"Fuzziness" (Continuity and classification)

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Jul 26 12:48:37 CDT 2001

> In response to Rich Pyle's listing of 5 possible scenarios for the
> resolution of the naming and classification wars, I would add one more
> possible scenario. It is based on the perception that there is no
> authority
> which can impose any of his 5

...only the authority of general practice by the community.  That was my
point about how it all ultimately comes down to the collective "personal
preference" of the community involved.

> , and so what we might see is a
> continuation of
> trends that I percieve in present practice (and yes, I imagine others can
> see other trends...)

Yes, I agree that what you describe represents more or less the current
situation and trends.  By contrast, the five scenarios I outlined were
alternative "paths to a resolution" of the existing dispute.  We always, of
course, have the option of perpetuating the status quo, without any
proactive effort to resolve conflicts or reduce confusion. I agree with you
that, over time, as technology allows greater and greater confidence (and
consistency) in elucidating phylogenies with less and less cost and effort,
there will likely be a gradual shift towards phylogenetic-based
classification systems across the taxonomic community as a whole.  But the
question is, how long will this shift take to complete, and what can we do
in the interim to minimize the "damage" to our own progress, and to the
perception the outside world has about our field of study?

Just out of curiosity, of the existing taxonomists who believe that the
nomenclature and classification system should strictly map phylogeny (i.e.,
strict cladists), what proportion would prefer to modify the Linnaean system
to meet their needs, rather than opt for a system like Phylocode, which is
designed specifically to meet their needs? (after the Phylocode goes into
effect, of course)  I'm not talking about people who employ cladistic
methodology as one avenue in a toolbox of many (e.g., biogeography,
morphological and functional divergence, etc.) in order to arrive at their
proposed classifications (which might include "semi-holophyly", as Ken
defines it). I'm talking about people who believe that the classification
must strictly reflect the evolutionary history, without exception.  Is there
a robust body of strictly cladistical taxonomists who reject the planned
implementation of the Phylocode?  If there are such researhcers, have they
read and do they understand the draft Phylocode? Have they offered their
objections to the Phylocode framers in a constructive way?


> 6. Some cladists will continue to use a modified Linnaean system
> (abandoning
> ranks for instance). Other cladists will adopt the Phylocode. And
> "traditional" classification schemes ("evolutionary", neo-darwinian,
> eclectic etc) will continue to fade from the scientific stage,
> and will take
> their place along with the heuristic or special-purpose
> classifications that
> one uses for particular non-scientific tasks. I think that the
> overwhleming
> need for scientists (especially evolutionary scientists) to have a
> classification scheme that can serve as a tool, by linking names to
> lineages, will continue this trend.
> There may then be a grand struggle between Linnaean cladists and phylocode
> cladists, a struggle that I sense resonates with some
> pre-existing disputes
> in the field. Perhaps a compromise is possible, a lot of deep
> debate in any
> case.
> Tom DiBenedetto

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