By the 1990s, phylogeneticists---evolutionary biologists who reconstruct the Tree of Life---argued that the rapid increase of environmental destruction in the crisis of climate change made phylogenetics better suited than ecology to curate the natural world. In doing so, they argue that their methodology will save the planet's key process for life on Earth, biological evolution. With the 2007 launch of the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE of Existence global conservation initiative, phylogeneticists have asserted their cultural and scientific authority over conversation policy. This shift in conservation methodology away from ecological models to elevate some species as more deserving for preservation is analogous to a scientific Noah’s Ark. The paper argues that the debate over curating evolution is implicitly a debate over biological time that reflects a set of ideological choices emerging from Euro-American visions of nature (particularly zoological), modernity, and sovereignty. For this paper, Nuala Caomhanach will examine how phylogeneticists construct biological time as they reconstruct the evolutionary history on the Tree of Life, and how phylogenetic diversity became the metric for conservation policy.
The history of science workshop provides historians of science in the New York City area with a collegial, informal environment to share works-in-progress. Presenters circulate a paper a week in advance and discuss it with workshop attendees.
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