So what are examples of confusions that arose from some popularized canine science? Here is a short list of myths. Let me just comment right away that anybody I know that a) actually worked with wolves or studied animal learning, and, b) actually read the scientific papers, would not make the statements below:
1. Punishment does not work and is always cruel.
2. Dominance does not exist in wolves.
3. Dog evolution has nothing to do with wolves.
There is quite a bit to say on each of these items. Note also that, on purpose, the statements are very black or white. In fact, especially with the corrections, clarifications, and even retractions of the past few years from some individuals, many of you will think I am unfairly dramatic. Well, I agree to some extent, but considering what I read on Facebook and elsewhere, this is at least the "dark" end of the spectrum.
You see, science is about shades of grey. Science seeks a consensus. Science seeks converging evidence. That rarely translates into "black or white" statements. Science is about synthesis, open-mindedness, even compromises. Pitting theories against each other is part of the process. But the point is to get to a golden middle. To that idealized "truth" that some promise you. Regardless of what they say, scientists are idealists (and human). Sometimes they get carried away by their convictions and opinions. My father gave me a gift early in my life as a young scientist. In the 50's, he was a graduate student of Jean Piaget at La Sorbonne. From what I understand, my father struggled very much in trying to reconcile North American and Continental European psychologies. In the process though, he became quite a dialectician, something he taught me through his careful consideration of any argument I would try to make or idea I would put forward (although I was not fully aware of it at the time). The process is simple: State a thesis (e.g., "punishment does not work"). Find the "evidence" for it, argue for that point. Then, state the antithesis (e.g., "punishment works"). Same process, gather the data, argue for that point. Finally, and most importantly, formulate the synthesis. It likely won't be black (thesis) or white (antithesis), it will be something in the middle, in the shades of grey. His gift was to teach me to be a relativist and never accept dogmatism, in science, or in anything else in life.