[Taxacom] Forgotting at the edge of miracles

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Sun Apr 26 17:29:28 CDT 2015

"  But we can still see cases where the strengths of convictions exceed the
evidence that supports them."

True, although I expect there might be quite a lot of disagreement among
biogeographers about which cases!

John Grehan

On Sun, Apr 26, 2015 at 3:36 PM, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>

> > On understanding of evolutionary history and distribution – true we only
> know
> > what we know for what we know. But what if there is never consensus?
> We don't need to worry about whether there will eventually be a
> consensus.  As I tried to make clear, the process of formulating
> hypotheses, gathering evidence, and examining congruence of evidence with
> predictions from hypotheses is what science should be about, and that part
> of biogeography is wonderful! (My colleagues and I are developing a
> manuscript that tosses yet another hypothesis into the pot to account for
> broad-scale patterns of distributions on coral reefs, so I count myself
> among the practitioners of this game.)
> The point I was commenting on (again, echoing Tony's post) was the
> tendency that he, and I, and apparently others have seen in biogeographic
> debates, in which some seem to presume that one explanation rises above the
> others as "the" primary mechanism of observed patterns of biogeographic
> distribution (dispersal, vicariance, teleportation, whatever....)  Maybe
> one will (eventually).  Or, maybe different explanations will fit the data
> better for different kinds of organisms.  Or maybe all sorts of mechanisms
> are at play even within a single group of organisms. Expanding what Tony
> Gill said: "A presumption of XXXXXX as an explanation for everything makes
> for uninteresting, and ultimately irrelevant, research."
> > Do we just say that we are a long way from understanding?
> No -- we keep finding evidence, keep coming up with new hypotheses and
> alterations to existing hypotheses., and hope that we gradually understand
> biodiversity better as a result.  We just need to temper the certainty of
> our convictions to be commensurate with the extent of our knowledge.
> > Maybe the ultimate
> > truth of the universe is more than we can ever encompass through
> empirical
> > evidence.
> Maybe.
> > I see your point of view regarding the potential influence on what we
> know, but
> > just because we don’t know anything about the undocumented species does
> not
> > necessarily mean that we are a long way from understanding.
> Agreed -- not necessarily. But in the case, I think it probably does.
> > It just means we
> > are a long way from completing an understanding of the undocumented
> > species (or maybe not if someone finds a way to document them faster. I
> guess
> > my conviction is that I can argue with conviction about the patterns
> that are
> > known.
> Yes; and to the extent that you make it clear that you are limiting your
> support for your convictions to the narrow scope of data that support them,
> that's great.  I'm not directing this at you personally, but I in the area
> of biogeography, I often see cases where the scope of convictions exceed
> the context of the data that support them.
> > No, I am just saying that there is no independent way of knowing how far
> along we are.
> Agreed -- we have no way of knowing where we are across the entire scale.
> But we can still see cases where the strengths of convictions exceed the
> evidence that supports them.
> Aloha,
> Rich

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