"Fuzziness" (Continuity and classification)

Thomas DiBenedetto tdibenedetto at OCEANCONSERVANCY.ORG
Fri Jul 27 13:41:33 CDT 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Pyle [mailto:deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG]
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?

I don't know what the proportions are, but I would say that in my personal
experience, all of my cladistic friends are, at the very least, skeptical
about the phylodcode, and some are hostile. But that is hardly a huge or
random sample. I trust that they all have read it, as have I. I have not
really studied it or thought through it to the point where I am prepared to
make definitive statements. I do take my leave with their approach at a
pretty basic stage however, and maybe this is a similar point at which many
people start to have problems. Namely, the notion of grounding names in
relationships rather than characters. It is my opinion that taxa are human
constructs and are the products of biological investigation. Names are used
to identify these products. As empirical results, taxa and the names by
which we refer to them, are meaningless without reference to evidence - the
characters on which we define them.
It is only after we define a grouping, a taxon, on the basis of evidence,
and corroborate that grouping in light of all other evidence, that we then
conclude that our construct, our taxon, is an accurate representation of a
real-world historical lineage. Monophyletic taxa are real in the sense that
they are human constructs that we have solid scientific justifiation to
accept as accurate representations of real lineages. I am very uneasy about
severing the link between names and the evidence by which the taxon bearing
that name was discovered. In fact, it makes no sense to me. But I will think
about it some more.


Tom DiBenedetto




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