What follows is a re-posting of my initial (July 2009) entry to this blog. In it I suggest that perhaps scientists who fail to "see" cancer's role in Bilaterian evolution are emulating a woman who didn't approve of my airplane reading.
This happened in the late 1970s or maybe in the early 1980s. I was returning to New York from a European business trip on a wide-body jet. As was my habit, I had a book with me and once we were airborne, I started to read it, a Penguin trade paperback entitled Evolution, its author, John Maynard Smith.
In due course a meal was served and I placed the book in the pocket in front of me.
“I see you’re reading that book on evolution.”
It was the woman to my left. A fellow American, a dignified lady of a certain age who had the appearance and manner of someone who had the time (widow?) and money (life insurance proceeds?) to travel the world at her leisure and who spent her time and her money doing exactly that.
I glanced at her and saw from the unsmiling tightness of her mouth that this was not a pleasant query. Oh oh, I thought. Here it comes.
“So, do you believe in it? In evolution?”
To have given a complete—and completely honest—answer I would have replied, Yes, I’m absolutely convinced that evolution did happen but the accepted theory fails to explain the existence of complex animals. It has a fatal flaw, but—not to worry—I’ve figured out how to fix it. Instead, I took the easy way out and, nodding my head and mumbling, let her know that I found it quite convincing but (the primary function of mumbling?) didn’t care to talk about it.
My fellow passenger then delivered what I am sure she considered the final word on the matter, a triumphant conclusion to our brief conversation.