Paraphyly=mistakes? (There's the rub)

Thomas DiBenedetto tdib at OCEANCONSERVANCY.ORG
Wed Jan 9 10:16:37 CST 2002

-----Original Message-----
What cladist ever said that cladistic analysis produced the “best inference
as to the true historical branching pattern.” Perhaps they said it was the
most logically consistently inference, but never the most consistently
logical inference of the “true” historical branching pattern. 

 Although I am sympathetic to the deep epistomological arguments about
"truth" and our ability to ever confidently assert that we have detected it,
I nonetheless have no problem proceeding on the basis of an assumption that
there really really is a true singular history to taxic divergence. I
further take as a basic assumption that the field of systematics is, or
should be, dedicated to discovering. to the best of our ability, what this
true history was, and to then represent it, both graphically and textually,
to the rest of the scientific community and to the public at large. As a
well developed rational enterprise, systematics has its own set of rules and
practices that have developed over the years (as in all other sciences) to
assure that we make consistent progress toward that goal. Thus we develop
methods by which various hypotheses can be tested, and various inferences
can be evaluated. I dont understand your objection to the use of the word
"best" - clearly every science has methods for evaluating inferences, and
consensus forms around those inferences deemed the "best". The fact that at
any given point of time there might be disputes as to which inference is the
best on any particular issue is hardly a legitimate objection - such is the
necessary nature of scientific inquiry and argumentiation in all fields.
So I repeat - I want the best inference (should I prefer the worst???) as to
what really really happened in history (da truth!). I guess I really dont
understand the nature of your objection.
Tom diBenedetto

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