Ivory Tower cladistics

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 26 23:22:27 CDT 2001

     I'm not in an HMO, so don't what kind of relationship you have with
your doctors.  But my physician and I discuss everything, he explains to me
my options, why he thinks one option would be better than another, exactly
how any medications will work or might case side effects, and so on.
     I have had doctors in the past who talk very little, don't really
explain things, and unnecessarily use technical jargon instead of explaining
in plain English.  I never went back to them, because I wanted a medical
"consultant", not some who gives medical orders and assumes all patients are
incapable of carrying on an intelligent discussion.
     In my opinion, many strict cladists tend to be so overly confident in
their methodology and philosophy that they tend to talk rather
patronizingly---not only to the educated public, but their eclectic
colleagues as well (who are professionals as well, by the way).  In other
words they often tend to have a lousy bedside manner.
     If strict cladists continue in this mindset that they are the brain
surgeons or rocket scientists, and the rest of us are just taxonomic hacks
or ignorant laypeople that must be educated in the "right" way to do
taxonomy, I think they are eventually in for a very rude awakening.
     I am especially surprised by the kind of reactions I get to phrases
like "balanced approach" or "middle-ground", as though I am somehow watering
down the purity of strict cladism.  It is an elitist, Ivory Tower type of
attitude, and when cladism suffers its first really "major" stumble, the
resentment that has been building among colleagues (in particular) and the
public generally will be brutal.
      What really irks me is that cladistic analysis as a tool will suffer
as well, and I certainly would not want to see an unhealthy pendulum swing
away from cladistics altogether just because the purists carried things too
far.  I am sick of pendulum swings and throwing the baby out with the bath
water.  Balance is not a dirty word, in the sense that one is compromising
one's values.
      But a professional who has a superiority complex will not find many
friends left to defend him when his attitude results in a major blunder.
You can't say you weren't warned.  When that day comes, you may well see
that a little compromise and balance was not such a bad idea after all, but
then it will be too late (and that pendulum is going to coming swinging back
at you with surprising force).  So ROTFLYAO while you can, because it won't
be such a laughing matter when it comes back to haunt you.
     And David Orlovich's disdain for non-cladists came through loud and
clear in his recent remarks about a "cheap fix".  I am certainly not trying
to cover up anything with stability, and I find the implication  bewildering
that it is something one should be ashamed of.  And the fact that I am
seeking a little bit of balance certainly does not mean I am admitting
defeat.   Perhaps I just recognize that strict cladism is a little too
obsessive-compulsive for its own good.  Cladists see a period of extreme
instability leading to long-term stability, but to me this looks like a pipe
dream (or at best wishful thinking).  I may still be somewhat alone in
seeking to meet strict cladists half-way, but I am far from being alone in
resenting a rather self-righteous extremism and dogmatism.  Not that there
isn't some of the same on the eclectic side, but my experience is that there
are more reasonable people on that side of the debate (however much I might
also dislike the lack of compromise on the part of some extreme
eclecticists).  It's about as much fun as trying to reason with the Montagus
and Capulets, or the Hatfields and McCoys.
        ----So it goes,   Ken
>From: Curtis Clark <jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU>
>Reply-To: Curtis Clark <jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: "Fuzziness" (Continuity and classification)
>Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 16:53:47 -0700
>At 03:02 PM 7/26/01, Deborah A Lewis wrote:
>>I'll "rise to your bait" -- I have yet to be asked by Mr./Ms. Joe/Jane
>>Public to "link names to lineages", and THEY are the ones who pay my
>Gosh, there's so much bait on the water, I'm concerned we'll be arrested
>for chumming.
>When I see my physician for a medical problem, I would prefer that *he*
>know the proper methods of diagnosis and treatment. He is a professional,
>and my HMO pays him the big bucks to know this stuff. If I were to have to
>start telling him exactly what procedures to follow, I'd wonder about his
>competence. There *are* patients who second-guess competent physicians, but
>I suspect they don't get the same level of care.
>Systematists are also professionals. Some of the public may be concerned
>with the methods we use to make our classifications, but most are
>interested only in the results. I'm sure we will continue to debate which
>methods are the most "competent", but I'd as soon take directions from the
>public as tell my physician how to do his job.
>Curtis Clark                  http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
>Biological Sciences Department             Voice: (909) 869-4062
>California State Polytechnic University      FAX: (909) 869-4078
>Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                  jcclark at csupomona.edu

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