Waiting for Sequences: Morris Goodman, Immunodiffusion Experiments, and the Origins of Molecular Anthropology
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- Hagen, J.B. J Hist Biol (2010) 43: 697. doi:10.1007/s10739-009-9219-7
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During the early 1960s, Morris Goodman used a variety of immunological tests to demonstrate the very close genetic relationships among humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas. Molecular anthropologists often point to this early research as a critical step in establishing their new specialty. Based on his molecular results, Goodman challenged the widely accepted taxonomic classification that separated humans from chimpanzees and gorillas in two separate families. His claim that chimpanzees and gorillas should join humans in family Hominidae sparked a well-known conflict with George Gaylord Simpson, Ernst Mayr, and other prominent evolutionary biologists. Less well known, but equally significant, were a series of disagreements between Goodman and other prominent molecular evolutionists concerning both methodological and theoretical issues. These included qualitative versus quantitative data, the role of natural selection, rates of evolution, and the reality of molecular clocks. These controversies continued throughout Goodman’s career, even as he moved from immunological techniques to protein and DNA sequence analysis. This episode highlights the diversity of methods used by molecular evolutionists and the conflicting conclusions drawn from the data that these methods generated.