[Taxacom] fascinating reading

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Mon May 29 18:00:25 CDT 2017


By some coincidence it was argued by some of my colleagues that
panbiogeography corresponded very well with the theory of knowledge
outlined by Derrida. Not surprisingly that was not often taken very well by
many others in biogeography and evolutionary biology. Fortunately the power
of suppression is not always absolute, and unorthodox science has often
survived at the margins and other weak points or fault lines of orthodoxy.
The rebirth of panbiogeography that occurred in New Zealand provides quite
a nice illustration of how things do or do not work in the evolutionary
sciences. On the one hand the NZ science environment lay at the geographic
periphery of the main centers of power, but on the other hand the local NZ
science culture was comfortably monotheistic and consequently did not know
how to manage or accommodate what would be regarded as heresy. I once had
the opportunity to present an outline of panbiogeography approaches to
conservation to a minister of conservation who thought it all looked quite
interesting and made a lot of sense and made valuable additions to
providing a scientific foundation for establishing conservation priorities.
But then the minister later consulted with departmental staff. You can
guess the outcome.

When I presented the dilemma over how new challenges could have space to
grow in NZ to the then Minister for Science he suggested that the solution
lay in the form of a competitive basis for science funding that his
government was instituting. His philosophy was that competitive science was
truly competitive and only the best or better science would be funded. So I
spent three years submitting a multi-investigator panbiogeographic research
program only to find it rejected by the orthodox reviewers in NZ (overseas
reviewers were much more supportive). The reviewers attitude was generally
in the form of not being convinced about panbiogeography so the approach
could never be funded since it was not part of the established institutions
of science. In the fourth year I had one last go when a new government
program, called the Marsden Fund, was supposed to provide an avenue for
'high risk' unorthodox science. Needless to say the result was quite
pitiful - at least from my viewpoint. And this is not to say that there was
anything inherently wrong in how science worked under the 'competitive'
umbrella, it just happened to be what it was. Opponents of panbiogeography
(the dominant paradigm) would probably say that was a good thing - assuming
that they believed that one of the roles of science was to suppress where
necessary.

When I approached the minister about these operational difficulties the
response was that since the program was now established its control lay in
the hands of the science administration and there could be no 'political'
interference by the government.

John Grehan



On Mon, May 29, 2017 at 4:49 PM, Zack Murrell <murrellze at appstate.edu>
wrote:

> John,
>
> Jacques Derrida was a philosopher who is credited with founding
> deconstructionism.  His argument is that the power structure supports the
> current paradigm and suppresses any alternative views.  We see many places
> in science (positions, tenure, acceptance of manuscripts, grants) where the
> power structure can abuse the minority views.  Seems we should all be
> mindful of this trap.
>
> Zack Murrell
>
>
> On 5/29/2017 1:15 PM, John Grehan wrote:
>
>> These web entries got me to thinking (when I think at all) on reflections
>> I
>> have had over the years about the ironies of sciences as an explicit
>> effort
>> to overturn accepted views and the way human nature includes the opposite.
>> In my own efforts I support some views that are oppositional to
>> established
>> or dominant paradigms, but this does not mean that the other views are de
>> facto automatically shortsighted, obstinate, or obtuse. I can be just as
>> wedded to established views as anyone else, and just because a radical for
>> some notions does not mean radical to all. That's why I do not label any
>> individuals negatively simply for being in opposition to my views. I'm
>> even
>> cautious about how to view those who publish call for bans on the
>> publication of science, as happened with panbiogeography. At least they
>> are
>> being honest.
>>
>> Who is to say that the role of science is not only discovery, but also
>> suppression? One might argue that without suppression there is no edge in
>> science upon which to sharpen one's wits. However good that may be, there
>> is also an individual cost. It seems that science presents a rather
>> discordant situation for the psychology of each individual - on the one
>> hand to discover, on the other hand not to discover too much (the latter
>> bringing on the potential for social and economic approbation).  Mitchell
>> was awarded by a court-martial. For his prescient understanding of the
>> tank, De Gaulle left out of promotions. Churchill was considered feeble
>> minded for recognizing Hitler for who he was. With this kind of dynamic,
>> it
>> is amazing that science works as well as it does - assuming it does work.
>> In systematics and evolutionary theory it's always fascinated me as to how
>> these pressures have affected, and continue to affect, the path of
>> discourse.
>>
>> John Grehan
>>
>> On Sun, May 28, 2017 at 10:37 PM, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>
>> The second one about science denial is also applicable from within science
>>> as much as without. The tenor of the article seems to focus on external
>>> responses to science, but it's just as active within - the assertion that
>>> panbiogeography is creationist thinking serving as a solid example. But
>>> again, these books seem to recycle long established insights about
>>> knowledge, new knowledge, and how humans respond. War technology has very
>>> often provided many classic examples of this (perhaps more so because
>>> consequences can be catastrophic). For example, it was once believed
>>> bombs
>>> dropped from planes could not sink warships. William Mitchell did just
>>> that, but the lesson still had to be re-learned in WWII, even by some
>>> prominent supporters of air power. Denial is certainly something that
>>> Homo
>>> sapiens has lots of - perhaps we should be called Homo deniali :)
>>>
>>> John Grehan
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> On Sun, May 28, 2017 at 6:08 PM, Kirkbride, Joseph H. <KirkbrideJ at si.edu
>>> >
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> What are our genes really telling us? The answer is far from clear
>>>>
>>>> https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-are-our-genes-
>>>> really-telling-us-the-answer-is-far-from-clear/2017/05/24/
>>>> 408ddbb8-0dac-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html?utm_term=.a94b110470e1
>>>>
>>>> Why science denial isn’t necessarily ideological
>>>>
>>>> https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-science-denial-
>>>> isnt-necessarily-ideological/2017/05/25/c8cc8346-3f14-11e7-
>>>> 8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html?utm_term=.c57ab246ef5c
>>>>
>>>> Joe K
>>>>
>>>> Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr.
>>>> Research Associate
>>>> Botany Department
>>>> NMNH - MRC 166
>>>> Smithsonian Institution
>>>> P.O. Box 37012
>>>> Washington, DC 20013-7012
>>>> USA
>>>> E-mail: kirkbridej at si.edu<mailto:kirkbridej at si.edu<https://webaccess
>>>> .si.edu/owa/redir.aspx?SURL=JxVgov7nMkNieES71ppTRAK3OqlpjFzv
>>>> GUeMCTBoxd1faIRhkhvTCG0AYQBpAGwAdABvADoAawBpAHIAawBiAHIAaQBk
>>>> AGUAagBAAHMAaQAuAGUAZAB1AA..&URL=mailto%3akirkbridej%40si.edu>>
>>>> Mobile telephone: 1-301-602-6958
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>
>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>>> 1987-2017.
>>>>
>>>>
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>>
>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years, 1987-2017.
>>
>
> --
> Zack Murrell
> Professor and Curator of the Herbarium
> Chair of the Department of Biology
> Past President, Association of Southeastern Biologists
> Director, SERNEC: SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections
> Department of Biology
> Appalachian State University
> Boone, NC 28608
>
> office phone 828-262-2674
> Biology Dept phone 828-262-3025
>
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>
> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years, 1987-2017.
>


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