Biological "Relativity" (was: Human and ape phylogeny)

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 7 04:19:31 CDT 2003

      Perhaps you have paid too MUCH attention to the body of work in
phylogenetic systematics, and not paid enough attention to those critical of
a lot of what has happened during those 20 years (or that has failed to
happen in a timely manner because of circular thinking that has taken us
down various dead-ends).
      Yes, chimps have evolved since their common ancestor with humans, but
obviously a lot less than humans have.  Likewise, horseshoe crabs are far
more like their common ancestors with the spiders than the spiders
themselves are.  Punctuated-equilibrium theory almost guarantees that some
descendants of a common ancestor will often be largely unchanged (very
little punctuation) compared to other descendants (with large amounts of
punctuation).   Thus I can say without the slightest embarrassment or
hestitation that horseshoe crabs are more "primitive" than spiders, or that
hagfish are more "primitive" than mammals.
     I am really tired of the erroneous belief of many strict cladists that
all descendants of a common ancestor are equally "related" just because they
are separated by an equal length of time.  Evolution can be extremely
irregular, and the concept of "living fossils" is only strange in the
restricted mentality of strict cladism.  This doesn't bother me quite as
much as the whole "paraphyly thing", but it is extremely annoying
         --------- Ken Kinman
P.S.  It's really not qualitatively different from the Theory of Relativity
in Physics.  It's quantitatively different (organisms don't evolve at the
speed of light), but qualitatively it really is not that much different from
the "twin paradox".  Unfortunately biological systems are far, far more
complex than anything Einstein or Heisenberg had to tackle, both
conceptually and even more so mathematically.   That is clearly why we are
still grappling with them nearly a century later, and yet there is still so
much we have to learn (much more than any of us can presently comprehend).
Perhaps the only thing more complex is how the human mind attempts to
grapple with such complexities.  But that is even further beyond our present
>From: Curtis Clark <jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Human and ape phylogeny
>Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 11:09:06 -0700
>At 10:27 2003-04-06 +00-02, John grehan wrote:
>>An additional point of interest (please note that I say of 'interest'
>>rather than any necessary significance) are some comments emerging that
>>early hominids (such as australopithicenes and Orrorin) are not looking as
>>chimp like as expected for such a short interval from the presumed
>>chimp-human split.
>I've read this thread with increasing disbelief. Has nobody paid any
>attention to the body of work in phylogenetic systematics over the past
>twenty years? (I'm not pointing at you, John; you admitted from the
>beginning that it was not one of your strengths.)
>Not looking as chimp-like? Who ever said that chimps didn't evolve over
>that same period? It is admittedly difficult to do science without
>preconception, but we at least have to try. Chimps are not "primitive", no
>matter how many plesiomorphies they retain. The human-orang hypothesis
>gains no added value from being iconoclastic, despite the fact that other
>iconoclastic ideas proved to be correct. Sequence data have no mystical
>verity: they can be dealt with in the same broad frame as all other
>evidence of kinship. If I went back through the posts, I could probably
>find other examples.
>Just because we're one of the ingoup taxa, that doesn't mean that we can't
>still do good science.

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