Chloroplast and other genes (was Lucy in Newsweek)

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Apr 8 14:52:02 CDT 2004

> Richard & I had an interesting off-list chat on this topic, and I
> think it's
> important to clarify what he means here by 'evolutionary
> history'. 'Evolutionary
> history' in this context is the history of descent of extant
> organisms, and
> nothing else. Those 'remnants of information' in the genome tell
> us nothing
> whatosever about the vast number of extinct life-forms, and nothing
> whatosever about where, when and how of evolution. 'Evolutionary
> history' as
> derived from the genome is a precis of a summary of an abstract of a
> synopsis of the immensely complicated history of life on Earth.

Absolutely agree!  Thank you for clarifyng that -- in my effort to reform my
habit of long-winded diatribes on this list (and others), I sometimes
overcompensate and truncate too much in my statements.  In this case, I
probably truncated too much.  One of the things that Robert and I discussed
was the difference between inferring "phylogeny" as an effort to identify
evolutionary affinities among extant life-forms, as opposed to a broader
"Evolutionary Histoy", which is so much, MUCH more.  So when I said
"...attempt to reconstruct evolutionary history..." in my previous post,
what I really meant (and should have been more clear about, especially in
light of my earlier off-list discussions with Robert) was something more
along the lines of "...attempt to identify the evolutionary relationships
among extant taxa..."

While we may well be able to eventually extract more meaningful information
from genomes, I am increasingly skeptical that any algorithms will ever be
developed to extract meaningful information from my TAXACOM posts....



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