2000 years of stasis

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Sun Feb 6 12:36:20 CST 2000

At 04:16 PM 2/4/00 -0500, you wrote:

>Finally, Tom Lammers writes that it is molecular biology which is really
>responsible for introducing essentialism in systematics (I find that
>intriguing), but then claims that cladistics and molbbio are thus understood
>to be cozy bedfellows. Meanwhile, I and the other cladists I know and love
>are engaged in a decades long struggle with many molecular biologists over
>issues of methodology and the importance of organismic understanding. The
>cladists I know would be absolutely the last people I could think of to
>claim that molecuolar sequences somehow represented the "underlying
>essential truth" that the phenotype somehow obscures.

Perhaps.  But the fact remains that molecular data for use in systematics
are 99.9% analyzed in some cladistic fashion.  Molecular data are ideally
suited for cladistic analysis (as compared to, say, quantitative morph
features) due to the large number of characters, and the paucity and
distinctness of the states.  For better or worse, molecular biology could
not have made the inroads and the contributions (a double-edged sword if
ever there was one) that it has made to biologivcal systematics  without
cladistics.  Cladists may not have planned to have molecular biology crawl
in bed with them, but it did.

And again, let me reiterate:  their is nothing a priori wrong with
cladistic methodologies.  They are without a doubt the way to go.  My
complaint is with those who get SO hung up on getting the patterns to fit
their preconceived notions of how evolution ought to work, that they are
blinded by how evolution DOES work.  We are so fixated on "homoplasy is
bad" that we blind ourselves to times when evolution may not in fact have
been parsimonious.

Read the cladistic literature, study it thoroughly; then read the
literature of evolution processes, speciation, population biology.  You
would never suspect they were describing the same phenomena.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:                     lammers at uwosh.edu
phone (office):         920-424-7085
phone (herbarium):  920-424-1002
fax:                         920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.
"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

More information about the Taxacom mailing list