Cyperales or Juncales?

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Jul 9 10:17:00 CDT 2002

> But what would be the meaning of "character" if it were not
> defined relative to homology?

It's called an "observation", and is the ultimate foundation of all science.
Once you step past the basic observation of presence/absence of a character
(morphological/molecular/whatever) and into assertions of "homology" among
characters, you've left the world of "knowledge" and entered the world of
"hypothesis" (which is really just a version of "belief" -- refined,
objective, and justifiable though it may be).

But aside from all that stuff -- I tried hard in my post not to hint which
side of the "species definition" I stand on, nor how I personally define a
"character".  I made no statements about "should".  My point was an echo of
Jacques' point to me, which is that so many of the debates on this list (and
other lists like it) ultimately boil down to "artifical" arguments due to
imprecise definitions of terms.

You can argue all you want that a "character" has no meaning in science
outside the context of homology, and I promise not to expend any effort to
disagree.  I will, however, maintain that other participants of this list
will not automatically share your concept of a "character".  The point is,
Jim issued a post that included the word "character" in it, and you
responded based on a presumption of the definition of that word that
probably did not match Jim's (I'm hoping that the man himself will either
confirm or deny this).  Hence, an "artificial" argument was born (or so it
seems, anyway).  I'm not saying that your definition is any more or less
supportable than (my interpretation of) Jim's is. I'm just saying that a lot
of excess traffic on this list could be eliminated with more careful use of
terminology, and more cautious interpretation of the terminology of others.

I also think a lot of excess traffic on this list could be eliminated if I
would just shut-up and get back to doing what I am supposed to be
doing....which is what I think I shall do just now.


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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