Fungi and Four Kingdoms

Kipling Will kww4 at CORNELL.EDU
Sat Oct 2 23:01:47 CDT 1999

Elizabeth Frieders wrote:

....Snipped stuff here because I would rather eat various "fungi" than
talk about them...

> Recently someone posted that Linnaean ranks have served their purpose for
> 250+ years so why get rid of them. I think the recent discussions on numbers
> of kingdoms, and the position and rank of this or that group scream the
> answer. BECAUSE they have been used for 250+ years, it is time to reevaluate
> their effectiveness in reflecting the phylogeny of life. There are VERY FEW
> concepts in biology that have rmained in use for this long without change.
> The foundation of biology is that it does change as new evidence is brought
> forward. The new evidence is here. Let's do something about it rather than
> clinging to ancient, creationist-based views of the classification of life
> on earth.

        This is just more empty name calling just like the specious arguments,
hyperbole and pejoration of terms presented by de Queiroz & Gauthier
[1994. Toward a phylogenetic system of biological nomenclature. Tree 9,
27-31 (and other similar articles)].
        Just because a concept has been around does not mean it is somehow worn
out, just because something is new does not make it better. The reason
the current system has weathered and grown with our knowledge for more
than 250 years has little to do with "clinging" or "creationist-based
views". The recognition of a hierarchy in nature (the observation of a
"Natural pattern of affinities" for pre evolutionist and Darwin for that
matter) is the very reason an explanation was/is needed. Evolution is a
superior explanation for the observed hierarchy. If the classification
reflects, a closely as possible, the observations then it is predictive
regarding the explanation.
        Other, non hierarchical systems were proposed and they failed because
of repeated incongruent observations (despite serious attempts to divide
the world into sets of five and etc.), not because they were disproved
by evolutionary theory.
        Can the system be improved? I am sure it can. How about some
substantive attempts instead of hand waving? I don't agree with quite a
few things in Ken Kinman's system (sorry Ken) but I commend him on
making a real effort to solve problems. I am sure many of us would like
to hear how you might fix the problems you perceive.

Kipling Will
2144 Comstock Hall
Dept. of Entomology
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
The grand fact of the natural subordination of organic beings in groups
under groups, which, from its familiarity, does not always sufficiently
strike us, is in my judgement thus explained.  -Darwin

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