[Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

mivie at montana.edu mivie at montana.edu
Mon Jun 29 12:33:31 CDT 2009


Silly, silly.  A few paragraphs out of thousands of pages.  Do I hear
"Nostradamus" anyone?  Same exact method of verification.

> Michael Ivie characterized Croizat's writings as thousands of pages of
> gibberish and that Croizat being right on something is a correlate of
> the chimpanzee or orangutan pounding on a typewriter and occasionally
> producing a sentence.
>
> The trouble with such characterizations is that they are made without
> substance. Croizat had his own style, but it was not gibberish any more
> than modern biogeographic papers (that in my view sometimes do read like
> gibberish).
>
> One could pick and chose I suppose, but since most biogeographers have
> probably never bothered with Croizat (and in my experience so far, most
> found his writings objectionable because they did not have the patience
> or interest to read about the spatial details of biogeography) I have
> excerpted a couple of paragraphs below that pertain to his geological
> hypothesis for the Americas. I think they read well enough to be
> understood here even without the remaining text, and they make it clear
> that Croizat makes his geological prediction not as an accident, but as
> a necessary outcome of the biogeographic facts - prediction that was
> later geologically corroborated. If anyone wants to argue about the
> views expressed in these paragraphs that is fine with me if they have
> also read the overall text within which they were written.
>
> p. 77 Main massings and major "tracks" and channels are the biological
> expression of basic geologic underlying realities. Flesh and rocks
> evolve together. There is reason of the strongest why the biogeography
> of the New World (and all the earth) does not necessarily agree with its
> present geography. This biogeography is primarily answerable as a matter
> of fact indeed to former geographies, not to the current one.
>
> p. 79 Let us assume that instead of being, as of today, of a single
> piece in geography the American Continent was at some geological time
> past of two pieces, one western, the other eastern; which two pieces
> eventually 'floated' to get together in current geography. Let us cast
> the dispersal of Drosera and Halenia generally to fun on these discrete
> pieces (Fig. 8), and next inquire whether when coming together these two
> discrete pieces would alter that dispersal in any manner really to
> count. The answer is that the change, vital as it could be in the sense
> of geophysics, would surely not make much different in that of
> biogeography, for Western and Eastern America would still differentially
> hold the dispersal of Drosera and Halenia, respectively. Figure 8 is
> undoubtedly crude, yet what it displays is enough, I believe, to reveal
> that "floating continents" need not necessarily be incompatible with
> quite orderly dispersal, of course within certain limits. I do
> underscore, because the very moment within geophysics might claim
> something which dispersal cannot allow, the certain limits in question
> would be prohibitive even against a science of geophysics and all its
> theories.
>
> John Grehan
>
>
>
> Dr. John R. Grehan
>
> Director of Science
>
> Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway
>
> Buffalo, NY 14211-1193
>
> email: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
>
> Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372
>
>
>
> Panbiogeography
>
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/research/current-research-activities/john-gre
> han/evolutionary-biography
>
> Ghost moth research
>
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/research/current-research-activities/john-gre
> han/ghost-moths
>
> Human evolution and the great apes
>
> http://www.sciencebuff.org/research/current-research-activities/john-gre
> han/human-origins
>
>
>
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: mivie at montana.edu [mailto:mivie at montana.edu]
>> Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 12:06 PM
>> To: John Grehan
>> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
>>
>> I know I am going to regret this....
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> However, while this approach makes excellent religion, it does not
> make
>> good science.  Not a group I want to be associated with.  If the
> theory
>> was more validly based, it would attract a wider, perhaps nearly
>> universal, following.  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.
>>
>> 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
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> >
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>> >
>
>
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