Woese's ideas problematic at best

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 19 12:32:33 CDT 1997

Dear Colleague:
     If you have colleagues with any interests in the origins of life
and/or bacterial evolution generally, I encourage you to forward this
message and abstract to them.  However, I personally believe all
biologists should probably be concerned about the implications of this
subject matter.  Thanks.  By the way, the full text of this paper is
available at the following Internet address:
   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
                         Title of Article:
   Just One More Legacy of the Three-Domain-"Urkingdom" Construct
   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
     I see little point in here repeating the many arguments levelled by
various eminent scientists (Ernst Mayr, Lynn Margulis, Thomas
Cavalier-Smith, and others) against Carl Woese's Three Domain Hypothesis
(and Classification).  Suffice it to say that it greatly trivializes two
billion years of eukaryotic evolution, with its multiple levels of
morphological and developmental complexity.
     Much more importantly, what continues to escape attention is that
raising Metabacteria (= Woese's so-called "Archaea") to Domain status
has also trivialized the initial 0.8-1.2 billion years of parabacterial,
cyanobacterial, and eubacterial evolution (which preceded the
Metabacterial-Eukaryote lineage), and few scientists realize that
Metabacteria apparently constitute the very last of four major
prokaryotic radiations.  Metabacteria ("Archaea") are undoubtedly
important vis-a-vis the origins of eukaryotes, but the presumption that
they have anything to do with the origins of life seems to me to be
naive, wishful thinking, which a term like "Archaea" will only
     Furthermore, most of the severe damage (still unrecognized) comes
from the resulting distortions in Eubacterial phylogenies (which could
adversely impact biology, chemistry, medicine, and other fields, well
into the next century).  In the next few years I hope to "prove" that
Woese's "fantasy" of a thermophilic origin of life has been perpetuated
by 20 years of circular reasoning and a cladistically misrooted tree of
life, which will no doubt become an embarrassing legacy of the
scientific literature of the 1990's (in addition to the damage cause by
distorted Woesian eubacterial phylogenies).
     In the meantime, I strongly urge biologists to seriously consider
doing two things at the very least: (1) Most importantly, PLEASE do not
use the Metabacteria ("Archaea") as an outgroup to Eubacteria, since it
is an ingroup, not an outgroup. This one of the major sources of errors
in Woesian Eubacterial phylogenies, for it is comparable to using birds
as an outgroup to reptiles (and using an ingroup as if it were an
outgroup is "cladistic suicide"); and (2) begin using the far more
appropriate term Metabacteria (proposed in 1979) rather than the totally
inaccurate term "Archaea", which was unfortunately and unnecessarily
introduced in 1990, and which future biologists will probably regard as
one of the most misleading and damaging misnomers in the history of
     Although Woese's band-wagon continues to grow and challenging him
is a frustrating and rather lonely position in which to find myself, I
cannot in good conscience just give up simply because I do not have the
resources to prove my case in a more timely manner.  I continue my
research with cautious optimism, not at all worried that Woesian
thinking will be eventually discredited (I am convinced that it will
be), but I am concerned how long it might take.  Any feedback or
questions are encouraged and would be welcomed.  The full text (of this
and earlier articles) is available at the following Internet address:
                                         Kenneth E. Kinman
                                         P.O. Box 1377
                                         Hays, Kansas  67601
 e-mail:     kinman at scientist.com
         or  kinman at hotmail.com

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