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November 12, 2017

A Consensus of Clowns

Mr. James Graham has had no formal training in and possesses no credentials in Biology. Nor has he been trained in or possess credentials in any other science. We who have actually acquired advanced scientific education and who possess the relevant credentials therefore can, with impunity, ignore the
fact that solely through the application of evolutionary logic he predicted the discovery of cancer-triggering mechanisms—oncogenes—in all normal somatic cells of all Bilaterian animals. He did that in draft papers sent to numerous biologists and to journals (including, in 1979, Evolution) years before such genes were discovered. (1)

We can also ignore another fact, that a 2018 search [sleep + "immune system"] at Google Scholar, which was launched in 2004, yields several links which are strongly supportive of the assertion made in his 1992 book Cancer Selection that sleep performs an anti-cancer function and that "Future discoveries of increased immune activity ... during sleep would support [this idea]."

Neither should we notice how intriguing is his observation that pediatric cancers, in contrast to those occurring in adult humans, most often originate at sites that have undergone recent evolutionary modification. (2)

Although Graham has had no medical training he learned enough about cancer to construct a plausible theory synthesizing that disease with the evolution of complex animals; his peer-reviewed 1983 Letter is even entitled Cancer and Evolution: Synthesis. But we genuine scientists need not engage in any such self-education. Cancer is obviously a medical matter and since it is not mentioned in our textbooks or discussed at our conferences we need not give serious thought to his proposition.

It is also with considerable relief that, thanks to his lack of credentials, we have no need to venture from the Biology silo and familiarize ourselves with concepts (none of them mentioned in our textbooks) that he imports from disciplines associated with the human-controlled manufacture of modern airplanes and other ultra-complex end-products; we can ignore his arguments for the essentiality in the evolution of complex Bilaterians of "quality control," "learning curves," "feedback loops." and "fail-safe mechanisms." We can, in other words, ignore his view that the historical fact of Bilaterian evolution implies the existence, throughout evolutionary time, of a highly-efficient comprehensive system that ensured the "perfect" construction of all the actual ancestral specimens.  

Because he lacks credentials a few of us who deigned to read what he wrote, revised⸻ substantivelyhis published theory and then dismissed it (the revised version) as an irrelevancy. For example, although he makes clear in the opening sentences of his 1983 Letter that his theory states that defenses against lethal cancer in developing animals were essential to the origin and evolution of complex animals, one scientist announced to a group of students that any such juvenile cancer deaths were merely expressions of "stabilizing selection." No heavily-credentialed scientist would dare revise the central core of a theory published by one of his similarly-festooned colleagues, but we are, after all, dealing with a Mister Graham. 

With few exceptions all of us are currently employed in what might be called "Biology Inc." Why would we jeopardize our position in that communal enterprise by seriously considering a claim from a rank outsider that our central theory is fundamentally unsound?

Our theory says all complex animals, including humans, came to exist as a result of the same evolutionary mechanisms that produced jellyfish, pine trees, mushrooms and all other colonial multicells. We claim there was never a need for a quality-assuring feedback loop between the somatic cells of developing Bilaterians and their controlling gene pools. And since Mister Graham is the only person claiming that our theory of Bilaterian evolution is a failure—he says that since it cannot explain the unbroken chains of "perfect" construction of ancestral specimens it cannot explain the existence of a single complex animal—we shall continue to teach it to future generations of real scientists. (3)


1. Although it earned a Nobel Prize for Bishop and Varmus, the evolutionary community viewed the discovery of cancer triggers (oncogenes) in all normal Bilaterian cells as not worthy of interest. In the years since their discovery, oncogenes have not, to my knowledge, been mentioned in any papers published by professional evolutionists.

2. I do not claim priority for noting that most pediatric cancers originate at sites subject to recent evolutionary revision, but perhaps I may have been the first. If others had made that connection earlier no relevant publications have come to my attention.

3. In 2016 I submitted to a journal a brief paper which was a succinct version of the argument made in this 2012 posting. As required by that journal I provided the names and contact information for six credentialed scientists (all with doctorates) who had agreed to act as potential reviewers of the paper they had read in draft form. Five of those scientists had cited my publications in their own papers. The journal's editor(s?) decided not to not ask any of the six to review it. Instead it was sent to an anonymous reviewer who decided it was his/her job to review not the submitted paper but the peer-reviewed theory published in the 1980s in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. Although that reviewer's comments clearly show that he/she had a severe reading comprehension problem regarding the central argument in the submission, the journal nonetheless based its rejection on them. 

Further reading:

Richard Dawkins Climbs Mount Impossible

At this site you will find links to additional material including my original Letters to the Journal of Theoretical Biology and the 1992 Nature review of my book.

Copyright © 2017 by James Graham

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