Friday links: Richard Lewontin 1929-2021, and more

Also this week: an admirable retraction in ecology, EDI action plan from Canadian federal research funding agencies, and more.

From Jeremy:

Sad news: Richard Lewontin passed away on July 4. He was 92. Lewontin was a giant of both theoretical and empirical population genetics. In the early 1960s, along with Ken-Ichi Kojima, Lewontin developed the first models of selection at two loci, and coined the term “linkage disequilibrium”. On the empirical side, in 1966 Lewontin and Jack Hubby used gel electrophoresis to document massive polymorphism at dozens of loci in fruit flies. Explaining so much genetic variation was a challenge for population genetic theory at the time. It’s no understatement to say that Lewontin’s theoretical and empirical work set the agenda for an entire generation of population genetics research. Lewontin also became a prominent public intellectual, critiquing evolutionary biology and its broader implications. He co-authored the famous “Spandrels of San Marco” paper with Stephen Jay Gould, surely one of the most influential papers in 20th century science not to contain any data, statistics, or mathematical models. He co-authored the 1984 book Not In Our Genes, a much-discussed critique of sociobiology. He taught or collaborated with numerous other influential evolutionary biologists and philosophers, including but not limited to Martin Kreitman, Richard Levins, Elliott Sober, Elizabeth Lloyd, and Robert Brandon. And he and Richard Levins coauthored The Dialectical Biologist, which is one of those books that wasn’t widely read (was it?), but had a big influence on anyone who read it. I was fortunate to meet Richard Lewontin once, as a graduate student. He came to my university to give a public lecture. We had an interesting conversation about the levels of selection, a topic I was very into at the time. He said he’d changed his views on the topic, and the matter-of-fact way he said it stuck with me.

An admirable retraction in ecology: Manzanedo et al. 2020 Nat Ecol Evol has been retracted by all authors because of a coding error, the correction of which changes the results. Kudos to the authors for doing the right thing as soon as the error was discovered, and for writing such a detailed retraction notice. The associated News & Views piece has also been retracted. See related old posts from Brian and Meghan.

On the joys of learning a special-purpose programming language like R.

The Tri-council federal agencies that fund most Canadian scientific research have launched an EDI action plan.

Ecological Applications has a special feature on diversity of ecologists. Looking forward to having a closer look.

Zeynep Tufekci ably critiques media reporting, and social media commentary, on the origin of the coronavirus. I’m guessing that I probably read the same media sources as many of you. I learned some things from the linked piece, and so I bet you will too.

Stephen Heard blatantly rips me off graciously gives me way too much credit for inspiring his new “Music Monday” posts.

And finally, my best friend introduced me to Shonen Knife back in college. I am happy to report that Shonen Knife has still got it:

Beat that, Stephen. 🙂

Have a good weekend. 🙂

1 thought on “Friday links: Richard Lewontin 1929-2021, and more

  1. Thanks Jeremy. I am currently reading “Think Again” by Adam Grant. It highlights a pattern in big thinkers not being married to their ideas: their trait of partitioning their identity from their ideas, and their trait* of changing their views/minds. Sounds like you witnessed that in Lewontin, one of the greatest thinkers in biology! And interesting that it impressed you.

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