FWD>RE>FWD>True phylogenies

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Jul 31 09:31:37 CDT 1995


Date sent: 31-JUL-1995
Krishtalka wrote:
 >        "Nature is parsimonious"
but then added,
 >        "Nature is not as simple as its observers"

I've never read William of Ockham's original works, so I don't know what
he said.  But as I understand the principle of parsimony, it does not
state that nature is parsimonious, but rather that the most parsimonious
solution is *most likely* to be correct, since the complications that *we*
introduce will not necessarily be the same ones that *nature* introduces.
As I tell my students, the principle of parsimony tells you where to stake
your money, but don't rely on it for staking your life.

A lot of (imho) specious arguments against parsimony in phylogenetic
reconstruction have been raised based on this total misconception that
evolution is parsimonious.  We use parsimony primarily because "Nature is
not as simple as its observers."

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Curtis Clark                                       Voice: (909) 869-4062
Biological Sciences Department                     FAX:   (909) 869-4396
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at csupomona.edu
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