paraplaying (and bullies)

Frederick W. Schueler bckcdb at ISTAR.CA
Wed Apr 7 18:04:44 CDT 2004

pierre deleporte wrote:

> 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...

* correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't paraphyly (above the species level)
an artifact of using categories? A consequence of the Aristotelian myth
that different taxa of the same category are somehow equivalent? 'Class
Mammalia' is paraphyletic only in relation to 'Class Reptilia' -
'Mammalia' is simply a monophyletic lineage within 'Amniota.'

> 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).

* ah, but if you want an "obvious, unique, optimal and all-purpose"
something, maybe you need Hegelian dialectical methodology. If we start
with the grand fact of the natural subordination of organic beings in
groups under groups, and accept that this subordination is due to
descent with modification, there are two features to be accounted for -
when did the groups diverge, and how different are the diverged groups:
cladistics and phenetics.

If descent is the thesis, and difference is the antithesis, then maybe
the dialectical resolution is a classification in which each taxon is
tagged, not with a category, but with a date, and a differentiation
measure. Estimating the date is a straight-forward hypothesis, and it's
often done. I don't know what the differentiation measure might be -
something related to the old phenetic goal of 'overall similarity,' and
maybe derived from a discriminant function between sister groups.

I think it's too bad phenetics didn't attach itself to cladistics at an
early era, but by the time it became apparent that cladistics was going
to succeed, perhaps the two schools had called each other so many hard
names that a reconciliation wasn't feasible.


           Bishops Mills Natural History Centre
Frederick W. Schueler, Aleta Karstad, Jennifer Helene Schueler
      RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
   on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
     (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at>

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