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A Note on the Decisive “Proof” for Use of “Dance Language” Information

[1992 Rosin, R. A note on the decisive "proof" for use of "dance language" information. American Bee Journal. 132:428-29.]

The best known and presumably decisive proof for use of “dance language” information by honey bee potential-recruits, albeit restricted to v. Frisch’s conditions vs. Wenner’s, was provided by Gould and published in 1974-75. The following year Gould published a review of the whole “dance language” controversy as an already closed case. Everyone, except a handful of staunch opponents of the “dance language” hypothesis, accepted Gould’s resolution of the controversy as final; which made it very difficult to publish any critique of Gould’s “proof”. Nonetheless, as I showed in Amer. Bee J., Gould managed to inadvertently prove exactly the reverse of what he claimed (Rosin 1988a), and to inadvertently concede that the usefulness of honey bee dances and dance-at-tendance could not possibly have anything to do with “dance language” information (Rosin 1988b). This does not hinder many from still believing that Gould had resolved the “dance language” controversy once and for all; which is why I would like to add a few more comments on his “proof”.

Gould used a forager-station with foragers providing misleading “dance language” information, which invariably indicated one station or another in an array of stations far away from the forager-station to one side of it. His published results show a maximum of new-arrivals at the “dance language” station, and the maximum appropriately shifts to the new “dance language” station whenever Gould actively changes nothing during actual tests except “dance language” information. This seems very impressive, until one realizes that the choice of array-stations to serve as dance language stations was not random and most of the results are unreported.

However, even if we ignore all that, Gould’s published results under v. Frisch’s conditions still grossly contradict the “dance language” hypothesis primarily because of a considerable proportion of new-arrivals at the forager-station, where users of Gould’s misleading information were not expected at all. Gould claims that those new-arrivals were users of odor alone, which is undoubtedly correct. Combined with his claim that his new-arrivals at the array used “dance language” information it, however, leads to the conclusion that users of odor alone arrive at the forager-station only. This claim is at best a neither experimentally confirmed, nor tested, secondary hypothesis.

Even if we ignore that, his published distributions of new-arrivals under v. Frisch’s conditions at the array alone still grossly contradict the “dance language” hypothesis, primarily because the scatter of new-arrivals is far too great for the expectations from the errors inherent in “dance language” information. Gould claims that the too wide scatter is due to additional errors contributed by potential-recruits themselves. The claim is adopted by Gould from v. Frisch, but never tested by either of them. It is, therefore, another never confirmed, or even tested, secondary hypothesis. Gould’s presumed proof for the “dance language” hypothesis is, thus, based on at least two other hypotheses which are at best never confirmed, nor tested. (The truth of the matter is that the first of these two hypotheses had already failed an inadvertent test in an earlier study published by Gould and his colleagues in 1970 but we shall ignore that.)

When the “dance language” hypothesis was first published by v. Frisch in 1946 it was naturally considered highly revolutionary. However, very soon almost everyone came to believe that v. Frisch had provided quite convincing proofs for his “dance language” hypothesis. Gould concedes quite correctly (though not always for the right reasons) that all earlier “proofs” were not valid. (This, incidentally, applies also to all the “proofs” available in 1973, when v. Frisch was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery and deciphering of the honey bee “dance language”; but we shall ignore that.) Gould’s concession, therefore, demotes the “dance language” hypothesis back to its original status of a highly revolutionary hypothesis with the added wisdom gleaned from practice, that all earlier attempts to prove the hypothesis had already failed. In no way can anyone claim, as Gould did, to have provided a valid proof for any hypothesis, let alone for a highly revolutionary hypothesis, on the basis of other never proved, or even tested, hypotheses.

References

Rosin, R. 1988a. Do honey bees still have a “dance language”? Amer. Bee J. 128:267-268.

Rosin, R. 1988b. Questioning v. Frisch’s honey-bee dance language (response to a letter by Walls.) Amer. Bee J. 128:576-578.

R. Rosin
NY., N.Y.