"paraphylophobia" and 30-Year War of Cladists vs. Eclecticists

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at UMICH.EDU
Sun Sep 13 16:19:39 CDT 1998

On Sun, 13 Sep 1998 12:17:55 PDT, Ken Kinman wrote:

>     A couple of years ago (my March 1996 paper if I recall correctly),
>I began using the term "paraphylophobia" to describe the unfortunate
>insistence of strict cladists that all taxa MUST be holophyletic
>(strictly monophyletic) to be natural.

Your use of the term "paraphylophobia" does not strike me as a valuable contribution to scientific discourse. It
seems to be merely an erudite insult.  Cladists are not afraid of paraphyly; our opposition to paraphyletic taxa is
based on a concious preference for a taxonomy which can serve as a tool for research rather than as a synthetic
summary of all which evolution has wrought. As one attempts to understand all of the factors which have influenced
the evolution of present life forms, the researcher must attempt to isolate variables (as in all other scientific studies).
A cladistic taxonomy isolates phylogeny as the single criterion for a naming system. This allows other factors
(anagenesis, convergence, reductive evolution) to be understood within the context of the historical branching
pattern. A synthethic taxonomy conflates these factors into a subjective synthesis, and tends to stifle further

>  Trying to be a diplomat can be a terribly lonely endeavor,

I dont think it is your efforts at diplomacy which have led to your loneliness. Perhaps it is your resistance to a
taxonomic system whose advantages seem obvious to many. Resistance to a strictly phylogenetic taxonomy could
perhaps be characterized as "cladophobia"; and explained as the rump end of the Darwinian transformation; the last
vestiges of an attitude which seeks to impose human standards of organization onto biological diversity, rather than
to investigate how species are historically related to each other, and to base ones classifications on that. I might
make such an argument were I not so obsessed with being diplomatic. :)

>such a system is inevitable if biological classifications are ever to
>achieve some semblance of stability and usefulness.

Tom DiBenedetto                   tdib at umich.edu
Museum of Zoology                 http://www-personal.umich.edu/~tdib
University of Michigan              734-647-2192

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