Positivism in evolutionary science

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at UMICH.EDU
Wed Dec 3 15:23:48 CST 1997

James Francis Lyons-Weiler wrote:

>        I rather think that many modes of scientific inference
>        exist that are independent of parsimony.  For example,
>        the more complex theories of physics that are lent
>        credibility owing to the outcome of experiments (tests).
>        Parsimony summarizes, but does not test.

Parsimony is a crucial factor in scientific tests. The corroboration
of a hypothesis represents the parsimonious explanation for the
concordance between a prediction and an experimental result. It is
also a ubiquitous standard to make recourse to as few ad hoc
supplementary hypotheses as necessary to explain discrepencies
between predictions and results.

>        If the tree that is the set of simplest hypotheses isn't
>        accurate, then what's the point?  I don't mind that the MP
>        tree(s) may be the set of simplest hypotheses - I'm interested
>        in a accurate image when I view through the windows to
>        the past - simple or not.

As if there were such a thing as a measure of accuracy for
phylogenetic history!

Tom DiBenedetto                 http://www-personal.umich.edu/~tdib/
Fish Division                                   tdib at umich.edu
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

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