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October 30, 2015

My Correspondence with Thomas S. Kuhn

In January 1990 I wrote to Thomas S. Kuhn about the nearly-complete manuscript of my book. In his own classic work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Professor Kuhn had made a number of points that led me to think he might find in my work-in-progress some points that coincided with his own views. 

October 27, 2015

Cephalopod Secrets

In the years prior to achieving publication of my theory I sent copies of my latest draft to individual scientists in the hope that they might offer encouragement or useful criticism. Mostly I contacted evolutionary biologists, but occasionally I sent the draft to cancer researchers.

In 1978 or 1979 a well-known cancer scientist responded to my latest version by cautioning me about my assertion that the immune system of vertebrates was capable of killing cancer cells; he said it wasn't clear that immune systems could do that. 

October 19, 2015

Strong Science, Weak Logic.

Recently a team of researchers investigating the relatively low rate of cancer experienced by African elephants discovered that the elephants possessed multiple copies of gene P53.

This finding has received well-deserved publicity here, here and elsewhere. Unfortunately, in one of those articles a co-author of the JAMA paper was quoted as saying "By all logical reasoning, elephants should be developing a tremendous amount of cancer, and in fact, should be extinct by now due to such a high risk for cancer ..." Although he goes on to say that of course elephants didn't all die of cancer because they have powerful defenses against it, this scientist is repeating the faulty logic underlying "Peto's Paradox" which has led to attempts (here, here and here) to "solve" what some perceive to be a puzzling mystery. 

September 14, 2015

Re-posted: Speeding Neutrinos, Cold Fusion ... and Cancer Triggers?

In my opinion, two major scientific discoveries that ought to have astounded evolutionary theorists but were ignored by them were Bruce Ames's findings that all mutagens are carcinogens and the discovery by Bishop and Varmus of oncogenes in normal Bilaterian cells. I will  soon post an essay on the Ames discovery and I re-post here from 2012 my thoughts on the oncogene findings.

Earlier this year I submitted a little essay to The New York Times for consideration by their Op-Ed editor. When The Times didn't accept it I sent it to the Science Editor of The Guardian who also declined. Although the matter of hyper-fast neutrinos was subsequently resolved (the neutrinos were disqualified) my point remains valid: the discovery of cellular oncogenes ought to have shocked the evolutionary biology community, compelling at least a few of them to take a hard look at their theory. 

The following is that essay. It's been slightly edited, mainly to include relevant links. 

September 4, 2015

Free Ebook Now Available

A complete ebook version of my 1992 book Cancer Selection is now available for downloading here.

This was originally published in a hardback trade book edition aimed at the general reading population.  

August 25, 2015

Pediatric Cancers: Their Evolutionary Significance

The idea that selected changes in Bilaterian's bodies would cause an increase in juvenile cancer rates has been part of my theory from its inception; it was clearly expressed in the 1984 Journal of Theoretical Biology Letter as it was in manuscripts submitted to other journals as early as 1979.   

Here is a relevant paragraph from the 1984 Letter: 

Adaptive pro-oncogenes are those that imparted some survival benefit to the germ line in spite of a likely increase in juvenile deaths from cancer fol­lowing their selection.  Increased somatic complexi­ty, greater body size, ex­tended pre-reproductive life and migration to more mutagenic habitats occurred in so many Bilaterian lineages that they can be confi­dently judged to have been adaptive.  It is, however, most probable that selection of such characters was followed by increases in the incidence of somatic mutational events in juve­niles and resulted in in­creased losses of genetic material to cancer.

June 26, 2015

On The Cambrian Explosion

This definition from Wikipedia will suffice: The Cambrian explosion, or less commonly Cambrian radiation, was the relatively short evolutionary event, beginning around 542 million years ago in the Cambrian Period, during which most major animal phyla appeared, as indicated by the fossil record.

What caused this sudden emergence of complex animals, the origin of the first Bilaterians?

April 20, 2015

Feedback Loops, One-Eyed Thinking and Turbo-Charged Selection

Put on your thinking caps!

That's an idiomatic expression used by American schoolteachers to encourage children to give careful consideration to a particular problem.

Feedback Loops 

The standard version of the Neo-Darwinian theory of Bilaterian evolution assertsimplicitly but emphaticallythat  during the ~550 million years of Bilaterian history there was no need for a  feedback loop connecting the smallest components of the developing animals—the individual somatic cells—to the entities controlling the production of those cells—the evolving gene pools. My proposed major additive amendment to that theory asserts, to the contrary, that because of the spectacular complexity found throughout the Bilateria and the exquisite precision of cellular construction evident during development of all individual specimens, a theory pretending to explain their existence demands it. I have concluded that such a feedback loop has existed since the origin of the Ur-Bilaterians and that it has played a critical, central role throughout evolutionary time. 

Feedback was initiated by lethal juvenile cancer, a process that began in a single somatic cell, a cell that had been imperfectly developed. We can assert that the pre-malignant cellat a point in time concurrent with (or immediately prior to) its transformation to the cancerous statewas always maldeveloped; carcinogens are mutagens and mutagens are carcinogens. (1) Cancer never begins in perfectly-formed cells.

February 23, 2015

A Prohibited Animal

According to Karl R. Popper, in comparing two competing theories, the one that forbids more occurrences in the natural world—that lists more possible refutations—is superior to one that forbids fewer. (1)

In Chapter Thirteen of Cancer Selection I describe three separate and distinct refutations of my proposed fundamental amendment to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. In one refutation I describe an imaginary animal, one that possesses a constellation of particular characteristics, each one of which can be found in abundance in Nature, and assert that such an animal cannot exist; find one forbidden specimen and my theory is refuted.