Blaming the victim (the Linnaean System)

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 12 13:59:22 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
30% 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 unbridled 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.
     The new Arctometatarsalia has the same content 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 formal 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, as has happened to dinosaurs).  Are
names like Cetferungulata really necessary (even IF it does turn out to be a
real clade)?  Seems like the informal "cetferungulates" would be sufficient
for those interested in discussing it.
     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.
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