crocodile tears

Wills Flowers rflowers at FAMU.EDU
Tue Feb 8 15:29:30 CST 2000

> Date:          Sat, 5 Feb 2000 08:59:42 PST
> Reply-to:      Ken Kinman <kinman at HOTMAIL.COM>
> From:          Ken Kinman <kinman at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject:       Re: crocodile tears
> To:            TAXACOM at USOBI.ORG

>       However, it is pretty obvious that funding for "alpha" taxonomic
> activities and preservation have unfortunately gotten the short end of the
> stick.  And this imbalance results not only in a lack of sufficient
> descriptive taxonomy (and saving as much biodiversity as we can), but also
> increasing amounts of overreliance on (and overextrapolation from) molecular
> data.  There are a lot of cladograms out there (molecular and morphological)
> that aren't worth the paper they are written on (much less the time & money
> put into them).

This is exactly the problem.  The current trend of  "cladecular"
systematics is in real danger of becoming a research program of
knowing more and more about less and less.  As "questions" become
ever more esoteric, you have to use taxonomic groups that are already
known with a lot of precision to test your hypotheses.  Otherwise you
run the risk of wasting your time on a polyphyletic group that will
return meaningless data.  Next time you see a "cutting" paper on
molecular systematics, check the data and references.  Odds are that
the group has already been well worked by traditional
morphology-based systematists.  Or, in the case of studies at the
family level or above, that the "results" are based on very thin
samples of one or two species per taxonomic unitt.

 But some are
>      It's not that molecular biology and computer analyses shouldn't be
> done, but rather policy changes that would reverse the trend of putting too
> many eggs in the molecular and computer baskets, while neglecting good
> old-fashioned taxonomic expertise (which forms the foundation on which the
> rest of biological endeavors are built).
>                          -----Ken Kinman
> *******************************************************
> >From: "Prof. Dov Por" <dovpor at NETVISION.NET.IL>
> >Reply-To: "Prof. Dov Por" <dovpor at NETVISION.NET.IL>
> >Subject: crocodile tears
> >Date: Sat, 5 Feb 2000 11:46:56 +0200
> >
> >Dear taxacomers,
> >For the last days I am following  with much apprehension the intensive
> >exchange on our web. I cannot resist to quote Goethe's Faust "Grau lieber
> >Freund ist jede Theorie und Gruen des Lebens goldner Baum" ( Grey my friend
> >is all theory and green is life's golden tree - my free translation  with
> >Johann Wolfgang's kind permission). Allas , the problem is not new.
> >We are discussing endlessly subjects that are  often esotherical, while
> >before   the   windows  of our ivory towers  the helpless species are
> >dying.
> >Instead of shedding crocodile tears  about it and go on  building our
> >cladograms , it would be more bioethical to go to the field,
> >collect,describe,preserve   and leave the   dealing with nomenclatural
> >revolutions and discussions about sister groups for a later stage.
> >Dov Por
> >**********************************

R. Wills Flowers
Agricultural Research Programs
Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL 32307
rflowers at
"...I am forbidden by law to write his name but I can
        say that he belongs to the family of the Eumolpidae..."
                                                Julian, Gore Vidal

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