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Re: two new books & S.J. Gould



just put the thesaurus down and step away....

  StephanPickering@cs.com wrote:

     I am well aware of the critiques of Reb Gould's scholarship, having  most of them in my files, but still consider punctuated equilibrium to be a utilitarian methodology, and his new book to be worthy of serious consideration. Thus, the comments directed to my generalized observations are rejected, as I am intellectually equipped to read, formulate extrapolations from what I have read, enter into dialogue with others who undertake the same process...and when I disagree with their interpolations, I am not going to hang my head in chastised shame that I have not "seen the light", as it were. I do not need your flashlight to see in daylight.  Reb Gould's new work is a masterful undertaking (have you read it?), and if you disagree with his paradigms, then you should spend the time to organize your thoughts into coher! ! ence and present a counter-interpretation of the same historical data. Gunther ! ! Eble and others at the Santa Fe Institute's Evolutionary Dynamics project (James Crutchfield, Melanie Mitchell, S.A. Kauffman, e.g.) have been presenting papers for sometime now; read them. Those who would divorce paleontological thought from (bio)ontology are those who fail to see the connection(s) between the social forces (empires  and the repression/extermination of  populations) creating/having created the discipline of early paleontology itself. O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope, e.g., were able to make their dinosaur discoveries because of the expansion of industrial corporations into the "west" (i.e., railroads) after the indigenous populations were slaughtered in these  areas (the Atlantic coast tribes were forcibly marched into the interior, to die on the way or perish in the killing centers called "reservations"). In Europe, the financing of Belgium's slave labour genocide in th! ! e Congo also found its way into financing of dinosaur explorations in Egypt and eas! ! t Africa. Last year, Roy MacLeod edited a fine volume for Osiris, volume 15: Nature and empire: science and the colonial enterprise, exploring other facets of the subject. I believe it important to be aware that "objective", "pure" science, existing in a pristine environment without links to the "outside", is a mythical enterprise. How the early scholars presented their interpretations of the fossil record is inseparable from who they were. When one discovers that who they were (H.G. Wells published "scientifiction"...he also was a vituperative Jew hater who wrote thousands of words attacking Jews, believe they were responsible for 1933-1945; does this make his fiction suspect and to be analyzed with what one knows of him? Of course), then it is the responsibility of the historian of paleontology to examine  carefully how the scholar presented his work in the frameworks ch! ! osen.  Hence, I find it fascinating to observe those who would spend hours discuss! ! ing the most minute aspects of a new specimen often are unable (unwilling?),. e.g., to connect the specimen to a once-living animal, with an array of ecomorphologies. As Gunther Eble, Reb Gould and others have said, there is a dialectic between evolutionary dynamics (punctuated equilibrium, genetic processes, etc.) and the morphology of an animal. Phylogenetic systematics seeks clarity in the terminology one adopts for discussing dinosaurs; so, too, molecular genetics, cladistics, behavioral ecology of living dinosaurs are analogous tools. Needless to say, contra Keith Parsons, a paleontologist, in presenting an interpretation of the dinosaur's world, is deriving his conceptualizations from other paradigms. For me, embryology and morphogenesis, while eclipsed by genetics and molecular biology in recent decades, are of interest in extrapolating continuing dinosaur evolution. Hetero! ! chrony, developmental constraints, evolvability, modularity -- interpretations of avian the! ! ropod macroevolution -- are facets of realities all of us exist in.  The importance of Reb Gould's book cannot be overstressed, because if paleontology is to be the  vibrant, resonanting "soul" of integrative biological scholarship, then those who prefer to discuss a dinosaur apart from its world, and that world's links to our world, should widen their intellectual vocabularies. Jacques Gauthier's/L.F. Gall's work, Gregory Paul's two dinosaur volumes, Reb Gould's two volumes (Ontogeny & Phylogeny being the first), Dov Ospovat's concepts, Keith Parsons's philosophical discourses, and a few others are tools to ask further questions.
      Also, a new paper has appeared from Kevin Padian's laboratory of scholarship: Kenneth D. Angielczyk, 2002. A character-based method for measuring the fit of a cladogram to the fossil record! ! , Systematic Biology 51:176-191. He raises the important point that character-based cladograms can be linked to fossil data.



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