Cladisto-Eclectic Debate

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 31 17:21:47 CST 2000

Hugh wrote:
>My conclusion is that (traditional) nomenclature and
>phylogenetic systematics are two different things, each with its own
>purpose, and almost by definition not compatible. If they were to be made
>such, useful properties of at least one of the systems would be lost.
Hugh et al.,
     It is precisely the above, almost universal, continuing
"misconception" that I am trying to correct.  The Kinman System: Toward A
Stable Cladisto-Eclectic Classification of Organisms (Kinman, 1994) combines
both: (1) the greater predictive ability of cladistic systems; and (2) the
practicality, relative stability, and anagenetic (evolutionary-distance)
information of traditional eclectic systems of classification.
      Therefore David Hull (1979:437) no longer needs to bemoan that "no
methods have been set out thus far which permit the inclusion of both sorts
of information [genealogy and divergence] in a single classification in such
a way that both are retrievable."  Such methods have been proposed, if
people would just take notice.
     Although it may seem counterintuitive to think that these two systems
could possibly be made compatible, all the cladists and traditional
eclecticists have to do is put aside their preconceptions (and 30 years of
bickering), and look at an alternative "middle ground" approach.
     The Kinman System takes the best of both approaches and also discards
the worst parts of each (e.g., loss of sister group information, etc., in
traditional eclectic systems; and "cladistic" hierarchical instability, the
multiplicity of names and categories, impracticality, and loss of
"divergence" information).   Nothing useful is lost, and many of the
problems are eliminated.
      After a dozen years of intransigence, the medical community finally
(in the early 1990's) woke up to the fact that there is a better way to
treat stomach ulcers (with antibiotics, rather than "stress management" &
antacids).  In a somewhat similar fashion, the systematics community needs
to stop wallowing around in the past, stop the bickering, and adopt a system
that meets the needs of both sides.  My biggest problem is that my voice is
almost totally drowned out by the continued bickering of the
cladisto-eclectic war.  And as a systematist at the University of Kansas in
the 70's and 80's, I had the benefit of being around more moderate factions
of each side (Peter Ashlock, eclectic; and E.O. Wiley, cladistic), but it
was still difficult.   My goal was always to find that "illusive" middle
ground which would bridge the gulf that separated even those moderate
thinkers.  I think my 1994 book does just that.
                  ------Ken Kinman
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