Paraphyly and names

Thomas DiBenedetto tdib at OCEANCONSERVANCY.ORG
Mon Jan 28 12:45:17 CST 2002

-----Original Message-----
From: Pierre Deleporte
... I don't think that "Nature" classes in any way.
Rather, Human beings class for their convenience, so I can hardly grasp
what a "natural classification" could be.
I DO think that nature has formed groupings "on its own". The diversity of
life is non-randomly distributed, and this non-randomness is the result of
"natural" events - i.e. things that happened in the real world totally
outside of the control of human consciosness. Thus there is a legitimate
distinction to be made between a classification based on the discovery of a
pattern defined by this natural "non-randomness factor", and classifications
that are based on subjective human judgements. The natural "non-randomness
factor" is the fact that life has evolved within a system of
descent-lineages that have diverged from one another, causing these diverged
branches to have had histories that have been isolated from eachother, at
all levels.

I really dont understand the line of reasoning that you raise. Do you not
accept for example, that the helio-centric model of our solar system is a
"natural" model, as opposed to a geo-centric model, which would be
artificial - because we have figured out that in the real world the earth
really does revolve around the sun, and not the sun around the earth? Can we
not say that "Nature" really is organized in certain discrete ways, and not
others? And that a model or a system of classification that adheres to the
basic scientific discipline of always trying to accurately represent our
best inference as to natural patterns and processes deserves to be called a
"natural" model or classification system, as opposed to an artificial one?

I find it to be competely unproblematical, and in fact rather obvious, to
refer to classifications based on the discovery of lineages as "natural
classifications" for they recognize groups that have historical reality.
Eclectic classifications, to the extent that they fashion groupings on the
basis of subjective human preferences, are artificial.

Tom DiBenedetto

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