hypothetical construct

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at UMICH.EDU
Mon Dec 8 15:41:21 CST 1997

sylvia hope wrote:

>         The point I meant to
>          make is that the term  "synapomorphy" reifies the
>          idea of homology.  It makes a relationship of homology seem
>          to be a real, solid thing, whereas it is really only an idea
>          about the correspondence among organisms - there is no real
>          entity there.

I disagree. Homology is real. It is biological structure or form
which is passed from generation to generation amongst organisms
throught the information transmission processes of genetics and
epigenetics. Of course, our formulations of specific homologies might
be over-extended or might be simply wrong, but we are trying to speak
to something real. Synapomorphy refers to those homology hypotheses
which we 'believe" to be correct at a particular moment in our
scientific enterprise for they have passed all the tests we threw at
them, including congruence.

>         Reification is common in an operational
>          approach.  It can lead via subtle suggestive power to too
>          much confidence in a finding.

Do you extend this perspective to deny the reality of taxa? Is the
recognition and naming of Aves (with a proper name, no less) a
reification of mere ideas?

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