Are introns just junk? (textbooks)

anthonyp at scripps.edu anthonyp at scripps.edu
Thu Nov 4 13:05:55 EST 1993


In article <1993Nov2.092727.17706 at ac.dal.ca>, <arlin at ac.dal.ca> writes:
> Xref: riscsm bionet.cellbiol:119 b

> Please allow me to add a little qualification to my previous 
statements: 
> writers of textbooks sometimes cannot present all sides in a debate, 
and
> so they pick the side they feel is most likely to correct.  Sometimes
> the relationship of data to theory gets over-simplified in an effort 
to
> persuade, or just to make a complex question more comprehensible.  
> 
> But this type of modification/simplification/distortion (call it what 
you 
> will) is not limited to textbooks.  
[   ]
> If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.  
> 
> Arlin

Arlin makes a good point here.  When trying to explain a complex point, 
any instructor or textbook auther must make a coherent presentation out 
of what are usually conflicting data sets.  I used to say of one of my 
professors in grad school that he presents a beautiful picture of the 
cell--considerably more beautiful than the facts can support.
I think the best one can hope is to make one's bias clear so that the 
student has some basis for criticism.

Quoting from the Preface of "Molecular Biology of the Cell" (Alberts et 
al.)  "But these unsolved problems provide much of the excitment...
Thus, rather than simply present disjointed facts in areas that are 
poorly understood, we have often ventured hypotheses for the reader to 
consider and, we hope, to criticize."

Having said that, there does seem to be some crony-ism in the way the 
hypotheses are selected for any particular unresolved area.
And, perhaps for those who don't read the preface, it should be made 
more clear in text where the areas of confusion are. 
I would suggest that people should not be so surprised that there are 
statements in textbooks that are biased, or just plain wrong.

-tony

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