[Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Sun Jun 28 13:00:30 CDT 2009


> From: mivie at montana.edu [mailto:mivie at montana.edu]
> Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 12:06 PM

> I know I am going to regret this....

Life is full of regrets, but the choices are ours.

> Croizat being right on something is a correlate of the chimpanzee (or
> Orang if you prefer) pounding on a typewriter and occasionally
producing a
> sentence.  In thousands of pages of gibberish, something would be
correct
> by random coincidence.  This is the major error of panbiogeographers:
> confusing the coincidental accident with ex post facto verification.

It has yet to be demonstrated that there are thousands of pages of
gibberish. Yes, some sentences may be overlong or awkward, but they are
not incompressible. The biggest challenge for most readers is that he is
not writing an exposition (maybe not the right word), but a
conversation.
There are thousands of pages of what most people are not interested in -
certainly - but that does not make it gibberish.

Quite a bit of Darwin's writing could be criticized as poorly written,
but so what?

It has yet to be demonstrated that the accomplishments of
panbiogeography (which are not confined to Croizat - a major error) are
"coincidental accident). And it's not just occasional.

Here's a challenge for Ivie - list the number of novel predictions about
geological structure or biology relationships were made in dispersal
biogeography and how many of these were later empirically corroborated?
We can then compare that list to panbiogeography. Might make for an
interesting comparison.

> I have been attracted to Panbiogeography at 3 points in my career, the
> most recent just a couple years ago. I have spent most of my career
> working in the West Indies, and 30 years ago knew a huge amount about
how
> West Indian Biogeography worked.  Over the last 30 years what I know
has
> been dramatically decreased -- the more I learned, the less I know.
> Today, as I write this from St. Lucia, I am mostly just confused on
the
> subject.  I doubt we will really understand the region without a major
> improvement in our understanding of its physical origins and history
that
> differs from what we think today.

So what you really appear to be saying is that non-panbiogeographic
biogeography makes you confused.  

> Recently, I spent 5 years working on the tiny Lesser Antillean island
of
> Montserrat. The geologic history of the island and region seem pretty
> clear, it is a volcano in a line of volcanoes.  However, the more I
> learned about its fauna, the more weird anomalies I found that made it
> more Greater Antillean than any of its sister islands.  Attempts to
remove
> this problem by more sampling of surrounding islands (hyp: the
patterns
> observed are due to under-sampling of intervening islands) did not
work.
> It just reinforced the oddities.

So non-panbiogeographic biogeography produces "oddities"

> The only answer seemed that there was something unknown that made
> Montserrat's history different from the surrounding islands, that
> something being totally beyond current geologic understanding.

But perhaps not beyond current biogeographic thinking. Biogeography does
not have to be the hand maiden of historical geology

> This lead me to reexamine Panbiogeography, thinking maybe I had missed
> something the first 2 times.  I reread what I could stomach of the
> literature (passing on a reread of Croizat himself). But, again, for
the
> third time, it let me down.  It produces an ex post facto narrative
with a
> seductively attractive answer that fits the data, but it is circular
and
> inherently unscientific in the end.  It does produce predictions, but
> those predictions can only be supported by possibly random
coincidence,
> and cannot be refuted by non-corresponding data, as those are
explained by
> the same method as just other tracks, not refutation of the one
previously
> proposed.  Like religion, panbiogeography will explain any discovered
> annomaly.

This does not make sense - or at least I cannot make sense of it. It
almost seems to be saying that panbiogeography is so good at explaining
everything that it is useless.

> Plus, certain of its practitioners are so bizarre!  [NOTE: THIS REFERS
TO
> SOME PRACTITIONERS NOT TO ANY SPECIFIC ONE, AND SPECIFICALLY  NOT TO
> ANYONE WHO WANTS TO TAKE PERSONAL OFFENSE] They are the intellectual
> equivalents of someone who believes in some random but brilliant guy
in
> New York finding golden tablets in an unknown language descended from
> Egyptian, finding truth there, sending the tablets away with an angel,
and
> then founding a religion that is centered in an isolated geographic
> setting.  The followers then use the "fact" of the tablets to justify
> their current beliefs, and tend to feel anyone who disagrees is
attacking
> them and their divinely revealed truth.  Plus, they are very anxious
to be
> viewed as mainstream, not marginal.

Probably certain of Darwinian practioners are bizarre as well. 

