revolution

Alexey V. Kuprijanov q at SN.PU.RU
Fri Oct 4 00:49:34 CDT 1996


James Lyons-Weiler <weiler at ers.unr.edu> wrote:

>On Wed, 2 Oct 1996, Alexey V. Kuprijanov wrote:

[citation snipped]

>This is a caricature of modern taxonomic science, and ignores
>entirely the century - old goal of having natural
>classifications. So far as cladists being mad, they use an
>explicit algorithm that can be repeated and understood (note
>the algorithm need not exist as software, but it is an
>algorithm nevertheless. I submit that taxonomy by authority
>also uses algorithms, the authors just don't bother to write
>them down and test their generality. The human brain is like
>a computing machine itself; examine its beahavior and we see
>that it needs algorithms to run (language structure), that it
>performs heuristic approximations all the time, and in doing
>so, is entry-order sensitive (that's in part why jokes seem
>funny to it).

1) It is not a caricature of modern taxonomic science. Just
look around. I saw many papers concerning cladistic analysis
but I did not see any concerning proper cladistic synthesis.
OK, it was great when crocodiles were rejoined with birds
after centuries of separation. But where from came birds and
crocodiles? Of course, the old-fashioned taxonomists of the
XVIII - XIX centuries occasionally discovered these groups...
Cladists just have justified them with autoapomorphies. The
situation is more difficult on the generic level. I know many
genera which had been established before cladistics came into
play. They are acceptable until recent.

Cladists usually do not care very much about the monophyly of
the terminal taxa. They simply accept these taxa *as if* the
latter are monophyletic. Theory and practice are quite
different things.

Where from comes the knowledge of genera? What are the
mechanisms which underlie the changes of system? Can system of
a group come to the recent condition without help of cladistic
methodology? (Linnean Vermes had been revised before
cladistics appeared.)

2) We do not realise what is the natural system. There is a
variety of concepts of naturality. Taxonomists of different
ages tried to find different natural systems. I would not like
to discuss this topic here at great length but I can do it if
you are interested.

3) I do not think, of course, that all cladists are mad. I
just would like to say that the highly formal cladistic
analysis (and mainly, the cladistic software) opened the way
for the careless workers. To be a taxonomist today you should
not be an anatomist, you should not be an artist, you should
just be familiar with PAUP or Hennig86 (cladistic methodology,
isn't it?).

I fully agree with other your comments and particularly with
the following:

>Cladistics alone is not the full scope of
>Systematic Biology, but we have learned a great deal from it.

Forgive, please, my not replying so long. I am not perfect in
English and, have some problems formulating my reply.

Sincerely yours, Alexey

|---------------------------------------------------------------|
| Alexey V. Kuprijanov            (Lepidoptera: Incurvarioidea) |
|                                                               |
| St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists                         |
| Univrsitetskaya emb. 7/9                                      |
| St. Petersburg 199034                                         |
| R U S S I A                                                   |
|---------------------------------------------------------------|




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