Blaming the victim (the Linnaean System)

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 10 23:52:52 CST 2003

    It's not a strawman argument at all.  First of all, it wouldn't take the
formal naming of 100% of the splits to bog down the system.  I should think
20% would be more than enough to bog it down pretty well, especially in
groups with lots of fossils.   If dinosaur science is any indication of the
future direction of strict cladism across the board, we are going to be in
deep trouble.  One annoying habit is that most node-based taxa result in a
corresponding (slightly different) stem-base taxon (or vice versa), so the
naming isn't even well distributed.
     Right now Arctometatarsalia is effectively the same as
Ornithomimosauria, and worse yet, it doesn't even include most groups with
the arctometatarsalian character (it turned out to be a polyphyletic group).
  The dinosaur cladism "experiment" has shown that human nature (being what
it is) will eventually fill in taxonomic voids (real or imagined) with
formal names, and often very prematurely so.  And as I said above, it
doesn't take 100% saturation to become problematic (far from it), and that
experiment effectively began only in 1986.  Think of the mess after another
decade or two of fossils from China (and elsewhere) multiply the number of
splits (real or imagined).  The track record for resisting formal naming is
already discouraging.
     And as if Mammalian systematics didn't have enough clade names already
(just based on morphology), now we have a plethora of new clades being based
on preliminary molecular data.  There are so many different overlapping
taxon combinations cropping up that most will turn out to be paraphyletic at
best and polyphyletic at worst (not to mention clades that may end up with
more than one name).  Are names like Cetferungulata really necessary (even
if it does turn out to be a real clade)?
     All this (and more) will happen to many other taxa if phylocode is
implemented no matter how well meaning the intentions of some of its
authors.  No small wonder it is even being attacked by cladists (especially
some of the older ones with more experience).  The signs are there for
anyone who wants to see them, so strawman arguments simply aren't necessary.
  It is slowly destroying the utility of classifications whether they are
ranked or not.  We can't continue shooting ourselves in the foot like this.
           ------- Ken Kinman

>From: Kipling Will <kiplingw at NATURE.BERKELEY.EDU>
>Reply-To: Kipling Will <kiplingw at NATURE.BERKELEY.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Blaming the victim (the Linnaean System)
>Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 10:03:45 -0800
>I do understand that neither of us is talking about getting rid of the
>group-within-group hierarchy or even the names for clades. The issue is
>if there is enough value (information) and utility (helping our brains
>to wrap around Nature) in formal ranks to keep up the effort to use
>them. I think there is. One bit is in the explicit exclusive statement
>that a formal rank makes. IF we agree or you find within one work, such
>as a monograph, checklist or physical collection, that Insecta is a
>Class, then all other classes of Animals are excluded. This is not a
>trivial bit of information in my view. Of course, changing hypotheses on
>relationships and grouping effects both ranked and unranked systems.
>Certainly we don't need an nearly endless number of ranks to account for
>every split. That is just a silly straw-man that Ken K. keeps throwing
>around. I have yet to meet a cladist (from Ivory towers or otherwise)
>that thinks this outdated proposition is realistic. Computers on the
>other hand might do better at keeping track of numerically identified
>clades (but that is a different issue altogether).
>"Frederick W. Schueler" wrote:
> >
> > Kipling Will wrote:
> > >
> > > As you say the non-expert knows he/she has an Insect and so can
> > > immediately discount all other Classes of Animals that are in other
> > > parts of the book or library. Not so with a rank-less system since
> > > Insecta could mean any part of the hierarchy from populations to all
> > > life. It makes no exclusive statement without a rank or without a
> > > phylogeny at hand.
> >
> > * I'm not sure what I'm being misunderstood as saying here - all I'm
> > proposing to abandon is categories - the name and taxon Insecta are
> > still there, with all the rules for forming names, and all the
> > relationships with super-ordinate and sub-ordianate taxa - it's just
> > that I'm not saying that Insecta is a something called a "Class" -
> > whatever that may mean beyond Insecta traditionally being called a
> > Class.
> >
> > fred.
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>Assistant Professor/Insect Systematist
>ESPM--Division of Insect Biology
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