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In pursuit of Alfred Russel Wallace: The Skeptiko interview with Michael Flannery

Alex Tsakiris
Alex Tsakiris

In an interview oddly titled “How Many Dinosaurs Fit on Noah’s Ark?, Skeptiko’s Alex Tsakiris interviews (trsnscript and audio) evolution theory expert Michael Flannery, author of books on Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s elbowed-out co-theorist:

Professor Flannery: Wallace tended to view competition occurring among groups in a demographic sense. Darwin tended to view it as individual competition.

Alex Tsakiris: Again, we’re hitting notes that come up over and over again — class, collectivism versus individualism… to me it seems obvious that Wallace was right. I mean, when it comes to competition for food supply, and what would make a certain species go extinct, it’s primarily a group collective kind of thing. That just rings true.

Professor Flannery: Right. And it’s an expression of how they collected. Remember, I said Darwin collected individual species and would examine them in great, great detail — maybe just a few different species — whereas Wallace was collecting huge numbers, 125,000 species. He’s collecting demographically. So he’s taking a look at how it was that certain plants and animals were found in some places and some zones and not in others. Darwin didn’t have anything near that level of sophistication.

By the way, how many dinosaurs would fit on Noah’s Ark? Well, how many dairy cows would fit on an airplane?

An arbitrarily large number of thousands of them, if you transport them as embryos – and implant them at the other end. Since Alex asked. And not that we’re making a point about Noah’s ark, rather about the importance of creative thinking.


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