> Correspondingly, panbiogeographers believe in some random but
brilliant
> guy in Venezuela, hammering out a series of books in a language that
is
> descended from English (but not quite there), whose followers form a
> colony in New Zealand, and believe with all their heart and sole that
they
> have discovered truth, but that the rest of the world is out to attack
> them.  They do send out missionaries, etc.  And, they are desperate --
> desperate -- to be seen as a mainstream valid science, not marginal.

Form a colony in New Zealand? What colony?

> However, while this approach makes excellent religion, it does not
make
> good science.  

The same could be said of molecular clock dispesalism

>Not a group I want to be associated with.  

Each to their own.

>If the theory
> was more validly based, it would attract a wider, perhaps nearly
> universal, following.  

Probably a circular view. Remember Barabara McClintock. The validity of
her theory had nothing to do with the reception. Look at Wegner. Look at
a lot of historical figures in science. Acceptance or rejection of a
theory is not science.

The fact that it does not makes its practitioners
> very much like the persecuted self-validating members of minority
> religions -- very sure of their superiority and of their eventual
> vindication and salvation in this world or the next.

I suppose McClintock and Wegener looked the same way. I guess it's a
choice between clarity and confusion (Ivies's that is).

John Grehan

> 
> Michael
> 
> 
> 
> 
> >
> >> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of mivie at montana.edu
> >>
> >> 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:
> >
> > No worries. Anyone who participates on this list is probably "over
the
> > edge".
> >
> >> > Michael feels
> >> > that panbiogeography is ridiculous and teaches his students this,
> >>
> >> Again, not what I said.
> >
> > The quote is " I and many others still ridicule panbiogeography at
every
> > opportunity -- I did it this morning with some students."
> >
> > So I think Heads can be forgiven to interpreting "I did it this
morning
> > with some students" to mean "that panbiogeography is ridiculous and
> > teaches his this".
> >
> > I do ridicule it, but mostly because of the
> >> bizarre practitioners, and never in an actual teaching environment.
> >
> > But see above.
> >
> > In what way are the practioners "bizarre"?
> >
> > It is
> >> hard to actually talk about Croizat's books with a straight face
(have
> > you
> >> actually tried to read them?).
> >
> > Yes I have read them. Also read plenty of 'standard' books that are
> > sometimes no better or worse.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > Clarification understood, but the inference was reasonable I think.
> >
> >> Mainstream religion believes in talking snakes, but that does not
make
> > it
> >> good science.
> >
> > But in science publishers such as OUP seem to be pretty conservative
and
> > citing other fields may not be germane. If the nature of the
publisher
> > has no bearing on being mainstream, then the opinions by critics of
the
> > method don't really add to much either. They are just opinions that
may
> > or may not be correct. But some comments below.
> >
> > Cracraft's "oversimplistic interpretation" claim my or may not be
> > correct. But if "oversimplistic" interpretations result in
successful
> > geological predictions then so what?
> >
> >> "Most applications of the panbiogeography
> >> method tend towards the narrative rather than the analytical"
> >
> > This could be said of all dispersalist accounts (the analysis being
the
> > phylogeny, the narrative being the dispersalist claims). This claim
> > about panbiogeography ignores the fact that the panbiogeographic
method
> > is analytical.
> >
> >> "...they strongly advocate using biogeographic distributions
> >> as evidence of phylogenetic relationships, but their examples have
> >> preconceived notions of relationships built into them."
> >
> > Who knows what this might mean. The fact is that the use of
> > biogeographic relationships has generated phylogenetic predictions
that
> > have been later corroborated through biological analysis.
> >
> >> "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."
> >
> > Hard to figure that one out.
> >
> >> Serious problems inherent in the Panbiogeography method, which have
> > been
> >> documented in the literature ad nauseum.
> >
> > No they have not. Just theoretical objections to a method that
works.
> > That's the bottom line - the method does work. No one has
demonstrated
> > that the standard tracks and nodes do not exist, that there are no
ocean
> > basin correlations of global patterns of distribution, that there
are no
> > centers of basal evolution, that there are no correlations between
> > distribution and tectonics, that Croizat was wrong about the
tectonics
> > of the Galapagos or the Americas. One can theoretically debate any
> > method theoretically, but the bottom line is the result (in my
opinion).
> >
> > John Grehan
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> >
> > Taxacom Mailing List
> > Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >
> > The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either
of
> > these methods:
> >
> > (1) http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >
> > Or (2) a Google search specified as:
> > site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms here
> >
> >





More information about the Taxacom mailing list