Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Tue Jun 15 10:51:56 CDT 2004

I can only reply that this is pure sophistry (of course, you'll have to
consult a dictionary to determine which definition of sophist I am using!).

If you're statement were true, then we would have no need for dictionaries.
It is clear from the postings you have made on this you have not been using
unambiguous definitions of characters, phenetics, and cladistics, e.g., you
have persisted in implying that characters may be innately phenetic or
cladistic, despite the best efforts of others to point out that this is
wrong-headed thinking.  According to your reply, it does no good for anyone
to provide a definition because you already know the definition.  But (and I
suspect most readers of this thread will agree with me) "what you already
know" does not conform with what the rest of us know (by reference to
accepted definitions).

I assume (and you will correct me if I'm wrong) that your comment about
certain practices not conforming refers to analyses of molecular data.  If
someone compiles a matrix of putative molecular homologies, and applies a
maximum parsimony algorithm, then that is not, no matter what some cladist
might tell you, a phenetic analysis.  It simply does not conform to what
phenetics is.


John Grehan wrote:

> Definitions don't tell you any more than you already know. That is why
> they don't matter.
> As for certain practices not conforming, I would disagree.
> John
> -----Original Message-----
> From: rjensen at [mailto:rjensen at]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 9:35 AM
> To: John Grehan
> Subject: Re: Characters.
> You are wrong, John. Definitions do matter.  The only way we can
> communicate effectively with one another is by making sure, when we
> discuss something, that we are discussing the same thing.  We have to
> agree on a definition in order to place our views in context.
> Perhaps that is a big part of the problem in this ongoing thread.  Some
> ignore definitions while others adhere to the "generally agreed upon"
> definitions used by systematists.  I say generally agreed upon only
> because there are always some who want to maintian a particular view by
> employing a definition that virtually no one else uses.
> Agreeing upon definitions of such terms as character, phenetics,
> cladistics, etc. is necessary for conducting informative and critical
> discussions.  Otherwise, everything is a waste of time.
> Pierre and others have gone to great lengths to clarify a number of
> matters.  Despite the very lucid comments they have made, including
> providing definitions to avoid confusion, others have continued to muddy
> the waters by ignoring the definitions.
> Now, if your definition of phenetics "conforms" well with that provided
> by Brian (which is the same definition that Pierre and others have
> provided), how can you then keep insisting that certain practices are
> phenetic when, in fact, they do not conform to that definition?
> Dick
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: John Grehan <jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG>
> Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 8:14 am
> Subject: Re: Characters.
> > If one wants to be ruled by definitions of one's choice then one is
> > always going to have trouble - but that trouble is not mine.
> > Definitionsof terms always vary and always will. Witness various
> > discussions on
> > this list arguing over differences of opinion about definitions of
> > various terms (and not just cladistics). And 'newer' terminology
> > is not
> > necessarily any less confused than older and, in the example cited by
> > Don, does not change anything (it was clear that Don understood
> > what I
> > was talking about). Even in panbiogeography there is more than one
> > definition of, for example, a node. In the end definitions don't
> > matter.
> > It's also ironic to see some berate my supposed lack of cladistic
> > understanding only to see others disagree with their supposedly
> > authoritative position.
> >
> > John Grehan
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU] On
> > Behalf Of Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU
> >
> > Oh dear. Here we go again, on an unacknowledged distinction between
> > "character" and "character state"! In the latter terminology only a
> > CHARACTER STATE can be primitive, etc. If John wishes to adhere to an
> > older, confused terminology, it's his privilege to do so - but he's
> > going to find trouble in discussions in TAXACOM.
> >
> > Don Colless,
> > Div of Entomology, CSIRO,
> > GPO Box 1700,
> > Canberra. 2601.
> > Email: don.colless at
> > Tuz li munz est miens envirun
> >

Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

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