This is my reply to a post by Coturnix called The Hopeless Monster? Not so fast!First, the phylogeny of the discussion.Olivia Judson wrote this:The Monster Is Back, and It’s HopefulWhich was responded to here:Hopeless Monsters–A Guest Post from Dr. Jerry CoyneThat dyad of posts was passed around by Carl Zimmer, who asked for commentary. This is the set of posts of which I’m aware that resulted:Why wither Goldschmidt?Nature makes no leaps…Jerry Coyne smacks down Olivia JudsonCoyne is on the LoomMacromutations and Punctuated EquilibriaHopeful Monsters and Hopeful ModelsThen, we hav Coturnix’s metacommentary, here:The Hopeless Monster? Not so fast!So go read all of that and report back.
Back already?Good.In my view, Coturnix’s main point is that a range of evolutionary biologists, including geneticists, reacted to Judson’s post with vitriol and nastiness because she used a few key words that struck a negative cord with them. Coturnix even claims that Coyne’s response to Judson is more wrong than Judson’s initial commentary!Well, I completely agree with Coturnix. This reminds me a lot of something that happened to me recently, where words that I was using to make a point to the average initiated blog reader were used to launch a very nasty attack on me, that most onlookers saw as totally inappropriate, by various individuals who shall go unnamed (else they start whining at me again).I felt the same way as Coturnix about Coyne, but I pulled punches when speaking about it because I was feeling somewhat burned by recent experiences. Coyne was being an ass and stuck his foot in his mouth while doing so. This is what happens when geneticists try to deal with real life anatomy, I suppose. Well, at least he wasn’t staring at his navel.In the end, however, there is a larger question: What the hell are you’all talking about anyway? I find that the discussion of “hopeful monsters” and saltational evolution has not addressed the essential, fundamental question of adaptation. This may be because most of the people who are talking about it are not adaptationists, and the current trend in the blogosphere is to be anti-adaptationist (it seems to me). But this is a conversation about adaptations and how they arise, so this is something we should talk about.I’ve got a half-written post extending this topic in this direction that has been sitting open on my computer screen for about three days. Perhaps someday I’ll finish it and subject you all to it. Or, more to the point, I’ll post it and thus subject myself to the whining berating of the holier than thine. Well, bring it on, I say.Finally, thanks Coturnix for sticking up for not being a jerk.UPDATE: The discussion continues here: Evolution is not the change in allele frequencies?