For ethologists: Observation does not trump molecular biology

During the past few years, the moderator of the human-ethology group has repeatedly made assertions that observation of behavior is more important that either animal models of behavior or theories of behavior that are based on animal models.  Although most scientists probably do not share the opinion of Jay R. Feierman, the 70 year-old moderator, he nevertheless continues to assert that his approach is an accurate approach to the study of animal behavior. I have cited quotes from three of his statements in this regard, and provided links so that they can be viewed in context.

An observation trumps a model.


If you want to be a bio-behavioral scientist, rather than a philosopher, you need to accept one of the cardinal principles of science – observation. Observation trumps theory.

There is another principle in science that says, “observation trumps theory.”

I’m posting this information here to exemplify confused thoughts about the biological basis of animal behavior, including human behavior. Two new articles became available today that help to eliminate such confusion. They are significant to the concept of social selection as it is driven by olfactory/pheromonal input in other animals (my theory, which is not trumped by observation).

1. Social selection for the mother’s odor: Olfactory Marker Protein Is Critical for Functional Maturation of Olfactory Sensory Neurons and Development of Mother Preference. Anderson C. Lee, Jiwei He, and Minghong Ma J. Neurosci. 2011;31 2974-2982

2. An animal model of the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in social selection: Mushroom Body Output Neurons Encode Odor-Reward Associations. Martin Fritz Strube-Bloss, Martin Paul Nawrot, and Randolf Menzel J. Neurosci. 2011;31 3129-3140

As is typical given the fundamentals of molecular biology which are used in advancing theories that incorporate olfaction and pheromones, observation of the behaviors that are exhibited does not trump theory. I hope to eliminate the bias that Jay R. Feierman continues to incorporate via his moderation of a group in which I participate. So, I have asked him: “…what observation trumps the theory that adolescent male human preference for large-breasted women is based on olfactory/pheromonal conditioning of hormones associated with visual input?” Desmond Morris proposed a fleshy buttocks mimic theory based on his observation of similarities in the shape of the pendulous breasts and buttocks (e.g.,as observed during rear-entry copulations). Is that an example of observation trumps theory?

Obviously, I’ve incorporated some sarcasm into my question above. Sometimes, I just can’t seem to avoid being sarcastic, especially in cases where I think others are making ridiculous comments on topics they know nothing about. I’ll post Dr. Feierman’s answer, if I get one.

About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society