[Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

Michael Heads michael.heads at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 29 23:42:54 CDT 2009


Dear Michael,

Just for the interest of readers, Croizat wrote book length works in English, French, Spanish and Italian and wrote hundreds of pages of Latin descriptions in the great old Harvard journal, J. Arnold Arboretum, and others. His immense correspondence, which I sorted after he died, was in these five languages plus Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek and Russian. He was brought up speaking Piedmontese, regarded by many linguists as a distinct language. (He also read German but never wrote in it). 
  Richard Howard was director of the Arnold Arboretum for more than 20 years and his work is familiar to all botanists active in the Lesser Antilles. He told me that when Kobuski, perhaps America's greatest botanical Latinist, was stuck for a word, he would go to Croizat.  

Michael, you found the following sentence from Croizat difficult to understand: "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."
   You argue that the sentence lacks a 'critical noun' and is 'gibberish'. So here it is, translated into easy English: 
   'There is a very good reason why biogeographic patterns in the Americas do not conform to current geography'.  
 The reason, Croizat suggested, is that the biogeographic patterns developed on landscapes that were completely different from those that we see today. The main patterns were laid down when the Andes didn't exist, the Caribbean didn't exist, the Atlantic didn't exist, the Pacific was completely different, and the western half of Mexico - the Guerrero terrane - was way out to sea somewhere. Instead of drawing dispersal routes over current geography, he suggested that we need to take all this into account when considering taxa such as the millipede Agathodesmus, in Australia, New Caledonia and Jamaica. 

Michael Heads


Wellington, New Zealand.

My papers on biogeography are at: http://tiny.cc/RiUE0


--- On Tue, 6/30/09, mivie at montana.edu <mivie at montana.edu> wrote:

> From: mivie at montana.edu <mivie at montana.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
> To: "John Grehan" <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 6:40 AM
> 
> Hmm, "Write enough gibberish and look hard enough at it
> with faith in its
> importance and something might make sense," so sayeth
> Nostradamus.
> 
> Lets look at one of Croizat's sentences that you choose as
> evidence of his
> wonderfulness: "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."
> 
> Diagram it to find the subject, verb, modifiers, and
> dependences:
> Subject: reason
> Verb modifier: of the strongest
> Verb: is
> Predicate: There
> Predicate noun: biogeography
> 
> ???Reason is biogeography???  This is the best you can
> find, and you
> wonder why it is called gibberish?
> 
> Only religious faith can sustain such devotion.
> 
> M
> 
> it is gibberish! What does "There is reason of the
> strongest" mean? 
> Nothing.  it lacks a critical noun that would make it
> English.  And, read
> strictly, biogeography is an entity able to agree or
> disagree with
> geography.  Nonsense.  The rest of the work is
> worse.
> 
> 
> > In what way is silly to cite a section dealing with a
> particular
> > geological prediction? There are thousands of other
> pages sure, but they
> > mostly deal with different topics. Are there thousands
> of pages of
> > gibberish? Michael Ivie says so. Whether that is an
> accurate claim or
> > not remains to be seen. Having read most of the
> thousands of pages I
> > would disagree.
> >
> > Michael, please explain how you see the verification
> is the same as for
> > Nostradamus.
> >
> > John Grehan
> >
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: mivie at montana.edu
> [mailto:mivie at montana.edu]
> >> Sent: Monday, June 29, 2009 1:34 PM
> >> To: John Grehan
> >> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> >> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
> >>
> >> 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
> >> >> >
> >> >> >
> >> >> >
> >> >> >
> _______________________________________________
> >> >> >
> >> >> > 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
> >> >> >
> >> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> _______________________________________________
> >> >
> >> > 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
> >> >
> >> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> >
> > 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
> >
> >
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________
> 
> 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