meanderings, riparian and philosophic

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Tue Apr 6 20:00:15 CDT 2004

At 02:07 2004-04-06, Richard Pyle wrote:
>Hmmm...not sure I follow. Sea slugs aren't particularly complex social
>organisms, but they do somehow recognize and reproduce, and I can (usually)
>see the discrete boundary between where the sea slug ends and the external
>water begins.

You can, but can they? How much of our view of biology is predicated by our
*own* biology?

>Linnaeus, as a person, was a discrete physical entity.  When
>he died, many of his molecules disperesed via entropy (some of those
>molecules may very well have ended up in California). None of them really
>remained within the physical boundaries of his person; and so he, as a
>discrete entity, ceased to exist not long after his corpse began to wither.
>His ideas, and portions of his genome, on the other hand, may indeed
>continue to perpetuate.

Exactly. So when we talk about boundaries, we have to specify what we mean.

>I guess it matters because we sometimes fall into the trap of defining
>discrete boundaries on entities which are not conducive to such definitions
>(e.g., populations and taxa).  If we think of those sorts of entities in
>ways that do not acknowledge their "fuzziness", we may be drawn towards
>conclusions that lack merit under close scrutiny.


>And finally, on the other thread:
> > What about water molecules that evaporate from one watershed and
> > precipitate on another? Or that enter the water table and flow as springs
> > into another? These are common occurrences.
>I actually was going to use that exact point as a cross-analogy to lateral
>gene flow, but I was spending too much time on Taxacom this morning, so
>decided not to go there.  But my overall point has more to do with tracking
>the path of something physical (like water molecules), compared with
>tracking the path of something intangible (like information).

I suggest that our conventional view of rivers has more to do with
information than with water molecules (and certainly the Valles Marineris
system is still around on Mars long after the water molecules ceased
flowing through it).

Curtis Clark        
Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona                 +1 909 979 6371
Professor, Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4062

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