) supports evolution.

      The article’s author is a typical headline seeker out so sell stories by sensationalising.

      • Actually I thought that a lot of Deists figured the clockmaker wound the clock once in a while. I thought that they looked at the pre-Cambrian explosion as such an instance, before Darwin and company came up with their extraordinary explanation.

        In reply to #23 by PeteGriggs:

        Yes, despite the fact atheism says nothing about evolution. Deism, (the belief a god created the universe and took no further part) supports evolution.

  7. I come here to learn, and am not yet qualified to comment on specifics such as this, but it seems to me that overall, the article itself, the comment from Dr Bradley Cardinale and the comments here, represent a fairly good example of the self correcting nature of science.

    And I’m glad to be able to say that as I read the piece I became increasingly expectant of finding what I did indeed discover; refutations and challenges.

    So, even if I can’t rely on my own judgments in any particular area, I know that I can have complete confidence in the methodologies of science.

    Further to which, I can apply them in every day life experiences.

  8. I, for one, will not be leaping all over this article as an example that proves Darwin wrong. It’s clear that the headline and the wording in the article are designed to grab attention. I would hope that other creationists around the world will not be pointing to this discovery about algae as proof of biblical creation, because this article itself doesn’t really do that.

    Also, I couldn’t help wondering if the phrase about the different algae ‘liking each other’ was accurate. Is that testable? We can observe behaviours but can we determine ‘liking’? I’m assuming the phrase was short-hand for ‘not competing’.

    The other bit in the article I didn’t like was the risk of leeches getting into the students’ waders. Ugghhh!

  9. Very glad the author went to clear this up, because by this editing it’s absolute creationist fodder. Many will simply look at this headline and not bother to look through the article to find out that it’s Darwin’s Competition Hypothesis, NOT his Theory of Evolution that’s being talked about here.

    On the plus side, they can’t now argue ‘Oh, no-one’s ever going to allow research that shows Darwin to be wrong to be published.’

  10. Reporters are not inherently evil and unethical people, but their job generally makes them so. They seek conflict where none exists and freely embrace misrepresentation to spice things up, and whenever they have to admit their mistakes, they take refuge in the silly and untruthful idiom about today’s news being just tomorrow’s fish & chip paper. Having been poorly quoted and somewhat misrepresented by the press myself, I have very little, if any respect for the profession of a reporter. I also know a few reporters; nice, intelligent people, but somehow a bit warped when turning on their business mode.

    Even in this case, the false implication to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was certainly quite intentional, as a scientific challenge to it would make much bigger news than questioning a lesser Competition Hypothesis. So, the reporter and her editor willfully want the reader to misunderstand.

    • In reply to #16 by ColdThinker:

      Reporters are not inherently evil and unethical people, but their job generally makes them so. They seek conflict where none exists and freely embrace misrepresentation to spice things up, and whenever they have to admit their mistakes, they take refuge in the silly and untruthful idiom about today’…

      I freely admit that the headline had the author’s desired effect on me, but not because I believed it but the reverse.

      However, no matter how innocently, the article has indeed been rendered creationist fodder.

    • In reply to #16 by ColdThinker:

      Reporters are not inherently evil and unethical people, but their job generally makes them so. They seek conflict where none exists and freely embrace misrepresentation to spice things up, and whenever they have to admit their mistakes, they take refuge in the silly and untruthful idiom about today’…

      Let’s not forget two things, though:

      1. Not all reporters should be tarred with the same brush. There are honest and intelligent ones, including investigative journalists who unmask corruption and hidden crimes. In fact, good journalists might be hampered by bad editors in cases like this one.

      2. Bad journalism exists only because it sells. If the audience demanded articles that respected their understanding of the issues and didn’t start with sensationalist eye candy, this sort of thing would be less common.

      • In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

        1. Not all reporters should be tarred with the same brush. There are honest and intelligent ones, including investigative journalists who unmask corruption and hidden crimes. In fact, good journalists might be hampered by bad editors in cases like this one.

        2. Bad journalism exists only because it sells. If the audience demanded articles that respected their understanding of the issues and didn’t start with sensationalist eye candy, this sort of thing would be less common.

