Cladistics and "Eclecticism"

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 4 16:08:04 CST 2002

Tom (and J.H.),
      First, I have to say that I am bewildered that J.H. seems to want to
"delurk" just to imply that he thinks I fit the description of a usenet
"troll".  At least I am attempting to provide constructive criticism in my
posts.  Seems more like I am the one who is the victim of a "grumpy monster"
that has attacked and retreated into the shadows (a sort of electronic "hit
and run" with no purpose but to attack and/or discredit).  I also use my own
words, not "cut and paste".  Anyway, maybe someone should buy J.H. a
dartboard and paste my picture on it.
     Now that I am perturbed, Tom DiB. is probably going to bear the brunt
of it, but I really am trying to make important points in my posts.  And
Tom's reference to eclectic systems as being "immature" certainly did
nothing to improve my mood towards him either.  "Monotomous events" must
seem a rather peculiar concept to a strict cladist, but lets look at it more

     There is nothing in nature that requires dichotomous events in order
for evolution to proceed.  One can have "stretches" of evolution in a single
series of monotomous (is that a real word??) events----a mother species
gives rise to a daughter, which gives rise to granddaughter, gives rise to
great granddaughter, and so on.  This happens a lot more than strict
cladists might want to admit.  There is nothing inevitable about
cladogenesis, although it clearly happens and makes life much more
interesting and diverse.
    Single paraphyly and anagenesis *must* occur for evolution to proceed.
Cladogenesis (which is really just a sort of double paraphyly) sometimes
occurs and increases the rate of overall diversification.  It is strict
cladism that is "immature", because it myopically overconcentrates on
branching patterns, and actually criticizes eclecticists for wanting more
information in their classifications (and also more stability, hierarchical
and otherwise).  We also seek to deal with the realities of reticulation and
unparsimonious events.
    To only include cladogenesis (double paraphyly, which is not inevitable)
and to exclude anagenesis (single paraphyly) in classifications is logically
absurd, and it ultimately leads to absurd "cladifications" (Mayr's term).
Strict cladism is neither practical nor theoretically defensible (except by
semantic smoke and mirrors).
     I really feel sorry for any systematics students who have been given a
one-sided treatment of the subject, and taught (or given the impression)
that sister clades have some ultimate reality rather than being just a
Hennigian convention.  Not to mention painting eclecticism as unnatural or
     And I think it is a shame (actually a travesty) that a book like
Principles of Systematic Zoology (Mayr and Ashlock, 1991) is out of print
and so difficult to obtain.  Looks like there is going to have to be a very
unpleasant anti-cladist backlash to correct this whole sad state of affairs.
  If you don't want to compromise, fine, but don't say I didn't warn you.  I
am really tired of cladistics being attacked just because a clique of
influential (mostly American) strict cladists took it to such extremes.  A
few apparently even stooped to blacklisting (although usually done more
subtly than McCarthyism).  Not saying that it is widespread (at least I hope
it's not).  I'm surprised they haven't tried to ban "dancing" yet (just
kidding, but who knows?....).
        -----  Ken

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