Thinking in continua: Beyond the adaptive radiation metaphor

Bioessays 31 (12):1337-1346 (2009)
‘‘Adaptive radiation’’ is an evocative metaphor for explosive evolutionary divergence, which for over 100 years has given a powerful heuristic to countless scientists working on all types of organisms at all phylogenetic levels. However, success has come at the price of making ‘‘adaptive radiation’’ so vague that it can no longer reflect the detailed results yielded by powerful new phylogeny-based techniques that quantify continuous adaptive radiation variables such as speciation rate, phylogenetic tree shape, and morphological diversity. Attempts to shoehorn the results of these techniques into categorical ‘‘adaptive radiation: yes/no’’ schemes lead to reification, in which arbitrary quantitative thresholds are regarded as real. Our account of the life cycle of metaphors in science suggests that it is time to exchange the spent metaphor for new concepts that better represent the full range of diversity, disparity, and speciation rate across all of life.
Keywords metaphor  reification  adaptive radiation  life-cycle  evolutionary  biology
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DOI 10.1002/bies.200900102
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References found in this work BETA
George Lakoff (1980). Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press.
Max Black (1962). Models and Metaphors. Ithaca, N.Y.,Cornell University Press.

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