Rejection and conquest

john Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Fri Jan 24 12:44:59 CST 2003

Ken wrote:

>However, what really makes me
>cringe is this statement John Grehan made:   "Since Ken is a Darwinian
>biogeographer (and evolutionist) it would not be possible for him to accept
>the scientific value of panbiogeography since the latter is a rejection of
>the former."
>     Ay, there's the rub.  Once again we see a philosophical movement (or at
>least some of its members) intent on rejecting and replacing that which came
>before.  How many examples must history provide us before we realize that
>this leads time and time again to "throwing babies out with the bathwater".

In some respects I can agree and sympathize with Ken in that
panbiogeography may be interpreted as a post-structuralist re-reading of
Darwin's text. Thus, as Darwin presented his thesis in terms of form, time,
and space, Croizat (1964) rendered the "Origin" book as a sequence of
investigation into space, time and form. Panbiogeography is a rejection of
Darwinism as a coherent "theory" of evolution since it (Darwinism) is
founded on a concept of space and time (Darwin's view that distributions of
related taxa evolve as a function of centers of origin, dispersal ability,
and barriers) hat failed the test of biogeography. Ironically, in testing
Darwin's theory of evolution through biogeography, Croizat actually
substantiated evolution as a science (i.e. showed that it was falsifiable).

Some practitioners of panbiogeography have expressed support for Croizat's
view that Darwin also got form wrong with his emphasis on natural selection
(something for which Darwin later expressed regret), but Darwin got form
right with his 'laws of growth'.

>     This is really not much different than the "rejection and conquest"
>mentality of strict cladism, except that the extremes of the latter have so
>far succeeded to a degree that is more destructive.   I believe that it is
>best for philosophies to change by evolution and cooperation, not by
>revolution and aggression.

I don't know if it is true that it is 'best' for philosophies to change by
evolution and cooperation rather than revolution and aggression since these
are political dimensions over which people may have different views.
Panbiogeography is a revolution and there is no way of avoiding that fact.
It may also be considered aggressive in its persistent critique of Darwinism.

>     Cladistics and panbiogeography have much too offer if they are
>carefully integrated into the best of what the past has to offer as well.

Again a political view. Maybe Ken is right. Maybe he isn't.

>Without a thoughtful eclecticism and synthesis, you just end up with
>continued pendulum swinging, unnecessary confusion, and unfair ridicule of
>your predecessors.

There is nothing of this swinging and confusion in panbiogeography. Of
course to critique the methodological and conceptual limitations of Darwin
and Darwinians one is always open to the charge of ridicule.

>Revolutions generally only benefit a relative few to the
>detriment of humanity as a whole, and it really rubs me the wrong way when I
>see anyone trying to defend a wholesale program of "rejection of and
>conquest over" past ideas.  Pushing the envelope is only good when it more
>constructive than destructive.

Panbiogeography is constructive in that provides an alternative the
provides solutions to what are otherwise relegated to mysteries, problems,
contradictions, and also generated new knowledge ahead of empirical experience.

In all of this, my view is that Ken is right to stick to his position with
conviction. My comment about him being a Darwinian was an acknowledgement
of his perspective and acceptance that nothing I say of my perspective has
any necessary impact on his.


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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