Homology & word-"baiting"

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri May 16 03:02:50 CDT 2003

Curtis and Julian,
      Okay, I'll take the "bait" on this one.  From the context of his post,
I would say it's quite clear that John's "oversight" does NOT represent a
fundamental misunderstanding.  Substitute the word "reversals" for
"plesiomorphies", and perhaps everyone will be happy.  But once again
quibbling about semantics diverts us from the bigger picture.
     In any case, while we are being nitpicky about the term homoplasy,
should we really consider all parallelisms to be homoplasies?  They are
generally homologous (more so than analogous), even if they aren't
homologous in the strictest sense as applied to synapomorphies.  If
parallelisms are homoplasies, they are of a very "soft" sort in comparison
to "hard" homoplasies like the convergent wings of insects and birds (with a
continuum of homoplastic levels in between).
     THEREFORE, in a very real and unfortunate way, the word "homoplasy" has
been just one more way to further indoctrinate generations of students with
the notion that ALL paraphyletic groups are bad:     "All homoplasy is
equally bad, and all paraphyly is equally bad.  Paraphyly is so bad, it is
lumped with polyphyly and totally forbidden."  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
     Sorry, but 35 years of indoctrination does not make these notions any
less simplistic, even though decades of repetition may have given them a
thin veneer of respectability (and an even more disproportionate edge in
funding opportunities).
     Anyway, I would rather be accused of word "baiting" than of word
"assassination".  And what strict cladists have done to the word "paraphyly"
is really even worse than "word assassination"----it's "concept
assassination".   Sorry to remind you again, but some homoplasies are
useful, some plesiomorphies are useful, and even some paraphyletic groups
ARE useful.  And furthermore, they are REALITIES that word play and
sophistry cannot diminish in the long term.  Time to give up this
puritanical crusade of strict cladism before it does even more damage.
Pleading or even baiting doesn't seem to phase most strict cladists, so once
again it spills over into ranting by those able to do so.  I'm sure various
strict cladists are looking forward to the end of May (actually I'll be
leaving Taxacom around the 26th).
         ----- Ken Kinman
>From: Curtis Clark <jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU>
>Reply-To: Curtis Clark <jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Australopithecus and orangutans
>Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 11:54:09 -0700
>At 11:08 AM 5/15/2003 -0400, John Grehan wrote:
>>Even though by definition the rejected group of proposed
>>apomorphies are now designated as homoplasies and may be considered
>>parallelisms, convergences, plesiomorphies etc.,
>Please look up the definitions of homoplasy and plesiomorphy. Your misuse
>of these terms may be an oversight, but it might represent a fundamental
>misunderstanding of phylogenetic systematics.

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