Monday, March 30, 2009
Publishing World Agog
John Wilkins, the relentlessly antipodian philosopher of science and world-famous punster, has his book, Species: A History of the Idea, on the veritable verge of publication.
The complex idea of "species" has evolved over time, yet its meaning is far from resolved. This lucidly written, comprehensive work takes a fresh look at an idea central to the field of biology by tracing its history from antiquity to today. John S. Wilkins explores the essentialist view, a staple of logic from Plato and Aristotle through the Middle Ages to fairly recent times, and considers the idea of species in natural history--a concept often limited to reproduction. Tracing "generative conceptions" of species back through Darwin to Epicurus, Wilkins provides a new perspective on the relationship between philosophical and biological approaches to this concept. He also reviews the array of current definitions, asking if they capture the relevant facts, intuitions, and operational requirements of biology. In particular, Wilkins considers the views of Ernst Mayr and of more modern phylogenetic systems of classification. Written for a wide audience across disciplines, Species is a benchmark exploration and clarification of a concept fundamental to the past, present, and future of the natural sciences.
1 Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little.
You heard it here first.
(I hear that John's going to play himself in the movie. That will be a challenge.)
How challenging is it to drink beer and make bad jokes?
Ah, but at the same time?
As for who should play the lead, I do hear that Mel Gibson is looking for a meaty role to rehabilitate his career. Personally, I would lean towards Sam Neill.