Henry Gee’s book “The Accidental Species”

I have three rules in life. One is, Never get into a land war in Asia. The second is, Locate the nearest exit. The third and most important is: When Henry Gee writes something, believe it. I first encountered Henry through his book In Search of Deep Time, which covered a field of science that Read More…

Ooh! Shiny!

Just got the draft cover art of my new book with Malte Ebach: I designed the logo myself… clever, hey?

My latest paper

Science & Education, February 2013, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 221-240 Biological Essentialism and the Tidal Change of Natural Kinds John S. Wilkins Abstract The vision of natural kinds that is most common in the modern philosophy of biology, particularly with respect to the question whether species and other taxa are natural kinds, is based on a revision of Read More…

The relation of classification to abductive reasoning

In my last post, commentator DiscoveredJoys raised the question of abductive reasoning and how it relates to my claim that classification is basically pattern recognition. It’s a fair question. First I’ll repeat my response, and then go into it a little more. In my view, abduction is larger in scope than pattern recognition (PR). PR Read More…

Pattern recognition: neither deduction nor induction

It occurs to me as I read Rosenberg’s Philosophy of Science (2005), that we tend in that field to classify epistemic activities into two kinds: induction (about which we have many arguments as to its warrantability) and deduction (with many arguments about its applicability). But I believe there is something else that we do to learn about Read More…

Evopsychopathy 2: The phylogenetic bracket

As noted, SB and EP have a very unfortunate tendency to reflect the status quo in their results and research questions. This is not unique to them. History, sociology, other fields of psychology (psychotherapy for gods’ sake!), and in my own profession, ethics, all have this “Pull of Privilege”. Somehow the results of this research Read More…

The classification of clouds

[A segment of my new book, coauthored with Malte Ebach] The classification of clouds Clouds were regarded as so subjective, fleeting and resistant to classification that they were a byword for the failure of empirical classification, until Luke Howard in 1802 proposed the foundation for our present system of cloud classification (in competition, although he Read More…

Jefferson on classification

The following letter, from this site with permission, was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1814. Apart from demonstrating how low American political life has fallen from its high commencement point, Jefferson shows he was up on the latest disputes in taxonomy. It was written to a Dr John Manners. The opinion which, in your letter of Read More…

Wilkins in the Ukraine, and a special issue on Lyell

I have been translated again (people never learn). My Macroevolution FAQ: Ukraine translation by Gmail Archive – http://www.stoodio.org/macroevolution. The translator is Vlad Brown, so any errors of fact can now be assigned to someone else… [Thanks Vlad] Also, check out the special issue of the Geological Society of Lond Special Publication (143) from 1998, which Read More…

Phylogeny and the history of language and culture

Increasingly, work is being done using the methods of phylogenetic systematics to uncover cultural and linguistic evolution. A leading lab on this work is Russell Gray’s lab at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and his collaborators have looked at the evolution of language, particularly Pacific languages, and other cultural trends (like canoe Read More…