semi-paraphyletic taxa: a new paradigm?

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 5 11:20:45 CST 1999

     In response to Curtis Clark's intellectual jabs, I
will simply quote a few lines from my 1994 book that
some might find of interest:
     "A truly cladistic classification of life would
require an enormous number of intermediate categories
and would therefore sacrifice stability and usefulness
in favor of predictive power.  In order to retain both
the greater predictive ability of cladistic systems, and
the practicality, stability and evolutionary-distance
(anagenetic) information of eclectic systems of
classification, the use of "semi-paraphyletic" groups
has been adopted.  These groups are paraphyletic in the
traditional sense, but are effectively rendered
"strictly monophyletic" (holophyletic) by the use of
place-markers {{in double brakcets}} for the groups
whose removal caused the paraphyleticism.  A similar
type of marker is used for unclassified descendants such
as chloroplasts (see Appendix I)."
     "The semi-paraphyletic markers solve one of the
major problems that cladists have with eclectic
classification, namely the paraphyletic placement of two
sister groups on different taxonomic levels.  The
markers allow this to be done without losing the very
important fact that they are sister groups.  They are a
sort of "cross-referencing" technique which will (along
with the code sequence) allow classifications to store
much more information at the same time that it is making
them simpler and more stable."
      Note:  simply put, I am just trying to plow some
new ground between traditional eclecticists and
traditional cladists (when I call them the Hatfields and
McCoys, I am just trying to interject a little humor
into an otherwise very serious dispute).  Even if you
don't like other aspects of the Kinman System, please
consider the potential of this one taxonomic convention
(semi-paraphyletic markers---or if that is too much of
mouthful, "Kinman markers").
     I am not anti-cladist, and I think cladistics is a
wonderful tool.  I just think there are better
alternatives than always insisting that only purely
cladistic classifications are natural.  Cutting a
continous tree of life will always be arbitrary to some
degree (unfortunately some eclecticists were very
arbitrary to the point of authoritarianism), but I truly
believe strict cladism is only substituting one kind of
arbitrariness for another (some to the point of their
own brand of authoritarianism).  The Kinman System is
simply my attempt to minimize arbitrariness, and
maximize the utility of classifications in a way that
has never been done before.  Although it is extremely
frustrating and uncomfortable to be attacked from both
sides, I plan to hold my ground in the belief that it is
counterproductive to consider oneself a traditional
eclecticist or a traditional cladist, and a middle
ground can be fashioned if we try hard enough.  Thirty
years of "either this or that" is enough, and we need to
be more creative in ways to classify organic diversity
and history.  If I seem a bit provocative at times, it is just the
result of frustration and concern, and I sometimes wish I had been more
vocal about this back in the 1970's and 1980's.  Just trying to make up
for lost time I guess.  I'm beginning to ramble, so will stop here.
                           Sincerely, Kenneth E. Kinman

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