Classifications (angiosperms and in general)

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at OCEANCONSERVANCY.ORG
Mon Jul 15 13:12:37 CDT 2002

Ken Kinman wrote:

> classifications in general cannot be totally phylogenetic in the Hennigian
> monistic sense, and eventually the reality of paraphyly has to be reflected
> at some point as a classification becomes more inclusive.

It never ceases to amaze me that this fundamental point seems to be so difficult to
understand. There is simply no concievable sense in which the human decision to
recognize, with a name, a grouping of some but not all of the species in a lineage,
can be considered to be "real" or "natural". I'm sorry Ken, but paraphyly is simply not

> "What IS harmful {is}... having the gall to assume that traditional
> eclecticists are just too lazy, stubborn, or dim-witted to give up formal
> paraphyly in their classifications.

I have never charged eclecticists with being lazy. :)

>       Ironically, it is a lack of information (especially fossil data) which
> makes a completely phylogenetic classification of monocots (and many other
> groups) possible.

This is absurd. It is always possible to recognize, with a name, only those groupings
that your empirical evidence leads you to infer to be strictly monophyletic.

>   But if you look at the bigger picture you will see that in order to
> maintain this kind of monistic simplicity, strict cladists are forced to
> splinter taxa further and further (eventually to an absurd degree) when
> dealing with all the new fossil evidence being discovered for many groups
> (not to mention the explosion in molecular data).

We are forced to splinter taxa to the extent that the evidence indicates is warrented.
Phylogenetic systematics is a science. It seeks to represent the reality of taxic
evolution. If the real history was splintered and chaotic, then our representations will
reflect that. You may legitimately object that such an approach may lead to
cumbersome, confusing, and unhelpful classifications. I would argue the contrary,
but it would be a legitimate argument, focussed on the issue of utility, rather than
merely accuracy of representation. You cannot however, in my view, sustatin an
argument that a neater classification, one that is more intuitively pleasing to a
scientist raised in the mid to late 20th century, is thereby more "natural".

>      That is one of the reasons I devised the Kinman System, which is a
> dualistic systematization that allows limited paraphyly.

I do not object to your motivation of trying to devise a "dualistic" systematization. I
think you are going about it in the wrong way.

 >      I am attempting to pull strict cladists back into a dualistic approach
> to classification, but without going back to the inexplicitness of
> traditional eclecticism that cladistics rebelled against in the first place.

You have not escaped the inexplicitness however.And meanwhile, cladistics has, I
think, solved the problem you wish to address in a much better sense than your
system. i will try to lay out this argument in a separate post,  under the subject title
"Darwin's Mistake".

Tom diBenedetto

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