[Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

Robin Leech releech at telus.net
Mon Jun 29 10:15:41 CDT 2009

Hi John,

You err here!  Wegener's 1912 book was written in German. At that time, WWI 
was about to occur and this put a delay on exposure to North American 
scientists.  Also, most North American scientists then, and even now, cannot 
and do not read German.  As no person of consequence in North America paid 
any attention to Wegener's work, the concept of continental drift lay quiet.

It was not till the mid-1920s or so, when it was translated into English 
that the drifting continents idea caught on.  But once it was in English, it 
caught on fast.  Keep in mind also that plate tectonics play a part here. 
Until J. Tuzo Wilson of the U. of Toronto, in late 1963, in the Canadian 
Journal of Physics, elaborated and explained how drifting continents and 
plate tectonics go together, most scientists were still doubters.  J. Tuzo 
also dealt with fault zones (e.g., San Andreas Fault).

Even in 1964, if a geologist in Canada submitted a proposal for a research 
grant to the National Research Council in Ottawa, and it involved drifting 
continents, the chances of getting the grant were about 0.  By 1965, if you 
were a geologist in Canada, and you DID NOT believe in continental drift and 
plate tectonics, you were passe.

It was the botanists who championed continental drift at a time when most 
zoologists poo-poohed it.  In fact some zoologists went so far as to say 
that the botanists used continental drift to explain what good science could 
not.  In other words, used the explanation of continental drift as a crutch.

As a kid in Vernon, BC, during WWII, I can recall my Father showing me a 
globe of the world.  He showed how South America and Africa fit together, 
and explained how they used to be one continent.  Further, that some of the 
insect groups and other animals were related.  Dad was a water beetle 

Now, of course, the similarities in outline between Africa and South 
America, indicating that the two continents were once one, have been 
confirmed by matching and age-dating mafik dikes, soils, flora and fauna.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "John Grehan" <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
To: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2009 6:39 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: mivie at montana.edu [mailto:mivie at montana.edu]
> It only took a few years for
>> McClintock's work to go from surprising to central.  She hardly spent
> a
>> lifetime in the wilderness, nor was she a self-promoter.  Didn't need
> to
>> be, she was smart.
> The point about McClintock and Wegener is that they are examples of
> people who got it right, but were initially 'ridiculed' or written off
> by the majority.
> McClintock my have gained relatively fast acceptance, but Wegener did
> not. If speed of acceptance is a reflection of 'smarts' then that makes
> Wegener pretty stupid. The point about Croizat is that he got things
> right about geology that his opponents did not. The panbiogeographic
> method continues to produce new insights into the historical
> relationship between biological distribution and tectonics that have not
> been anticipated in center of origin/dispersal/vicariance approaches
> used by most biogeographers.
> John Grehan
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