Cyperales or Juncales?

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at OCEANCONSERVANCY.ORG
Tue Jul 9 11:05:10 CDT 2002

 Richard Pyle wrote:
> Then Tom replied:
> > I disagree. "Knowing" that a specimen has a character requires an
> > inference of the same kind as one makes when putting forth a phylogenetic
> > hypothesis.
> But I would say, "That depends on how you define the word 'character'".  It
> is clear from the rest of your note that you define it strictly in the
> context of "homologous" characters; whereas I imagine that Jim was defining
> it in the sense of observable character (i.e., "brown stuff growing out of
> [your] head"), without asserting whether there is any homology with the
> brown stuff growing out of *my* head.

But what would be the meaning of "character" if it were not defined relative to
homology? To observe "brown stuff" and to leave it at that is simply not to be doing
science at all. We would have a world full of brown stuff and green stuff and red stuff,
and we would be back at a level at which we knew absolutely nothing about the world
except color. So yes, I define the word character in a manner that gives it meaning in
historical, comparative biology.

I should probably also add that I basically disagree with Jim's distinction between
belief and knowledge - as if the word "believe" were to necessarily indicate a non-
scientific assertion. In my understanding, one can use the term "believe" to refer to
ones acceptance of scientific conclusions. I believe that there is brown stuff growing
out of my head (observation) and I believe that humans are mammals (masssivly
corroborated scientific inference). "Knowledge" refers to statements that one is
rationally justified in believing to be true.

Tom diBenedetto

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