Confusion between evidence and hypothesis in biogeographical studies was the focus of our recent Guest Editorial (Parenti & Ebach, 2013, Journal of Biogeography, 40, 813–820). That editorial was critiqued by de Bruyn et al. (2013, Journal of Biogeography, doi: 10.1111/jbi.12166) to whom we reply briefly here. Despite our shared goals – to understand what lives where and why – we argue from different philosophical premises. Although we may have little common ground, such debate encourages the good health of the field of biogeography.