Understanding evolution problems
kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 4 12:30:28 CST 2004
I agree that the honest thing to do (at a bare minimum) is that this "educational" site fully educate students so that they can make up their own minds. This war of attrition against paraphyly has been going on for over 30 years, and the loss of a major defender (Peter Ashlock) in 1989 was a terrible blow even though Ernst Mayr published their textbook in 1991 (Principles of Systematic Zoology, 2nd Edition). Unfortunately, many taxonomy students these days are never exposed to the ideas in that book unless their instructor goes out of their way to do so.
The incommensurability problem (never the twain shall meet) will eventually be solved by a "limited paraphyly" approach (with explicit place-markers), and strict cladism's intransigence is just delaying the inevitable. The longer it takes, the more unpleasant will be the transition to a new balanced paradigm (and lot of students will have to be deprogrammed and educated about what paraphyly really is). I gave up trying to get funding years ago, and am therefore free to speak my mind without fear of retribution. Unfortunately, many biologists of a like mind don't have that luxury (especially younger ones who don't have tenure yet). Meanwhile, the best I can do is to continue teaching by example, and producing updated "limited paraphyly" classifications as time allows. Eventually one of strict cladism's major blunders will become glaringly apparent and the tide will finally turn. The sooner the better.
------- Ken Kinman
P.S. Of course, paraphyly is not the only methodology under attack. The Linnaean System is the other prime target. The "educational" site under discussion seems to grudgingly discuss it while hinting at its predicted demise, the following statement perhaps being the most pertinent: "However, scientists still use the Linnaean system because of its convenience and there is no reason AT THIS TIME to ENTIRELY toss it from the science curriculum." The inference is that they plan to entirely "toss it" eventually. Again, it's a slow war of attrition that will continue to be waged and cause damage as long as funding practices encourage them to do so.
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