Cladistics and "Eclecticism"

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Wed Feb 6 07:49:30 CST 2002

At 10:21 AM 2/6/02 +1000, Dave Walter wrote:

>OK, hypotheses testable under an accepted set of rules with all the data
>available for scrutiny.

Accepted by whom?  "The People Who Matter"?   I and many other practicing
taxonomists do not accept one or more of the "rules" of cladistics, on the
grounds they fail to adequately represent biological facts and thus
reality.   Data available for scrutiny?  That is not the exclusive province
of cladistics.  I have seen many traditional revisions and monographs
bearing reams of raw data, and nary a stick figure in sight.

>As I recall, the previous methodologies relied more on political power and
>ability to intimidate than data.

My, isn't THAT a  cheap shot!  Is that how you win all your arguments, by
playing loose and fast with the facts?  I'm afraid it seems inconsistence
with your avowed devotion to data.  I really do not recall *ever* reading
of any "taxonomy thugs" roughing up recalcitrant botanists who failed to
swear allegience to Engler & Prantl, or deans denying professors tenure for
not following Bentham & Hooker's classification.  Why is it that avidly
promoting the New requires us to viciously denigrate the Old?

Here's the way it works in The Real World: traditional systematics is like
the practice of law.  The person who marshalls the best evidence (i.e.,
data) and argues the case best usually sways the jury of Posterity ...
until someone comes along with better data and reopens the case before a
new jury.

TAXONOMY AND CLADISTICS.  Both are based upon data, both generate testable
hypotheses.  That is why both are good science.  Where the differ is in
their respective approaches to *handling* data and in the *ways* they test
those hypotheses.  Any statement that traditional taxonomy is "not science"
is mere puffery designed to promote cladistics at the expense of what has
gone before, and is frankly not intellectually honest.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

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