Is biogeography science?

P.Hovenkamp Hovenkamp at NHN.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Thu Apr 25 10:29:59 CDT 2002


At 08:40 AM 4/23/02 -0400, John Grehan wrote:
>Peter Hovenkamp wrote:
> >this seemed to me to imply that John Grehan's position is that historical
> >explanations using geological and other currently accepted knowledge are
> >not science.
> >
> >Of course I may have been completely mistaken by seeing a relation between
> >these two quotes In which case I'd be only too glad to hear it.
> >
>
>Thanks for the clarification. Since there appears to be no absolute
>consensus on what is or is not science I have not attempted to categorize
>biogeographic research according to this criterion. All science includes a
>metaphysical component (at least in my ignorance that seems to be the
>case). It seems to me that those who limit biogeography to making up
>explanations in the light of currently accepted knowledge are at least
>removing biogeography from the realm of an informative science (i.e one
>looks to other sciences such as historical geology for information about
>the geographic past). In this traditional approach to biogeography (used
>in both Darwinian dispersalism and vicariance methods) seems to lack an
>informative existence whether or not one may consider it 'science'.

Coming back to the original question:
>>So if I try to explain the currently pantropical
>>distribution of, say, Nephrolepis multiflora to the best of my ability and
>>on basis of the currently accepted knowledge, I am participating in a
>>metaphysical research program?

According to John Grehan, then, this is not "informative" science. If it is
not informative, it tells us nothing new. If it does not tell us anything
new, we must already know the answer. What is it, then? By which process
did the species attain its current distribution?

Is any science uninformative that uses results from other branches of science?

Peter Hovenkamp




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