Is biogeography science?

John Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Thu Apr 25 08:07:48 CDT 2002


Peter Hovenkamp wrote:

>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?

If I used the words 'nothing new' then I could have added to confusion. My
point
is that in using other sciences to provide historical information to
interpret the distribution
one is precluding biogeography itself from providing any information about
the history
of the distribution. One is reduced to just mapping distributions and
constructing phylogenies,
but looking to other sciences (actually looking for historical narratives
generated by other
sciences) to give historical meaning to the distribution. Even when one
does a cladogram and
constructs some sort of hierarchical cladogram of area relationships, one
is still just left with
a hierarchical classification that of itself does not appear to generate
historical predictions
independently of other disciplines, but rather is interpreted for its match
against other historical
narratives (such as splitting events from geology or paleoclimatology
etc.). One might match
area cladograms with geological cladograms based on uniquely shared
geological characters to
make historical predictions although the criteria for matching cladograms
would seem to require some
kind of spatial homology to be designated in the first place.

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

If it is restricted to this activity it seems to me that the answer is yes.
Perhaps others
more acquainted with the philosophy of science could comment.

John Grehan




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