The phylogeography debate and the epistemology of model-based evolutionary biology

Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):833-850 (2014)
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Phylogeography, a relatively new subdicipline of evolutionary biology that attempts to unify the fields of phylogenetics and population biology in an explicit geographical context, has hosted in recent years a highly polarized debate related to the purported benefits and limitations that qualitative versus quantitative methods might contribute or impose on inferential processes in evolutionary biology. Here we present a friendly, non-technical introduction to the conflicting methods underlying the controversy, and exemplify it with a balanced selection of quotes from the primary biological literature, to invite the philosophy of biology community to pay attention to the elements that have played a primary role in its presumed resolution. We also present the basic features of our own metascientific take on the debate, and point out—as a preliminary step in preparation for upcoming, more detailed treatments—the importance that appeals to authority in fields external to phylogeography per se have played in the current status of this highly visible evolutionary biology dispute
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