Exploring species concepts
The first session of the Sawyer Seminar on Speciesism was fantastic. First, selfishly, it was a great review in preparation for the qualifying exam. Second, it was an example of exceptional discussion on some incredibly nuanced topics, and thoughtful positions on all sides of the debate. The presentations were by Dr. Craig Moritz and Dr. Brent Mishler, and the discussions were by Dr. Roberta Millstein, Dr. Robert Proctor and Dr. David Wake. AMAZING.
Prior to the event, we were encouraged to read four papers to prime the discussion, references included below.
ALVAREZ, W. 1991. The gentle art of scientific trespassing. GSA Today 1(2):29-34.
CLARIDGE, M. F. 2009. Species are Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
HEY, J., R. S. WAPLES, M. L. ARNOLD, R. K. BUTLIN, and R. G. HARRISON. 2003. Understanding and confronting species uncertainty in biology and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18(11):597-603.
MISHLER, B. D. 2009. Species are not Uniquely Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
In general, as an overview text that follows the debate format [hence the title], this is a great read – WHEELER, Q., and R. MEIER. 2000. Species concepts and phylogenetic theory : a debate. New York, Columbia University Press.
Most of the species names that I wrote down in my notes were almost all Homo sapiens – although there was a monospecific plant [Gingko - naturally mentioned by Dr. Mishler]. Is that my bias? I will have to pay better attention the next time to the species names discussed. Common names were bandied about frequently [Chimpanzee, Barn owl, salamander, oak, orchid], and I didn’t know if this was a deliberate strategy for initiating the debate, or a result of establishing common points of reference across incredibly diverse disciplines represented. I was trying to remember what the tautonym for one of the owls was, and confused Bufo bufo with Bubo bubo. Dr. Kip Will recommended this great site for ‘Curious Scientific Names’ by Dr. Douglas Yanega [here].
I am definitely looking forward to the next session in May [general schedule available here].