I was recently asked for use of one of my picture on flickR to illustrate a student book. When reading this, I readily became very happy: at least my picture is going to be somewhat usefull for biology students. Alas, as I was reading, it became clear very soon that my picture was about to be used in a pro-Intelligent Design creationist text-book.
The edition is already known because it recently ridiculed itself with suing the University of California to demand that the UC system recognize their biology courses in which students are taught two anti-evolution texts as scientifically valid. You can read more here or here. Can you imagine schools teaching the alchemical theory of phlogiston to be accepted as valid scientific classes and their students not be rejected from chemistry classes? They lost their case but nevermind, they will still publish pseudo-scientific textbooks and keep complaining…
The praxis of science requires a very high level of ethics. It’s is a asking for commitment. It’s hard and tough: you have to behave according to the best standards, even when results are not those you expected, even when experiments don’t bring up interesting results. It is a long term run. And science is all about honesty. I guess I therefore could not ethically accept my picture to be used to deceive students about science, even when these students are intending to be deceived or deluded. The line is difficult to draw here, but I feel I could not think of myself as a scientist anymore if I had accepted the deal. So here was my reply.
I would be pleased that my pictures would help students discovering the wonders of our universe. Nevertheless, as a dedicated researcher, I can’t accept that it will be used to serve a pseudo-scientific agenda and deceive students about the way science is done. I therefore refuse your use of my picture for your textbook.
By the way, I am really not sure what your intent was when it comes about this specific picture. This stoma happens to be from the sporophyte of a moss. In mosses, the photosynthetic tissue is epidermic, and most of it happens to be gametophytic. The classic hypothesis about stoma’s function is to allow gaz exchanges (and therefore facilitating photosynthesis) between the outside and internal photosynthetic tissue in Higher plants.
Nevertheless, the photosynthetic tissue in mosses is not multilayered and the gametophyte does not bear stoma but sometimes on sporophytes. This strongly suggests that stomas first evolved as to facilitate gaz exchange only and serve the sporogenic tissue undergoing intense developmental modifications to produce the spores. Stoma probably have thus been coopted later in the course of plant evolution so as to help photosynthesis but it may well not have been its primary function.
I know this is still a speculative and unorthodox hypothesis, but it’s still scientific: it leads to interesting questions and is open to test. I hope you understand that although completely unorthodox (not hold by many researchers) it is fundamentally different from mere agenda-based pseudo-science like Intelligent Design. Moreover, if further substantiated, this working hypothesis will considerably weaken any argument based on Design with regard to stoma function.
With my best regards,
Could be the end of this post. But, wait! Here is the picture that we are dealing with:
Isn’t it a nice picture? I personally find it very appealing. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help thinking that whenever I had accepted this picture to be published for creationist-leaning students, I may have actually helped about half of them fantasizing about the hidden beauties of our universe…
P.S. : Well, apparently, I was not asked about these kinds of pictures, which may also prove very promising as to serve Intelligent Design propaganda as well… I don’t see why!