        Zeuglodon,

        About 1 — You are right about not tarring all reporters with the same brush. As I said, I know a few reporters and journalists, and find them nice and mostly even intelligent people (although some are superficial airheads, usually the ones covering entertainment). Anyway, reporters do have an important job to do, and some do it as diligently as they should. Sadly, the majority don’t.

        But when I think about ethics in journalism, I’m reminded of the words of a reporter friend: “If I see an accident, it is my first duty to call our newsroom, and only after that see if I can help the injured.” This is what I mean when I say the reporter’s job warps them. And the reporter I quote is certainly among the good and diligent ones.

        About your second point — You absolve reporters too easily. It is not the badness that sells, it is just that doing things badly is easier, faster and cheaper. Good, honest reporting takes more time and effort, research, checking, correcting, finding the hot and sellable angle without distorting the facts. Working in media myself, I often see the public underestimated, out of haste and laziness of the reporters and other media producers themselves. Editors, publishers and producers consider it a safe bet to aim low. They approach the general public as if talking to children. The logic being, all people have the understanding of a child, but only a fraction of them have the will and capability for something more. So there is often this condescending attitude of offering the oblivious rabble just panem et circenses.

        Also, the causal direction is not as clear as you say. A great many reporters take pride in their role as guides and shepards, even creators of public opinion. I’m convinced most do so privately, but many are quite open about it. But you can’t have it both ways. It’s the reporters and editors who decide what to report and how, and they sell their reports as factual and evidential. So, unless they declare themselves untrustworthy, they must accept responsibility of what information their readers get from them, and what opinions, feelings and reactions their reporting promotes.

        • In reply to #36 by ColdThinker:

          About your second point — You absolve reporters too easily. It is not the badness that sells, it is just that doing things badly is easier, faster and cheaper. Good, honest reporting takes more time and effort, research, checking, correcting, finding the hot and sellable angle without distorting the facts. Working in media myself, I often see the public underestimated, out of haste and laziness of the reporters and other media producers themselves. Editors, publishers and producers consider it a safe bet to aim low. They approach the general public as if talking to children. The logic being, all people have the understanding of a child, but only a fraction of them have the will and capability for something more. So there is often this condescending attitude of offering the oblivious rabble just panem et circenses.

          I can’t say much about what goes on behind the scenes in journalism, and I admit I most likely am absolving journalists too easily. On the other hand, I think the majority of the public also constitute a major factor. There are relatively reputable newspapers in the UK, broadsheets, that can be found in the same places as their less reputable cousins, tabloids. I don’t think the differences in costs are particularly major, yet the tabloids’ circulation – and these are newspapers that hit you over the head with their partisanship, cheapness, and gossip-mongering, mind you – the circulation outdoes the broadsheets’ several times over. Some journalists might not be trying any harder than the lowest common denominator, but some readers aren’t demanding anything better, either.

  11. Cold Thinker in Comment 16 said

    Reporters are not inherently evil and unethical people, but their job generally makes them so. They seek conflict where none exists and freely embrace misrepresentation to spice things up, and whenever they have to admit their mistakes, they take refuge in the silly and untruthful idiom about today’s news being just tomorrow’s fish & chip paper. Having been poorly quoted and somewhat misrepresented by the press myself, I have very little, if any respect for the profession of a reporter. I also know a few reporters; nice, intelligent people, but somehow a bit warped when turning on their business mode.

    Read that again, because it is exactly what I would have written, Including the part about having been poorly quoted and somewhat misrepresented myself. Well stated, Cold Thnker. And reporters would have us believe they are part of a learned and noble profession with high ethics.

    • In reply to #18 by 78rpm:

      Cold Thinker in Comment 16 said

      Reporters are not inherently evil and unethical people, but their job generally makes them so. They seek conflict where none exists and freely embrace misrepresentation to spice things up, and whenever they have to admit their mistakes, they take refuge in the silly…

      Well stated, Cold Thinker.

