Joined: Aug. 2005
|Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 05 2012,03:16)|
|Back when John A. Davison was proving himself incapable of following topicality in comments on PT, the group was moving toward a ban. My position was that we ought to continue to allow him comment privilege in some form. I suggested giving him his own thread. Davison's general incompetence with things to do with the Internet apparently prevented him from understanding that even when his thread no longer appeared in the blog's first page of results, it was still just as accessible and available for adding comments as ever. Davison's raging rant when it rolled off the PT front page earned him a ban from another PT'er. (Once banned, though, I did enforce that policy at PT and ATBC.)|
The sentence in the obituary extolling Davison as a seeker of truth is a fitting bit of irony for the situation. There is the matter of Davison's continued (and now life-long) error in taking me to be the architect of his banning at PT. Davison didn't ask about it, he just made an assumption and went hog wild with it. So far as I can tell, Davison's standout characteristic was an unyielding advocacy for his intellectual precommitments, however unsupported by evidence they might have been. Is that near enough to seeking truth to count? I don't think so.
This is what I had to say about Davison's "manifesto" back in 2000.
It is commonly held that speciation processes are largely, if not totally, independent of natural selection. In this Davison is simply part of the crowd. I recently heard a talk given by Kurt Benirschke which attributed most speciational changes in mammals to chromosomal fusion events. So, when properly delimited, saying that much of the speciation we see in mammals (or perhaps even vertebrate animals) is due to some sort of chromosomal rearrangement is plausible, since that is what the karyotype data seems to show.
In looking at Davison's "manifesto", I personally found some reasons for concern about the validity of various points. Since I have long heard similar claims about chromosomal rearrangement and speciation, the claimed novelty of Davison's hypothesis seems more hype than substance. There seems to be a lot of textual interpretation within the work which purports significance in the real world. Quotations seem to be treated much as "proof-texts" are in apologetics. Many of his claims about what "Darwinism" must entail are arguable, and some are simply wrong. I think that in Davison's particular case, he might hold a correct position with regard to speciation events being often due to chromosomal rearrangement without having grounded his other corollaries in much besides his personal prejudices, buttressed with some quotes from others having congruent prejudices.
In general, when evaluating non-mainstream claims, it is good to keep one's skepticism sharp. The taint of self-aggrandizement is a clue that should not be overlooked. Something of a field guide for such behavior in physics can be applied with a few changes to biological topics.
Unfortunately, there's never been cause to revise that assessment in the time since then.
I don't read the bathroom wall that often and commented in the last JAD thread I could find. A bit hard on John's lack of internet savvy, Wesley. I found that one of his most endearing traits. Can't argue with your very fair assessment of his "manifesto".