Evolving Thoughts

New paper by moi

I have a review of the centenary festschrift for Mayr, published by the National Academies of Science, in the latest Biology and Philosophy here. I worked pretty hard on this one, so it’s more than your average dashed off review article…

Hey, Jody; Fitch, Walter M.; Ayala, Francisco J., eds. 2005. Systematics and the origin of species: On Ernst Mayr?s 100th Anniversary. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Pages: 367 + xiii. ISBN: 0-309-09536-0


  1. #1 coturnix
    August 12, 2007

    Hmmm. Closed Access. $32. Can it be gad for free?

  2. #2 KiwiInOz
    August 12, 2007

    Coturnix – will email it to you.


  3. #3 coturnix
    August 13, 2007

    Got it. Thanks.

  4. #4 Scott Hatfield, OM
    August 13, 2007

    Congrats! I look forward to reading it…SH

  5. #5 Mike P
    August 14, 2007

    Who is Jody and why does she deserve a “Hey” in the author list???

  6. #6 John Wilkins
    August 14, 2007

    He is a leading geneticist at Rutgers University, and the author of an important book on species concetps.

  7. #7 Kevin Z
    August 15, 2007

    I’m reading the Hey book right now to prepare for my comps this fall.

    Good job John, just took a look at it. What do you mean by the latter half of this quote?

    But the project to harness systematics, which is very much the poor cousin of biological disciplines, is a good idea, although we might be a bit less enthusiastic about bioinformatics than we were a few years ago, given the lack of generally useful results.

    I agree with the first half, but I am puzzled by the second half. From what I hear on the list-serves and other news, the big push right now is in bioinformatics as related to biogeography, systematics, and biodiversity. In fact, 3 postdocs were just advertised at the Field Museum, all some aspect of bioinformatics. Granted it has been a bit slow to take off, but are their results “generally useless”? Can you point to any specific examples?

    As a disclaimer, I am not a bioninformaticist in any way. I’m old fashioned morphology, ecology and some molecular systemacist.

  8. #8 oliveoyl
    August 18, 2007

    This is the umpteenth time my poor advisor has been taken for a “she”, lol :)

  9. #9 John Wilkins
    August 18, 2007

    Note that I did not say that bioinformatics is “generally useless”, but that it lacks “generally useful” results. The one does not imply the other.

    Bioinformatics was launched as the new hope of biology – allowing us to deal with large data sets (particularly in molecular biology, such as microarray data) and find useful results in the morass of data. It simply doesn’t do that, nor should a sober expectation have thought it would. Biology is massively interconnected and also massively noisy, and there are no simple solutions.

    Just as molecular systematics had some success but didn’t change the conceptual issues, only the amount of data to be analysed, bioinformatics has had some good results, and a lot of disappointment.

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