Fungi and Four Kingdoms

Elizabeth Frieders frieders at UWPLATT.EDU
Sun Oct 3 16:51:13 CDT 1999

>From: Kipling Will <kww4 at CORNELL.EDU>

> I fail to see how my comments could be considered a "personal attack" on
> Dr. Frieders, that was certainly not my intent. I though the direction
> of my comments would be clear by my citing of de Queiroz & Gauthier.

Well, let's see, stating that my comments are mere "empty name calling" for
starters....  My name calling is never empty. And I am proud to consider
myself a radical revolutionary in the field of phylogenetics, along with my
predecessors -- Darwin and Wallace and deQueirez and Gauthier. In his day,
most wanted Darwin to walk the plank because of his pioneering ideas that
went against all creationist traditions. Lesson #1 from the history of
biology: We all should be thankful that Darwin's revolutionary views won out
(in all parts of the world except Kansas...).

> My "attack" is on the misrepresentation of supposed new, revolutionary,
> evolutionary ideas contrasted against clinging, ancient, traditional,
> stodgy, topological habits. I think this is just a wrong interpretation
> of history and/or propaganda and is not leading us anywhere. Certainly
> not toward a better system.

History is important - in pointing the way to the future. There is a problem
when science and scientists cling to the past and past ideas simply because
they have been around for a long time. I am not advocating an overthrough of
all biological ideas pre-1990, but when we know a system is flawed why do we
continue to use it? We no longer teach that human sperm contain a minute
human fetus. This idea is much simpler to comprehend than meiosis, diploid,
haploid, fertilization, etc. But it is wrong, so we teach the more
difficult, but correct version of how babies form. Biology is not always
simple or easy to understand. Lesson #2 from the history of biology: When
our system is wrong, we ought to admit it, fix it, and move on.

> 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, as closely as possible, the observations then it is predictive
> regarding the explanation.

Linnaeus was a creationist and he designed his taxonomy to reflect how he
interpretted God's creation of organismal groups (i.e., his view of how
organisms arose on earth), so my use of "creationist-based views" should not
startle you. In many cases the characters he chose happened to reflect the
evolutionary history of the group (number of stamen in many cases). However,
he erred in the selection of other characters (number of carpels). Linnaeus'
classification did reflect his personal observations, wrong though they be.
His classification was changed because someone realized that his
observations were skewed (i.e., did not adequately reflect natural lineages
based on the observation of additional or alternative characters).
The reason the old system has weathered is because in some cases, biologists
did not realize that their character choice or interpretation did not
reflect evolutionary history.  "Revolutionary" techniques such as DNA
sequencing allow us to ignore plasticity which often is inherent in
morphological characters, and misinterpretation of such plastic characters.
Now we deal with the genotype, which should reflect the evolutionary history
of the taxon, while allowing us to be unbiased in our interpretation. If the
point of classification is to reflect natural groups (=phylogeny), and DNA
sequencing allows us to determine phylogeny in an unbiased fashion, then
classification is going to have to change to reflect the phylogeny.

Lesson #3 from the history of biology: Sometimes new IS better.

> How unfortunate that some people may not
> see historical facts as important guides for future endeavours.

How unfortunate that some people cannot see future endeavors because of an
adherence to 'historical facts'.

> I am sure many of us would like
> to hear how you might fix the problems you perceive.

Until you also perceive the problem then any solution I were to provide
would only cause apoplexy on your end. And more email on my end than I could
possibly handle.

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