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Claim: Inaccurate number of chromosomes
Theophilus Painter was a once a famous and leading brain in Zoology. He was respected by the wider science faculty. In 1923, he stated that there were 24 pairs of chromosomes in human beings (Sheldon & Macdonald, 2010). This assertion was held as a fact for almost four decades due to his authority as a successful scientist.
Even before Painter carried out the experiment on human chromosomes, previous studies on the same had already confirmed a total of 23 pairs of chromosomes. His study came later but since he was a renowned Zoologist, not even a single scientist in this field attempted to challenge him. He apparently made wrong observations while carrying out the experiments on human chromosomes. He may have collected data using a wrong methodology or even did his analysis poorly. When subsequent counts of the human chromosomes were carried out, the pairs were still 23. However, no one ever dared challenged Painter’s results. Interestingly, scholarly materials such as books and journals that showed pictures of human chromosomes with 23 pairs opted to declare that human chromosomes were 24 pairs in total (Sheldon & Macdonald, 2010).
Several researchers fell into the trap of confirmation bias. In other words, they were quite contented with Painter’s authority in Zoology. They were unwilling to compare the actual evidence demonstrated in pictures with Painter’s findings. In fact, the earlier pictures taken showed 23 pairs of human chromosomes.
Worse still, other scientists who had earlier obtained the accurate count either discarded their findings or modified them altogether to conform to those of Painter.
The scientist made conflicting observations and poor data recording and correlation. As much as other scientists had carried out similar experiments and found that human beings had 46 chromosomes in total (23 pairs), they still believed Painter’s observation. His undisputed authority in the field of human and animal science led everybody to believe him in totality (Gambrill & Gibbs, 2009).
How it applies to quote
The fallacy identified above is directly related to misinformation advanced by Theophilus Painter. While earlier hypotheses and experimental results revealed 23 pairs of chromosomes, a professional authority compromised the evidence and all the other zoologists believed him (Hurley, 2012). Painter gave wrong deductions in spite of clear pictorial evidence in scholarly literatures.
What have you learned from the exercise?
The exercise has been an eye opener to me and for the first time, I have learned that even authoritative scholars are bound to make mistakes (Hutchison, 2012). It is fundamental to confirm results, inferences or deductions made by professional bodies or individuals. While most assertions may be true and leading towards the right direction, there are instances when logical fallacies may occur.
The exercise was also instrumental in jogging my mind and developing critical thinking skills. The ability to think critically is crucial at all levels of learning. The exercise has also created a vivid reminder in me that knowledge is not reserved to certain people only. If Painter would have objectively shared his experimental procedures and even incorporated other Zoologists in his study, the final results would have been harmonized based on the well know actual evidence (Gambrill & Gibbs, 2009). Through the exercise, I have learned how to spot and analyze fallacies in professional sources by exploring the whole subject under question and avoiding discussions out of context.
Gambrill, E., & Gibbs, L. (2009). Critical thinking for helping professionals: A skills based Workbook (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Hurley, P. (2012). A Concise Introduction to Logic (12th ed.). San Diego: Cengage Learning.
Hutchison, E. (2012). Essentials of Human Behavior. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Sheldon, B., & Macdonald, G. (2010). A Textbook of Social Work. New York: Routledge.