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BIO 500 W2 Discussion Question One
BIO 500 W2 Discussion Question One
Compare a minimum of three statistical packages that are available to statisticians and/or students of statistics.
Biostatistical modeling forms an important part of numerous modern biological theories. Genetics studies, since its beginning, used statistical concepts to understand observed experimental results. Some genetics scientists even contributed with statistical advances with the development of methods and tools. Gregor Mendel started the genetics studies investigating genetics segregation patterns in families of peas and used statistics to explain the collected data. In the early 1900s, after the rediscovery of Mendel’s Mendelian inheritance work, there were gaps in understanding between genetics and evolutionary Darwinism. Francis Galton tried to expand Mendel’s discoveries with human data and proposed a different model with fractions of the heredity coming from each ancestral composing an infinite series. He called this the theory of “Law of Ancestral Heredity“.
His ideas were strongly disagreed by William Bateson, who followed Mendel’s conclusions, that genetic inheritance were exclusively from the parents, half from each of them. This led to a vigorous debate between the biometricians, who supported Galton’s ideas, as Walter Weldon, Arthur Dukinfield Darbishire and Karl Pearson, and Mendelians, who supported Bateson’s (and Mendel’s) ideas, such as Charles Davenport and Wilhelm Johannsen. Later, biometricians could not reproduce Galton conclusions in different experiments, and Mendel’s ideas prevailed. By the 1930s, models built on statistical reasoning had helped to resolve these differences and to produce the neo-Darwinian modern evolutionary synthesis.
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Solving these differences also allowed to define the concept of population genetics and brought together genetics and evolution. The three leading figures in the establishment of population genetics and this synthesis all relied on statistics and developed its use in biology.
- Ronald Fisher developed several basic statistical methods in support of his work studying the crop experiments at Rothamsted Research, including in his books Statistical Methods for Research Workers (1925) end The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930). He gave many contributions to genetics and statistics. Some of them include the ANOVA, p-value concepts, Fisher’s exact test and Fisher’s equation for population dynamics. He is credited for the sentence “Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability”.
- Sewall G. Wright developed F-statistics and methods of computing them and defined inbreeding coefficient.
- J. B. S. Haldane‘s book, The Causes of Evolution, reestablished natural selection as the premier mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian genetics. Also developed the theory of primordial soup.
These and other biostatisticians, mathematical biologists, and statistically inclined geneticists helped bring together evolutionary biology and genetics into a consistent, coherent whole that could begin to be quantitatively modeled.
In parallel to this overall development, the pioneering work of D’Arcy Thompson in On Growth and Form also helped to add quantitative discipline to biological study.
Despite the fundamental importance and frequent necessity of statistical reasoning, there may nonetheless have been a tendency among biologists to distrust or deprecate results which are not qualitatively apparent. One anecdote describes Thomas Hunt Morgan banning the Friden calculator from his department at Caltech, saying “Well, I am like a guy who is prospecting for gold along the banks of the Sacramento River in 1849. With a little intelligence, I can reach down and pick up big nuggets of gold. And as long as I can do that, I’m not going to let any people in my department waste scarce resources in placer mining.
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