Biogeography and geological prediction

john Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Mon Feb 10 08:37:27 CST 2003

Peter wrote

>By repeatedly insisting on "personal preference", "personal choice", John
>effectively knocks out the bottom under any rational debate. He aligns
>himself with the extreme relativists in the philosophy of science, such as
>Paul "anything goes" Feyerabend. I personally prefer to think that we can
>argue for or against scientific statements in a rational way.
>If that is really John's position, he should realize that it makes anything
>he says to convince us of the value of Panbiogeography useless.

Perhaps. But then Peter is working from the assumption that anything I say
is intended to 'convince' anyone of anything. On TAXACOM I write with the
intention to exchange points of view. What is convincing to one or other
person is up to them. Perhaps I can be justifiably condemned for conforming
to Feyerabend or any other unpaid philosophical mercenary.

As for personal preference and choice, Peter's responses epitomize this
characteristic by his response to the fact that panbiogeography has make
successful novel geological predictions whereas Darwinian biogeography has
not. By this success, panbiogeography is demonstrated to be a better method
than its competition. Yet one may find ways of avoiding this fact by
dismissing it as a 'fluke' etc should one want to.

Peter further gives emphasis to personal choice by stating that he
'personally' prefers to think that we can argue for or against scientific
statements in a rational way. I happen to agree with this personal
preference, but any argument can be 'rational' without necessarily being
convincing to someone working in a different methodological framework. If
one does not like geography, for example, one is not likely to like
panbiogeography, 'convincing' evidence or not.


Dr. John Grehan
Director of Science and Collections
Buffalo Museum of Science
1020 Humboldt Parkway
Buffalo, New York 14211-1293
Voice 716-896-5200 x372
Fax 716-897-6723
jgrehan at

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