At a dinner table at the meeting, I found myself seated with someone I’ll just call Dr. John Doe and Dick Blake, a professor of biochemistry at Maine. Dr. Doe was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and known as a mathematician. So I thought he would be interested in the fact that a mathematical model had simplified and corrected the mess with HLA.
Dr. Doe opened the conversation by asking me what I did. And I gladly gave an account of my model. He asked, “Did you use family studies?” I replied that I had not, and he said, “That was your mistake. You should have used family studies.” And he immediately turned to Dick and asked him about his work.
Dick is a smart scientist. He came from Princeton to Maine, in order to get his kids away from the drug culture in the town of Princeton. And it wasn’t very long before Dick had Dr. Doe in second place in this one-upmanship game Dr. Doe wanted to play. (Dick told me later, “That was easy.”)
I met Dick walking across the Maine campus sometime later, and he told me he had been to another meeting attended by Dr. Doe, who, he said, is “not interested in anything he hasn’t done himself”.
If I had been ready and inclined for a game of one-upmanship at the dinner table, I could have interrupted Dick’s answer to ask Dr. Doe if he had been involved with the creation of the standard model. If he had, and had used family studies, he would have been in the position of using those studies to get the model, and therefore incapable of using them to corroborate the model. Since I hadn’t used the studies, they would be available to me as corroborating evidence. And indeed that was the case. My model was in 100% agreement with all known family studies. And I would not have been able to resist asking, "Does your model have linkage disequilibrium (failure of statistical prediction)?"
Add "ego" to the list of investments that can distract people from pursuing the truth.
Return to my biomedical story.