Galapagos, biogeography, geology

Les Kaufman lesk at BU.EDU
Tue Apr 16 09:33:53 CDT 2002

All of the natural science view the universe through the lenses of
thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum theory.  When new theories prove
their mettle, they are
absorbed into this basic toolkit, and when old ones fail (e.g., the
"ether", epicycles, etc.) they are abandoned.  This is an organic process.

I study evolution in East Africa, which is a geologist's playground.
Geology can not be ignored.  But any one geological hypothesis always
has alternatives that may stress other forces or historical considerations.

Panbiogeography advocates open-mindedness in the erection of hypotheses
about distributional histories.  That is great.  But I am having
difficulty seeing how it adds up to a theory.

"John R. Grehan" wrote:
> A couple of recent comments on the origin of the Galapagos focused on
> geological reconstructions having priority over biogeographic evidence.
> This points to one of the most intriguing aspects of biogeography as
> practiced by most biogeographers who look to geological theory as the
> foundation for historical reconstruction.
> It seems to me that this practice renders biogeography as simply making up
> historical stories (usually based on some kind of notion of center of
> origin and dispersal) conforming to the geological story. In this context
> biogeography does not exist as a science. What is intriguing about this
> (for me) is the apparent willingness of most biogeographers to reduce their
> discipline to the status of a non-science. At least that's how it seems to me.
> This biogeographic practice seems unique in that I am not aware of any
> other scientific discipline relying entirely on another discipline for
> empirical insight. The irony for the Galapagos is that traditional
> biogeographers who relied on geology theories as the historical authority
> failed to acknowledge these models as simply theories or that there may be
> a  multiplicity of geological theories in circulation.
> John Grehan
> John Grehan
> Frost Entomological Museum
> Pennsylvania State University
> Department of Entomology
> 501 ASI Building
> University Park, PA 16802. USA.
> Phone: (814) 863-2865
> Fax: (814) 865-3048
> Frost Museum

Les Kaufman
Biology Department
Boston University
5 Cummington St.
Boston, MA 02215
lesk at
617-353-5560 office
617-353-6965 lab
617-353-6340 fax


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