Friday links: the taxonomic sin that nobody ever actually commits, confidence vs. expertise, and more

Also this week: #rebrandaspecies, the scientific paper with the most citations on Wikipedia, Darwin’s finches that do not exist but really should, why biologists argue with one another, worst statistics joke ever, and more. Meghan’s back with #sabbaticallinks!

From Jeremy:

Further to our recent discussions of controversial scientific ideas, check out Adrian Currie on the developing consensus over the causes of the KT mass extinction. Includes the interesting suggestion that controversies in the historical sciences (and ecology?) generally start with simple monocausal hypotheses and get resolved in favor of more complex multicausal hypotheses–but that it’s nevertheless better for investigators to start with the simple hypothesis.

A commenter at the previous link sends us to a related old discussion, Beatty (1987). Why do biologists have so many arguments over the relative significance or importance of different causes or factors contributing to some observed effect or phenomenon? And here’s a related old post from me on how ecologists sometimes make the mistake of asking about the relative importance of different things in contexts in which that question makes no sense.

Stephen Heard at his best. He starts by showing that, contrary to popular belief, taxonomists almost never name species after themselves; most purported instances are “false positives”. Then he connects this to the broader problem of identifying rare instances of anything.

Slightly belated congratulations to the ecologists and evolutionary biologists newly elected to the US National Academy of Sciences: Joy Bergelson, Susan Harrison, Jon Losos, Stephen O’Brien, Peter Reich, Günter Wagner, and Pablo Marquet (foreign associate). Apologies if I missed anyone, please alert me to errors in the comments and I’ll update the post. (ht a correspondent) (UPDATE: and Cathy Whitlock and Diana Wall; ht to a correspondent for correcting my oversights, and apologies.)

The story of the paper cited on Wikipedia far more often than any other. It’s from climatology. (ht Marginal Revolution)


Worst statistics joke ever. No points for making obvious “chi squared distribution”, “lognormal distribution”, or “Weibull distribution” jokes in the comments.

From Meghan:


3 thoughts on “Friday links: the taxonomic sin that nobody ever actually commits, confidence vs. expertise, and more

    • Since it about as hard to get into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as it is to get into the Royal Society, we should also honor this years newly elected AAA&S members:
      SECTION 4 — Evolutionary and Population Biology, and Ecology (13)
      Rosemary G. Gillespie
      University of California, Berkeley
      Marc Mangel
      University of California, Santa Cruz
      H. Frederik Nijhout
      Duke University
      Naomi E. Pierce
      Harvard University
      Andrew F. Read
      Pennsylvania State University
      Ruth G. Shaw
      University of Minnesota

      International Honorary Members — Evolutionary and Population Biology, and Ecology (7)
      Leif Andersson
      Uppsala University
      Jacqueline M. King
      University of the Western Cape, South Africa
      Sandra D. Knapp
      Natural History Museum, London, UK
      Johanna Mappes
      University of Jyväskylä
      Pablo A. Marquet
      Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
      Susanne S. Renner
      Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
      Jorge L. Soberon Mainero
      University of Kansas

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