Do Monarchs need Mexican forests?

Patrick Foley patfoley at
Fri Apr 19 12:00:50 EDT 2002

We are debating the accuracy of Lincoln Brower's science, and that is a good thing. In
science we treasure our anomalies for they point to new understanding. I am happy to read
Paul Cherubini's observations that cast Brower's ideas into doubt. But I am not happy to
hear Paul attack the honesty or scientific integrity of anyone, unless Paul knows
something we do not know about Brower's methods and his personality. Brower could be
wrong without being dishonest, just as Paul could be right without having done the
caredul research Brower evidently does. I do not know Brower or Cherubini personally, but
I see carefully researched literature from Brower and nasty attacks based on anecdotes
from Paul. I would rather not have my science biased by this stylistic discord.

I disagree with many scientists over matters of science and have made these disagreements
clear in papers and in classrooms. Ernst Mayr is too quick to dismiss parapatric
speciation. Stephen Jay Gould puts too much emphasis on speciation as the provider of new
genetic variability. Several authors including MacArthur and Wilson overemphasize
demographic stochasticity compared to environmental stochasticty as a cause of
extinction. Ian Franklin's magic number Ne = 500 is utterly dumb as a threshold for
populations capable of evolutionary adaptation. Andrewartha and Birch are wrong to think
that density dependence does not (in the end) regulate population growth.

I give these examples not to suggest that scientists are scurrilous fools, but to suggest
that most scientific theories, like most species, are doomed to extinction. I respect the
work of Brower, Mayr, Gould, MacArthur and Wilson, Andrewartha and Birch. They are
heroes. They make mistakes, and need to be called on them. But until you publish
scientific evidence against their ideas, or until you can show that they are under
Satanic influence, why not treat them with some measure of respect for the hard work they
do and the wonderful if flawed science they have helped to produce?

Patrick Foley
patfoley at


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