rankless classifications

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 23 12:28:59 CDT 1999

>Doug Yanega wrote:
>Before anyone offers them as a panacea, I'll note that recent proposals for
>"rankless" classifications would gravely worsen the situation, in *many*
>respects. Most notably, a proliferation of new names, largely due to the
>fact that every new cladogram for the same taxa would result in the need
>(should the author[s] feel compelled, that is) to create new names for
>every altered clade, and also because (people being people) the simple idea
>that one could now name every single node on a tree would lead some people
>to do just that, whether it was useful or not. Gives me the willies.

     "Rankless" classifications are another terrible side-effect of strict
cladism, no doubt about it.  Those who would caste aside the Linnaean system
that has served us well for 250 years----I just think they're short-sighted.
  That's why I thought it much more prudent to modernize the Linnaean
System.  And the proliferation of new node names is already a problem, and
some of these new names are horrendous (in addition to being numerous).
     Another unfortunate trend is to list a citation to author and year
after the names of higher taxa.  This just encourages people to create new
ones.  That is why I do not put an author citation after the names of taxa
in my book, and I use that space to give other information about the taxon.
     Hierarchical instability in purely cladist classifications makes these
problems worse, as you noted above.  Like houses of cards, you pull out one
"card" near the base of the classification and the whole thing topples.
Then the new guy builds a new one, with new names or unnamed nodes (N.N.).
This gives me the "willies" too.   If they destroy the Linnaean System, it
will be a chaotic mess.  In some ways, it already is a mess, but it could
certainly get a lot worse if we don't do something about it.  My system
might not be perfect, but I obviously think it is a lot less imperfect than
the alternatives, and certainly more stable and useful.
                         ------Ken Kinman

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