[Taxacom] Robust argument

mivie at montana.edu mivie at montana.edu
Sun Jun 28 09:55:54 CDT 2009

Clearly should have stayed out of this discussion, it is not going to
change anything by getting into  it, but sometimes I go over the edge. 
Spending your life in a wheelchair can make you grumpy, I am finding. But
a few corrections:

> Michael Ivie and his Afrocentric friends are worried that an orang-Homo
sister relationship would mean that Africa is not the centre of origin
> Homo and so the theory is racist. But just because a taxon has its
> group in Asia does not mean that Asia is the centre of
> origin. Panbiogeography is against any sort of centrism.

OK, I did not say I thought that. I quoted a friend (a non-scientist) who
did, and clearly quoted him as an example of silly, unsupported logic. 
Clearly not a joke appropriate to the audience...

> Michael feels
> that panbiogeography is ridiculous and teaches his students this,

Again, not what I said. I do ridicule it, but mostly because of the
bizarre practitioners, and never in an actual teaching environment.  It is
hard to actually talk about Croizat's books with a straight face (have you
actually tried to read them?).  In the conversation I cited, I was having
a discussion with grad students and am guilty as admitted of ridicule, but
not as stated above.

> which is
> fair enough, but the last book on the subject (Panbiogeography by Craw
> al., 1999) was published by Oxford University Press in New York, which
> about as main-stream as you can get. 

Mainstream religion believes in talking snakes, but that does not make it
good science.

Further, using a publisher to determine the quality of a text is very weak
scholarship.  Titles currently featured on Oxford University Press'
website include:

The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross

Bloodchild by Tim Bowler.

Blade's Edge: Sisters of the Sword 2 by Maya Snow

Lesson: Don't judge a book by its publisher, judge it by its reviews, see:

Cracraft, J. 2000. Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Volume 15, Issue 3, 1 March 2000, Pages 126-127 .
"A major weakness of their presentation
and the method is the oversimplistic interpretation
of generalized tracks and of the
geological events that are assumed to cause

"Most applications of the panbiogeography
method tend towards the narrative
rather than the analytical"

"...they strongly advocate using biogeographic distributions
as evidence of phylogenetic relationships, but their examples have
preconceived notions of relationships built into them."

"The authors are strong
supporters of the importance of systematics,
but they are short on specific analytical
procedures of how biogeography might be
used to infer relationships."

Serious problems inherent in the Panbiogeography method, which have been
documented in the literature ad nauseum.

> As a good coleopterist, Michael might
> be interested in a recent, very positive article on Croizat in Le
Coleopteriste (12: 1-5. 2008) by Pierre Jolivet. 

You must be kinding?
>    I don't know about Afrocentrics, but Africans themselves are
> more sophisticated than this when it comes to issues of centres of
origin/taxonomy etc. In southern Africa I suggested to my best PhD
> (an African) that we chould rename the dozens of plants and animals with
the species epithets 'caffer' and 'caffra', as 'kaffir' is a
> very offensive word down there for a black person. Using the word is a
crime in South Africa and it gets a bit embarrassing in lectures and on
field trips. But my student suggested that the principle of priority was
much more important and a change would just be confusing. As they say in
Ghana - 'you're too sensitive'.     

See above.

Michael Ivie

> Michael Heads
> Wellington, New Zealand.
> My papers on biogeography are at: http://tiny.cc/RiUE0
> --- On Sun, 6/28/09, Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au> wrote:
> From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Subject: [Taxacom] Robust argument
> To: "TAXACOM" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Date: Sunday, June 28, 2009, 12:33 PM
> With considerable fear and trepidation, this TAXACOMer sticks his head
above the battlements and meekly raises a couple of small points of
informal logic.
> We're agreed that we'd like to reconstruct evolutionary history, as best
we can. The following argument seems to have been put forward:
> (1) Because the genome is passed on from generation to generation, it
contains information we need to infer evolutionary history.
> (2) It is possible to infer evolutionary history using information in
> genome.
> (3) Morphology also contains information of use for inferring
> history.
> (4) It is possible to infer evolutionary history using information from
> (5) Literally speaking, morphology is not inherited, so morphological
information is second-hand data derived from a heritable source: the
> (6) No other kind of information can be used to infer evolutionary
history, because no other information is inherited.
> (4) has been the basis for evolutionary inference for a long time, (2)
> a shorter time. Many people believe that (2) is better than (4) because
> (5), and because there is more (1) information than (3) information.
> The logic here needs defending. Why should (5) make (4) any less
> than (2)? (I think this is one of Richard Zander's points.) How do you
compare the reliability or resolution of (2) vs (4), given that we have
> time machine and no other information (see (6)) that can independently
> used to infer past events? How do you know that there is more
> information from (1) of use for historical inference than from (3)?
> I think these 3 questions go to methodological assumptions. Should these
assumptions be taken as givens, equally reliable from group to group? It
worries me that posters have written THEORETICALLY in caps without
spelling out their thinking.
> I also point to (6), which is nonsense, and comes from thinking about
organisms divorced from their geographical location and their ecological
associations (think of parasitism, insect/host plant interactions, etc).
(6) should not be confused with (7), which might read "It is possible to
infer evolutionary history from biogeography and ecological
> That history might be blurrier than (2) and (4) histories, but how do
total evidence enthusiasts justify their insistence on using (1) and (3)
evidence to the exclusion of (6) evidence? (Or is it just that *some*
evolutionary historians can't be bothered studying all the phenomenally
complicated, ungeneralisable facts of what used to be called natural
> --
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
> Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html
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