      Well said indeed 78rpm. I know a few myself and I could tell a story or two…

  12. Funny thing…you never get arguments, counter arguments and refutations like this on Creationist web sites and literature. I suppose that it just goes to show that science is nearly always wrong and the bible is always completely inerrant. That’s what they’d say anyhow.

  13. Samples obtained, they put crosses of species that have different evolutionary histories into bottles and measured how strongly they compete for essential resources such as nitrogen, phosphorus and light.

    “If Darwin had been right, the older, more genetically unique species should have unique niches, and should compete less strongly, while the ones closely related should be ecologically similar and compete much more strongly — but that’s not what happened,” Cardinale says. “We didn’t see any evidence of that at all…”

    Algae A: “So how’s the photosynthesising going Algae B?””
    Algae B: “Not very well. I have a lot of competition with this other algae.”
    Algae A: “Bummer! Maybe you should compete more strongly. Does this other algae have a different evolutionary history? “
    Algae B: “How should I know? I’m just a single-celled organism.”

  14. @OP – Doubting Darwin: Algae Findings Surprise Scientists by Marlene Cimons.

    I think this is a prime example of how a sensationalist journalist (and apparently a sloppy scientifically illiterate one), can turn the information in a scientific report into misleading drivel!

  15. My name is Brad Cardinale, and this story is about my research. This story was written by a journalist who works for the U.S. National Science Foundation, and it has given me a lot of headaches over the past week. When this journalist first asked to talk with me about our work from the DIMENSIONS of Biodiversity program at NSF, I agreed, but made it abundantly clear that our research had nothing to do with Darwin’s theory of evolution. I warned that if we did indeed do a story, we needed to go out of our way to avoid any suggestion that our work contradicted the theory of evolution by natural selection, specifically to avoid the potential for distortion and misuse by creation ‘scientists’.

    To my dismay, there were editorial changes made in the final version – including the caption ‘Doubting Darwin’ – that I did not approve of and, in fact, am furious about. It was an irresponsible piece of reporting that used sensationalist headlines to capture attention.

    While this story did, unfortunately, give fodder to creationists … the two small glasses of lemonade made in the whole thing are (a) it represents another clear case of distortion and misrepresentation of science by creationists who pull their arguments from headlines without understanding the science, and (b) it has provided me with a case study to teach my students and postdocs of potential pitfalls of working with reporters, and to give them ideas of how to do better than I did. Small consolations, I know.

    So sorry for the confusion and misrepresentation this has caused. Incidentally, if you want to express your views to the author of the article (Marlene Cimons), the contact information can be found here

    http://www.nsf.gov/mobile/staff/staff_bio.jsp?lan=mcimons&org=OLPA&from_org=

    Sincerely,
    Brad

    • In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

      My name is Brad Cardinale, and this story is about my research. This story was written by a journalist who works for the U.S. National Science Foundation, and it has given me a lot of headaches over the past week. When this journalist first asked to talk with me about our work from the DIMENSIONS…

      Thanks for clarifying that. I imagine it must be kind of discouraging, you do some interesting innovative research and it ends up getting reported in such a distorted manner.

      I was thinking if Trivers hadn’t already discovered reciprocal altruism and someone discovered it today there would probably be banner headlines along the lines of “Harvard Biologist Proves Darwin/Dawkins Wrong! Nice guys can finish first! Unselfish genes can flourish!”

    • In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

      My name is Brad Cardinale, and this story is about my research. This story was written by a journalist who works for the U.S. National Science Foundation, and it has given me a lot of headaches over the past week.

      You have my sympathy – as creationists will read the misleading headlines and then perversely attribute their beloved “refutation of Darwin” to you as a badge of “scientific authority”.

      As you will have already noticed on this thread, garbage-grade pseudo-science journalists get short shrift on this site!

      I hope your students can benefit from analysing the psychology of media sensationalist perversity!

    • Brad,
      Thanks for weighing in and giving our discussion some gravitas. While you are correct about the “two glasses of lemonade” that this amounts to (and I love the turn of phrase), I’d like to ask a person on the front lines of this: How is this hijacking combatted?

      What is your take on how not to get hoodwinked? Could you offer some insight as to pitfalls and perhaps get some positive word out regarding your experience?

