Nameless Taxonomy and Senseless Babble

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Mon Feb 3 07:22:22 CST 2003

Facts are well documented observations, and inferred patterns are one step
removed. Although theories can be validly called knowledge when well
documented and proven valuable in predictions, most DNA-based cladograms are
not quite yet promoted to the status of "knowledge." If the chance of being
right is lowered by sample error (wrong sequences), dubious alignment, model
choice when there are reasonable alternatives, poor support, and
differential gene histories, any arguments to use DNA alone or primarily in
taxonomy is merely political.

Richard H. Zander
Bryology Group
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166-0299
richard.zander at <mailto:richard.zander at>
Voice: 314-577-5180

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Pyle [mailto:deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG]
Sent: Saturday, February 01, 2003 5:19 PM
Subject: [TAXACOM] Nameless Taxonomy and Senseless Babble
 The "facts" are the individual specimens, their
morphological characteristics, the sequences of DNA within their cells, and
relevant observations about place, time, and interaction with the
environment and other living organisms. The "patterns" include both the
abstract (clusters of individual organisms about which we discover or assign
affinity to [taxa]; the predictions [postdictions?] about the historical
origin of the shared ancestry of those organisms), and the more tangible
(predicting distributions; changes to diversity over time; etc.).
We now find ourselves struggling to merge the
knowledge of the past (written in Latin nomenclature), with the knowledge of
the present (written in DNA sequences and cladograms).

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