paraplaying (and bullies)

pierre deleporte pierre.deleporte at UNIV-RENNES1.FR
Wed Apr 7 15:30:05 CDT 2004

At 21:28 05/04/2004 -0700, Curtis Clark wrote:
>At 21:14 2004-04-05, Ken Kinman wrote:
>>By then, the naturalness of paraphyly will have been rediscovered even by
>>those who are now diehard strict cladists.
>Paraphyletic taxa are "natural"; they just don't play well with others.

One classic way to quiet down schoolyard bullying is to offer several 
clearly labelled sandboxes furnished with a diversity of attractive toys.

Paraphyletic taxa are "natural", e.g. under the following criterion: 
members share one or several synapomorphy(ies) (= original homologous 
characters inherited by descent and effectively present, and not replaced 
through further evolutionary change of the homologous trait in question). 
Example: tetrapods without snakes (they have no "pods", you know).
I aknowledge that my pet snakeless paraphyletic group is unambiguously 
encodable in some "Kinman-like" system. But you won't find this obvious 
paraphyletic group in the Kinman classification, because here is 
Deleporte's one   ;-)   ... paraphyly allows for an illimited number of 
combinations for a same phylogeny, unless some providential person fixes 
the "unique correct slicing" for us all.

Monophyletic taxa are "natural" under the criterion: share the property of 
exclusive common descent (with or without universally shared synapomorphy 
inside the group, call it grade or what you like). Example: tetrapods 
including snakes. You can use this classification if you care more for 
phylogeny than for presence/absence of "pods", but it's up to you, have thy 
own way.

This multiplicity of possible "natural" classifications is likely the 
reason why Ken forged a classification system which is in fact a 
juxtaposition of two systems: with and without his pet paraphyletic groups 
(roughly: Kinman names, versus Kinman codes).

Note: though I repeatedly suggested to Ken to use names for monophyletic 
groups and labels for coining possible paraphyletic acception of the same 
terms, he apparently prefers naming paraphyletic groups and coding for 
monophyly. I still don't understand why Ken doesn't like my sugggestion, 
kind of logical "mirror image" to his own one...
Of course my (friendly ironic) suggestion boils down to "strict 
monophyletic naming" with possible additional labels for occasional, and 
facultative, paraphyletic acception of some terms (e.g. Dinosaurs 
implicitly including birds, and *Dinosaurs-D6* explicitly excluding them). 
Ken seems to really persist in seeing things from only one side of the 
mirror, fiercely rejecting consistent monophyletic naming, this scaring, 
silly, malevolent, devastating, apocalyptic (...Ken has more flourished 
epithets in stock...) school in systematics, which future generations will 
reproach us till the end of times, and beyond...   ;-)

These two "natural" classifications likely do not exhaust the possibilities 
of other "natural" classifications (potentially, an illimited number of 
them according to your specific needs/criteria). Trying to force all of 
them into an apparently unique classificatory system would require a kind 
of "super-Kinman" classification, with combined names, numbers, labels, 
posts, signs, barcodes, colour marks... to be read in turn according to 
your needs (e.g. barcodes for fishmonger criteria: organisms whose flesh 
should be preserved in ice versus cool chamber, and then sold at the 
fish-shop or butchery, according to the biological properties of the flesh).

... or, alternatively, quietly aknowledging different classifications for 
different needs.

Each of these "natural" classifications being optimally (at best) designed 
by men for some specific use, but never made by Nature itself of course, I 
mean never "self-evident", despite some lasting positivist illusions of the 

The myth of the obvious, unique, optimal and all-purpose-fitting 
classification seems no longer tenable to me. It is a pre-scientific 
illusory quest (searching after "the" design of nature).
Attempting to offer only one sandbox with all toys in it while imposing a 
unique playing rule is likely misconceived (pace Ken). Politically correct 
"middle ground" suggestions have no room in science, which is not a 
democraty but rather (at the very least) an exercise in logical consistency.

Note that I am talking of classificatory logics here, not "nomenclatural 
codes" properly (to be clear, no phylocoder should hastily count me as a 
proponent of his coding/nomenclatural rules as presently proposed).


         - Peace and love, everyone his sandbox and sandboxes for all -

Pierre Deleporte
CNRS UMR 6552 - Station Biologique de Paimpont
F-35380 Paimpont   FRANCE
Téléphone : 02 99 61 81 66
Télécopie : 02 99 61 81 88

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