Kinman and Clark debate

Thomas Yancey tey7004 at GEOPSUN.TAMU.EDU
Mon Sep 14 17:34:28 CDT 1998

The discussion/debate between Kinman and Clark about preferred bacterial
classifications is distressingly similar to other classification debates
that appear here. However, this and other such debates may have minor
significance in the context of what many of us see as the goal of producing
a classification. If a classification purports to reflect phylogeny of a
group, it must try for the highest attainable level of accuracy, not just
produce the highest level of precision in defining its components. The
second aspect (precision) is important, but the first part (accuracy) is
primary. Accuracy is often evaluated by considering a wide range of
attributes, many of which may not be used in constructing a classification.
Therefore, the exact methodology followed may not really be significant, as
long as the results are an adequate description of what is known of the
group. When we end up arguing about precision in applying method, the
discussion has drifted away from the concern of accuracy. Lets keep these
discussion more aligned with evaluating the adequacy of the results.

>>       This is precisely how I classified bacteria in my 1994 book.  A
>>paraphyletic Eubacteria giving rise to a paraphyletic Metabacteria, both
>>within Kingdom Monera.  Nothing ironic about it.
>The irony is that there is not one whit of difference between your
>*classification* in the paragraph above and his, as long as paraphyletic
>groups are accepted, since the classification need have no straightforward
>relationwhip with the tree. The only arguments against any given
>classification that accepts paraphyletic groups are arguments of style,
>predilection, and opinion. Evidence supports or refutes monophyletic
>("holophyletic") groups. It says little or nothing about paraphyletic

Thomas E. Yancey
Dept. Geology & Geophysics, Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas, 77843-3115
tel: 409-845-0643  fax: 409-845-6162

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