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Unsolicited Comments Regarding a Book (and Related Writings)

Anatomy of a Controversy: THE QUESTION OF A “LANGUAGE” AMONG BEES [Columbia Univ. Press] 1/11/92

Anthropologist – AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: “I have…been intensely interested in your splendid book (with Patrick Wells): Anatomy of a Controversy. Please accept my most sincere congratulations on a quite remarkable book.”

Physiologist – COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: “Congratulations to Dr. Wells and you on a fascinating, excellent book….Perhaps my only question is why was there a controversy? Basically I came away [feeling] that much of the work associated with dances of bees and the concept of a bee language represented very bad science in terms of experimental technique and thinking logically about the problem, the predictions and their testing against empirical observations.”

Bee Researcher – USDA-ARS, Tucson: “Very sorry to see the diatribe (your exalted gadfly status) in…Scientific American. My opinion of that magazine was just lowered a few notches. I was especially shocked to read the comment from Michener.”

Neurosurgeon – UNIVERSITY OF CINCINATTI: “I am…comforted that scientists such as yourself have the courage to confront the sociology of science so directly. Unlike many of my colleagues who appear to thrive on popular acceptance of their work, I find myself continually plagued by wanting to understand this awesome thing we call life.”

Ecologist – ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY: “I…must confess that I find your reasoning airtight….Hats off to you for 30 years of persistence.”

Psychologist – INDIANA UNIVERSITY: “Because I teach courses in the history of psychology I have…gained familiarity with many of the topics [you cover] that concern the history and philosophy of science….I hope we can meet some day to discuss some of these matters personally.”

Animal Behaviorist – THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: “[My] course emphasized critical evaluation of the literature. One of the assignments was to evaluate the…Gould et al. article. The students had no difficulty in finding a number of fallacies….I was then more than a little surprised to read Thorpe’s pronouncement…that these experiments were a final substantiation of the dance language hypothesis…”

Biologist – CLAREMONT COLLEGES: “I bought [your book] several months ago….I see the topic still raises hackles – something I’m sure that didn’t surprise you. That is why I view your book with Wells as a genuinely courageous act.”

Apiculturist – NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY: “My world will never be the same…All sorts of previously unexplainable occurrences fit into your hypothesis….The book is excellent….You are courageous to have not given up over these years…”

Electrical Engineer – LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY: “I am writing this letter inspired by your wonderful Anatomy of a Controversy. You have raised interesting questions about the scientific method and the politics of science….History of science is one of the areas that I work in, and your book is going to be extremely useful to me.”

Medical Humanist – UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: “I knew something of this controversy because my graduate work was in psycholinguistics and I have continued to follow a fair amount of research in animal behavior. I will order your book, which sounds great, and look forward to reading it….Your intellectual fortitude and moral courage are inspiring.”

Aquatic Biologist – VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE AND STATE UNIVERSITY: “I read your 1989 American Zoologist paper, as well as your new book….I thoroughly agree with your viewpoints, many of which I have been thinking about over the last few years….It is truly a good book for pointing out the severe problems of the dance-language paradigm. It is extremely discomforting to hear things can get so bad.”

Botanist – UNIVERSITY OF MAINE: “[My son] devoured your book while he was home at Christmas. I’ve now finished it as well and am preparing two lectures on hypothesis testing in my graduate marine ecology course….[He also] recently sent me a copy of the Seeley review in Nature….It’s incredible that they can’t let go – I never realized how ‘strong’ (cemented) a ‘Paradigm hold’ could be. It’s downright embarassing as a scientist to see other scientists, supposedly the elite of our society in terms of openmindedness, acting in such selfish and dogmatic ways.”

Entomologist – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS: “Once I read the reviews…I immediately checked your book out from the library and am working my way through it…..it provides a foundation for what I have felt ever since I became involved in the medfly controversy – there is more to it than medflies.”

Population Ecologist – STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, STONY BROOK: “After deliberately slow and careful reading, I am convinced that this book is enormously important for the education of graduate students, the intellectual retreading of ecologists and behavioral biologists, and for sociologists and philosophers of science.”

Biopsychologist – THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: “…I hope that one day I write something as important as you have written. I think Anatomy of a Controversy should be required reading for all graduate students and scientists. It also, I believe, should make scientists reevaluate the concept of anonymous (hence, unaccountable) referees.”

Marine Biologist – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ: “I’ve run into similar problems with some of my papers. We had a devil of a problem getting the enclosed ‘sex’ paper published, and although there have been lots of reprint requests…further response has been stoney silence or uninformed dismissal….We do indeed have strange colleagues.”

Entomologist – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE: “I have never before read such a thorough analysis and evaluation of a scientific subject as you folks have done [in Anatomy of a Controversy]. I regard it as a scholarly masterpiece and I think it should be ‘required reading’ for every graduate student and especially for those in biological sciences.”

Paleontologist – SAN DIEGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: “…the main purpose of this book definitely is not to reargue the bee language issue. Rather, it is a case study of how science is done, how ideas are promulgated in the scientific community, and how the acceptance or rejection of scientific ideas is very subjective….This book should be required reading by every student in science as well as [by] their teachers.”

Bee Researcher – USDA-ARS, Tucson: “It is really fascinating seeing and hearing how all of the bee researchers deal with the dance controversy. I think they are really threatened and thus close their minds….The dance is also viewed with a religious fervor by these people.”