Darwin-L Message Log 1:43 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<1:43>From @VM1.NoDak.EDU:PX53@SDSUMUS.SDSTATE.EDU  Mon Sep  6 22:32:06 1993

Date: Mon, 06 Sep 93 22:36:03 CDT
To: <darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu>
Subject: intro

I don't have much to say at this time - I've got 3 classes this
semester!  So, I'll just read for awhile, at least until someone
says something really on a limb.

My name is Paul J. Johnson, and I'm a new ass. prof. at South Dakota
State University.  Since academic auto-grooming seems to be part of
the initiation rites, I should note that I have a B.S. from Oregon
State Univ., a M.S. from the Univ. of Idaho, and a PhD from the Univ.
of Wisconsin-Madison <there, I feel better!>.

My research specialty is insect systematics and museum curation & mgt.
I work primarily with beetles, especially the larvae of click beetles`
and pill beetles.  I also get deep in paleoentomology and biogeography,
and am currently working a phylogenetic/biogeographic problem involving
genus-level endemics found on the old Greater Fiji platform; presently
including Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu.  I also am big into faunal studies,
even though they are passe by the younger crowd.

My only meager input at this time is to comment on a couple of remarks
concerning "cladistics."  It seems evident that at least some persons
have the mistaken impression that cladistics approaches a philosophy in
its own right.  Yes, cladistics is an invaluable tool for elucidating
relationships of taxa, yet it remains merely a methodology, a tool.
Thus, its use in deriving relationships between organic taxa or language
groups is equally valuable.  Only the misuse and misinterpretation of
procedures and assumptions can be questioned.  If one must subscribe to
some level of philosophy with regard to cladistic methodology, then you
should go back to Hennigian phylogenetics, the birthright of cladistics.
Or, better yet, go on back through the entire historical development of
Willi's ideas, which were not novel, only clearly congealed.

With that, I ask only that subscribers be careful of jargon from their
own specialties and interests; after all, communication is the name of
the game.

And, for those beginning the debate on social evolution, how about that
of biologists.

  "We sat on a crate of oranges and thought what good men most
biologists are, the tenors of the scientific world - temperamental,
moody, lecherous, loud-laughing, and healthy.  Once in a while one comes
on the other kind - what used in the university to be called a `dry-ball
'- but such men are not really biologists.  They are the embalmers of
the field, the picklers who see only the preserved form of life without
any of its principle.  Out of their own crusted minds they create a
world wrinkled with formaldehyde.  The true biologist deals with life,
with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that
the first rule of life is living.  The dry-balls cannot possibly learn
a thing every starfish knows in the core of his soul and in the vesicles
between his rays.  He must, so know the starfish and the student
biologist who sits at the feet of living things, proliferate in all
directions.  Having certain tendencies, he must move along their lines
to the limit of their potentialities.  And we have known biologists who
did proliferate in all directions: one or two have had a little trouble
about it.  Your true biologist will sing you a song as loud and off-key
as will a blacksmith, for he knows that morals are too often diagnostic
of prostatitis and stomach ulcers.  Sometimes he may proliferate a littl
e too much in all directions, but he is as easy to kill as any other
organism, and meanwhile he is very good company, and at least he does
not confuse a low hormone productivity with moral ethics.

      -- J. Steinbeck & E.F. Ricketts,
       Sea of Cortez. . .


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