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How should biologists engage with controversial mathematical theory?

Gadagkar, Raghavendra (2015) How should biologists engage with controversial mathematical theory? In: CURRENT SCIENCE, 108 (10). pp. 1869-1873.

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Official URL: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/108/10/186...


Mathematics is beautiful and precise and often necessary to understand complex biological phenomena. And yet biologists cannot always hope to fully understand the mathematical foundations of the theory they are using or testing. How then should biologists behave when mathematicians themselves are in dispute? Using the on-going controversy over Hamilton's rule as an example, I argue that biologists should be free to treat mathematical theory with a healthy dose of agnosticism. In doing so biologists should equip themselves with a disclaimer that publicly admits that they cannot entirely attest to the veracity of the mathematics underlying the theory they are using or testing. The disclaimer will only help if it is accompanied by three responsibilities - stay bipartisan in a dispute among mathematicians, stay vigilant and help expose dissent among mathematicians, and make the biology larger than the mathematics. I must emphasize that my goal here is not to take sides in the on-going dispute over the mathematical validity of Hamilton's rule, indeed my goal is to argue that we should refrain from taking sides.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copy right for this article belongs to the INDIAN ACAD SCIENCES, C V RAMAN AVENUE, SADASHIVANAGAR, P B #8005, BANGALORE 560 080, INDIA
Keywords: Hamilton's rule; inclusive fitness theory; kin selection; mathematical theory; scientific controversy
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Interdisciplinary Sciences > Centre for Contemporary Studies
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2015 09:40
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2015 09:40
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/51885

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