Revolution Respite

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Sat Oct 5 09:11:11 CDT 1996

Reply below.

Richard J. Jensen      |   E-MAIL: rjensen at
Dept. of Biology       |   TELEPHONE: 219-284-4674
Saint Mary's College   |   FAX: 219-284-4716
Notre Dame, IN  46556  |

On Sat, 5 Oct 1996, ROGER HYAM wrote:
> Is atomising the entirety of biodiversity the best way of reaching
> an understanding of it? Is it possible?
This seems to parallel the question that physicists are dealing with - do
we need an understanding of the interactions of subatomic particles in
order to understanding what we see around us?  In one sense, the answer
is no.  What happens at the large scale can be explained in a variety of
ways (here, think ecosystems, biomes), all based on general (not
necessarily detailed) knowledge of the kinds of organisms present and
their interactions.  But, what happens on the smaller scale (populations
and below - here my crude analogy is to atoms and below), down to the
level of "genes", does require that we "atomise" nature.  We do need
knowledge of the processes that give rise to what we perceive as
microspecies, etc.

Knowing that there are these "fundamental" groups in nature is a
prerequisite to knowing why they occur.  As we determine why they occur,
we increase our level of understanding of the rules of the game, which
allows us to better interpret ultimate causes for what we see at the
larger scale.  So, I say yes - "atomising" biodiversity is important to

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