      BTW, i do like the research and wish you luck (and grant renewals) in your future.

      —crooked

      In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

      My name is Brad Cardinale, and this story is about my research. This story was written by a journalist who works for the U.S. National Science Foundation, and it has given me a lot of headaches over the past week. When this journalist first asked to talk with me about our work from the DIMENSIONS…

    • In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

      My name is Brad Cardinale, and this story is about my research. This story was written by a journalist who works for the U.S. National Science Foundation, and it has given me a lot of headaches over the past week. When this journalist first asked to talk with me about our work from the DIMENSIONS…

      Bradleyjcardinale,

      I’m sure all our sympathies are with you, mine certainly are. I can imagine the frustration you must be feeling. Thank you for weighing in and sharing the experience.

  16. In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

    A sobering lesson, Brad.

    Perhaps we need a team of scientist headline and juicy quote generators? Some researcher is about to go public in the popular press and can email the group for ideas. Journalists are under time pressure and will take good material to use straight if offered it. Their career and that of their sub editor, more than ever, is driven by clicks. Poor dears, they can’t help themselves.

    So-

    Darwin’s Theory-1, Darwin’s Hypothesis -0.

    Darwin. Sometimes common sense isn’t the answer.

    Darwin’s Hypothesis Clunks.

    like that but good…

    EDIT. I wanted to express my displeasure but your link seems incomplete.

    • In reply to #30 by phil rimmer:

      In reply to #28 by bradleyjcardinale:

      EDIT. I wanted to express my displeasure but your link seems incomplete.

      Where the link seems to be in italics, it’s probably because Mr Cardinale intended to put a “_” where it stops and starts, but this site’s commenting system interprets that as italics, so just edit that when you put the address in.

      • In reply to #32 by Zeuglodon:

        EDIT. I wanted to express my displeasure but your link seems incomplete.

        Thanks, Zeug. Their search engine found the senior writer in question quick enough. She is-

        mcimons@nsf.gov

        I must think a little to compose something civilised but suitably emphatic.

  17. In reply to #38 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #36 by ColdThinker:

    I don’t think the differences in costs are particularly major, yet the tabloids’ circulation – and these are newspapers that hit you over the head with their partisanship, cheapness, and gossip-mongering, mind you – the circulation outdoes the broadsheets’ several times over.

    Ok, that’s a good argument. British tabloids a world famous for their trashy gossip, so it might be a bit worse in the UK than here. It may be that the majority of the public has for so long been inundated with the cheap gossip trash, that they have lost the need for reliable news to base their life decisions on. And since the worst gossip tabloids keep lowering the bar, perhaps the other newspapers don’t feel the need to cross the low bar by as wide a margin as they should.

    This is where the costs become an issue: the reporter is given a deadline, certain amount of hours to complete the assignment. She can make the story truthful with no distortions, or she can make the story hot and dramatic, or she can try to accomplish both at the same time. Needless to say, that last combination takes more time and effort. Short of the necessary time, the reporter is pressured to prefer the dramatic at the cost of factuality. (I myself work in fiction, paid to go for the dramatic. But I put in countless of hours with no extra pay just to check the facts and then mix them in without losing the dramatic effect. I hate to see reporters and journalists failing to do the same, even more so because things like facts and truthfulness actually are their business, not mine.)

    Here in Finland the gossip and trash papers do have a large readership, but the respectable newspapers are able to compete quite well even in terms of circulation. The people really do want to read news they can trust, it seems. And even though the numbers tell that the gossip trash is apparently popular, most people wouldn’t dare to read the gossip trash in public, it would be frowned upon just like reading a porn magazine.

    And since the newspapers receive tax funded support, they are to bound by ethical guidelines lest they lose it. That’s why I consider it my right to demand the reporters of the respectable news to make an extra effort to avoid distortion of the facts, even if a bad headline might not be an instant human rights offense. It’s kind of like school meals or even running a responsible restaurant — you’re not supposed to feed people the greasy chips you think they want for instant gratification, but to make an effort to offer them the rich, palatable and healthy diet they need for sustainable contentment.

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