Gregor Mendel

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Mon Oct 25 10:26:34 EST 1999


At 9:43 AM -0500 10/25/99, Julia Frugoli wrote:
>Ross wrote about Mendel:
>(SNIP)
>>In our litigious society perhaps he would be
>>brought up on Ethics charges...but when you
>>realize that the idea of genes, DNA, both male
>>and female contribution to genetics, cytogenetics,
>>diploidy, and so on were not even known...well
>>his work is just fantastic!
>(SNIP)
---snip---
>Finally, I want to point out that Mendel didn't publish the results that
>didn't fit his hypothesis, which is a different ethical question than
>fitting data to the hypothesis, although I use it as a subset of the
>question when I work with case studies.  I think it's legitimate to hold
>back data one can't explain yet. If we wait until we understand it all to
>publish, science would grind to a halt.  I offer this little digression only
>as food for thought.

Hi Julie!

Indeed there is a big difference between creating
data that do not exist (not telling the truth) and
not publishing data that do not agree with your
developing hypothesis (not telling the whole truth).

However, I'm not really OK with either one from an
ethical point of view. In fact, the holding back
of information DOES grind science to a halt.  But
today we have annual meetings of ASPP and so on
that help. When we meet and discuss those data that
fail to fit is when we advance science. Putting all
of us onto the task brings new perspectives to the
work and allows us to proceed.  From a certain point
of view, Mendel held us all back from understanding
because of the interesting exceptions. It took us
decades later to uncover linkage and understand it...
for example. Mendel never got that idea of linked
traits but a colleague MIGHT have...that's what I mean.

Of course it can be argued that Mendel had no contemporary
peer to discuss these data intelligently...scientists didn't
understand the cases that WORKED, let alone the exceptions.
It might have led to the traits alone not being particulate,
but rather groups of traits as particulate. Then we could
have credited the work with discovery of chromosomes as well
as genes.

If you recall Watson and Crick's parting comment on
replication, perhaps Mendel might have written a similar
cryptic/revealing statement.

So, what I'm saying is that NO, you shouldn't have to wait
for everything to be clear before publishing, but I think
the cases that fail are the ones that bring us to NEW
understanding and extend science. When these "leads" are
hidden, the field is held back...science halts (or is slowed).

ross


________________________________________________________________
Ross Koning                 | koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479
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