Who is the postivist?

Thomas Schlemmermeyer termites at USP.BR
Sun Dec 7 11:53:45 CST 1997

Hello, I like it very much to participate in this discussion,

> With James's interest in the "truth", in terms of the "windows to the
> past", I would suggest investigating Popper's notion of
> "verisimilitude";=20

Tom, it is not James' interest in windows to the past! It is the interest
of a big bunch of evolutionary scientists. I don't know where the term
originated, in how many papers exactly it was used, and if there is any
theoretical consideration about it. Windows to the past are out there
in scientific, metaphorical language. (I guess, the most impressive use
of the term I saw on a web-site (was it the AMNH?) in the context of
insects in amber.)

Popper's view of scientific progress may be useful to some degree, but
it is not all and everything!
As far as I know, Popper was very much influenced by Albert Einstein.=20
Einstein was some kind of scientist "par excellence" in the student
times of Popper. Einstein worked with general, universally applied
laws of physics. One counterevidence was suficient to let the whole
law break down. (Or justify it by an ad hoc hypothesis according to Popper)

Systematics, biodiversity deal, however, with highly=20
idiossyncratic, particular objects.
I think it is great that there are homologies, synapomorphies and
so on. And that everything can be tested through congruence tests.
But a big deal of biological systematics is description of particular
objects and not testing general theories.

A small rain-forest system somewhere, let's say in the south of Brazil,
is, spoken in terms of the universe, only a small idiossyncratic=20
peculiarity. It does not even appear in general laws of nature.
But it is there!=20
And it is an enormous task to describe everything which lives there.
This tradition of biological working (description of what is there)
may explain, why there is some incongruence between Popper's way
of thinking and the way biologists work in practice.

But I do not doubt that it is good to study Popper.=20

OK, good luck in recognizing synapomorphies to everyone on this list.
Have a good congruence! (or, how do cladists say?)


Thomas Schlemmermeyer
Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de S=E3o Paulo
Caixa Postal 42694
CEP 04299-970
S=E3o Paulo, SP, Brasil

Thomas Schlemmermeyer
Caixa Postal 00276
CEP 14001-970
Ribeir=E3o Preto, SP, Brasil

Fone, Fax: 016 6371999

More information about the Taxacom mailing list