SIC- Prompt #2 on Lewontin
The qualitative R.C. Lewontin has surely done quantitative chemistry. The non-linear R.C. Lewontin has surely reasoned in a cause-effect way in his lifetime. The observant R.C. Lewton has surely glossed over a few calculations for a smoother result. All scientists have at some point. What Lewontin argues is that modern science has gone bad; the once nutritious tomato has gone rotten, and we all are pursuing gene sequencing and other wasteful enterprises. He also posits that science is a social act at its root, and that the public cannot understand this ancient, simple act of defining nature that is science because of the complicated verbiage. Parts of what he says may have merit, but a lot of what Lewontin says in Biology As Ideology is misleading. Through a simple glance at a genetics paper taken from a journal on nature, a conclusion opposite and compelling against Lewontin’s can be drawn: science must break the world into parts, and those parts currently used in the world, genes or otherwise, are very useful to understanding the whole.
Yes, Lewontin has merit in a few statements he writes. Lewontin demands a “scientific understanding in which everyone can share,” a feat worthy of accomplishment (Lewontin 16). However, to make the masses understand science, the complexity and depth of understanding must be greatly reduced. No longer will one know a chemical, organism, or protein by name or shape, but instead everything becomes generalized and represented in shapes on a power point. Understanding in science should be universal, that is clear, but the way that is implemented will cause problems.
Lewontin is strongly against seeing the world as an, “indissoluble whole that we murder to dissect,” which is a gruesome way to put modern science. This is a cry against breaking down the holistic world into parts and studying the parts as a description of the whole. yes, Lewontin also sees the, “holistic view of the world [as] unreasonable,” but only spends a paragraph on that topic while a large portion of the book thus far is spent dissuading the reader that chasing the meaning of all the little parts that make up a whole is disillusionment (Lewontin 15). Lewontin clearly believes modern science to be focussing too much on the parts and not the whole. He desires a happy medium. But, as any reader could do, when another scientific paper of the modern world is put under Lewontin’s scrutiny, it successfully breaks down the whole into parts, and pulls forth a conclusion from them eloquently.
The paper titled, “The tomato genome sequence provides insights into fleshy fruit evolution” came from a simple web search of articles in the journal “Nature”. It has informational graphs and gene explanations of the tomato plant. It is a mere seven pages long, but through the breakdown of the genes in a tomato plant genome, it successfully understands how tomatoes of different types respond to pathogens. “A total of 18,320 clearly orthologous tomato–potato gene pairs were identified,’ and these gene pairs were then used in growth experiments over time to determine which genotype produced the best phenotype of tomato that was resistant to pathogens (Tao 1). This helps tomato farmers because they now know which tomato genotypes to use to prevent crop loss. Lewontin may be right, the paper is quite complicated and calculations and chemicals litter its text, but it does its job, it produces understanding through breakdown of parts. The tomato is made of cells, which are made from DNA and cell replication, which is made from more DNA. The researchers have successfully analysed the parts and come to a conclusion.This is a concrete example of the work modern science is able to do, and the understanding it can produce.
This paper refutes what Lewontin argues because it works under assumptions that cannot be attacked if science is to exist. These assumptions mainly include that in order for scientific knowledge to be acquired, special tasks, words, substances, and conditions must be observed. Lewontin attacks that these specialties help science at all, yet almost all drugs or advancements have worked under these conditions or specialties. What Lewontin means when he attacks these assumptions is that he wants a new system of scientific method, one understandable and more universal to the items of the world being studied, not their parts. This is impossible because science cannot deal with the world universally with all its parts thrown together, even Lewontin knows that. This nonconformity is hypocritical though, as Lewontin has thought in the ways he ridicules and has become famous for publishing papers (as every scientist does to become notable) with complicated language that break down nature into parts. Science must systematically analyse the parts of nature to prove anything, as seen in the tomato paper. Conclusions of the whole can only be drawn from the study of the parts in a whole, a truth Lewontin wrongly refutes.
Lewontin, Richard C. Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA. 1st ed. Vol. 1. New York, NY: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.
Tao Lin, Guangtao Zhu, Junhong Zhang, Xiangyang Xu, Qinghui Yu, Zheng Zheng, Zhonghua Zhang, Yaoyao Lun, Shuai Li, Xiaoxuan Wang, Zejun Huang, Junming Li, Chunzhi Zhang, Taotao Wang, Yuyang Zhang, Aoxue Wang, Yancong Zhang, Kui Lin, Chuanyou Li, Guosheng Xiong, Yongbiao Xue, Andrea Mazzucato, Mathilde Causse, Zhangjun Fei, James J Giovannoni, Roger T Chetelat, Dani Zamir, Thomas Städler, Jingfu Li, Zhibiao Ye, Yongchen Du, Sanwen Huang.Genomic analyses provide insights into the history of tomato breeding.Nature Genetics, 2014; doi:10.1038/nature11119