My Problem with Phylocode

Mike Barker barkerms at MUOHIO.EDU
Thu Jul 3 18:19:00 CDT 2003

To all,
My main problem with the PhyloCode is that it forces a strict
view of cladistics onto the naming system. In my opinion, this is a
rather short sighted view, and if the PhyloCode is widely utilized,
many problems will ultimately result. For example, we do not know what
types of data and analyses we will be working with in say, 50 years.
We may not even represent relationships as bifurcating patterns and
nested clades; we simply don't know what we will be doing. By imposing
one perspective of evolution onto a naming system, the PhyloCode may
dangerously limit thought about how to best analyze and interpret
evolutionary patterns. I am not trying to attack current methods of
data analyses, but just pointing out that we are in science, a field
of constant change and we do not know how perceptions of evolutionary
relationships will evolve over the next decade or century. While
Linnaean systems do have ranks, they are flexible enough that they all
mean different things for different groups of taxa (e.g., are insect
and plant families really equivalent?). Also, the Linnaean system
really just provides rules for naming things and avoids imposing
strict meaning on the names, leaving those meanings and relationships
to be determined once you have labels on your entities. The freedom of
workers to apply different specific, generic, or familial concepts to
various taxa and to organize these taxa to reflect hypothesized evolutionary
patterns is already present in Linnaean taxonomy, and I see no
need to formalize rules to replace these basic categories with
categories that are only compatible with a limited, cladistic
perspective which may not exist in the future. And wait until the
PhyloCode organizers determine how to name species (which it currently
does not). What will that do to the freedom to apply different species
concepts (which is a rank that will still exist in PhyloCode)?

Best regards,
 Mike Barker

"We should realize that the game is crooked,
but also that it is the only game in town."
- Cronquist on phylogenetic reconstruction, 1988

Mike Barker
Dept. of Botany         ph. 513-461-1260
Miami University        fx. 513-529-4243
Oxford, OH 45056        barkerms at


More information about the Taxacom mailing list