Evidence can provide support for or against a particular biogeographical hypothesis. Treating a hypothesis as if it were evidence or an empirical observation confounds many biogeographical analyses. We focus on two recent publications that address, in part, the evolution of the biota of Sulawesi, the large Indonesian island in the centre of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Many biogeographical explanations are hampered by invoking simple notions of mechanism or process – dispersal and vicariance – or constraints, such as dispersal from a centre of origin, and, in so doing, dismiss more complex geological phenomena such as emergent volcanoes within island chains or composite areas as irrelevant. Moreover, they do not search for, therefore never discover, biogeographical patterns that may better explain the distribution of biota through time.