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The mission of the International Association of Bryologists (IAB), as a society, is to strengthen bryology by encouraging interactions among all persons interested in byophytes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Re: BRYONET: local endemics


Hi Ken,

You have a practical and useful point of view, which I respect and
agree with as far as your perceptions of the public go. But as a long-
time science educator I have a different point of view about the
solution. It is sometimes our role and duty as scientists to go
against popular beliefs (think global warming, subatomic physics, stem-
cell research, evolution). There is a fine line between simplifying
things a bit to explain complicated issues to the public, and
pandering to them. As argued in my response to Nancy earlier today,
at the bottom of things we need to be telling the truth (as far as we
know it, anyway) -- maybe simplified a bit, but accurate as far as we
go. No surer way to alienate the public than to be caught telling
them something that is not true. If we as scientists realize that
biodiversity is not composed of simple, comparable "atoms" (i.e.,
species), but instead is a magnificently complex tree of life with
branches bigger and smaller than we have called species, then it is
our duty to try our best to explain it to them.

I have actually had good luck with developer-types with a tree of life
argument. If instead of just telling them they must protect something
just because we declare it a species, we can show them its isolated
position on the tree of life, how far back you need to go to a common
ancestor with anything else living, etc., we can capture their
imagination. Even developers like to see data and justifications.
Everyone knows about genealogy, and what it would mean to be the last
surviving member of a family. We can build on those intuitions.



Brent D. Mishler
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
Director, University and Jepson Herbaria
Mailing address:
BERKELEY, CA 94720-2465 USA
Phone: (510) 642-6810
FAX: (510) 643-5390

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