lonely Dan Janzen

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Fri Mar 26 10:25:54 CST 2004


I think I may well be among the most misunderstood regular contributors to
this list; as the score is now 3 for 3 among responders who appeared to
provide dissent, but in fact offered strong congruence. Clearly I need to
work on my communication skills!

Don Colless quoted both Dan Janzen and myself:

> Richard Pyle wrote:
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> > many - and I dare say some day nearly all - users also make very
> > extensive use of the marvelous inferencial (=predictive) power of the
> > phylogenetic components of your classification systems.    You are
> > all aware that the more phylogenetically-based your system(s), the
> > more inferentially powerful it is for us users.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
> that the Linnaean system was suboptimal for communicating inferred
> phylogenies)
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
>  the use of nomenclature as a tool for the strict
> representation of phylogenies inferred from the latest lump of data.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------


...and then countered with:


> He also offered several wise and temperate comments. But the
> above quotes illustrate a common non-sequitur that is achieving
> the status of received truth. To wit:
>
> A. Classifications should be predictive.
> B. Cladistic classifications offer the best available predictions
> of phylogeny.
> C. Ergo, classifications should be cladistic.
>
> The non-sequitur lies in just whether it is just phylogeny that
> we wish to extract from a classification.


...which very elegantly makes the point that I have tried to make again and
again on this list; that it is a *mistake* to assume that the Linnaean
Nomenclature classification system should be used with the single-minded
purpose of conveying hypothesized phylogenetic relationships.

I certainly believe that there should be *a* classification system whose
purpose is to communicate inferred phylogenies. In general practice today,
it takes the form of cladograms.  The PhyloCode folks want to create such a
phylogeny-dedicated classification system; but alas, it suffers from the
"ruffled feathers" problem. But my underlying point is (and has been) that I
just don't think that the Linnaean system is it -- despite the fact that it
has been co-opted for that purpose by many in the cladistical taxonomic
community.

Anyone who reviews my posts to this list with any scrutiny will soon realize
that I count myself among the most ardent supporters of the Linnaean
nomenclatural system for its obvious inherent value.  To a large extent it
should reflect phylogeny, but I believe its purpose goes beyond that (e.g.,
I believe there are times when nomenclature should acknowledge certain
groups, even when the current evidence suggests it to be paraphyletic to
something with a different name).  When I say that the Linnaean system is
suboptimal for communicating inferred phylogenies, I did NOT intend that as
a criticism of the Linnaean system; but rather as a criticism of those who
believe that the Linnaean system should be used only/primarily as a
classification system that strictly communicates information about inferred
phylogenetic affinities.

> Moreover, the much maligned Linnaean system is an excellent tool
> for marking where useful or important information is located.
> Generic, family, etc., ranks are NOT allocated by an algorithm,
> as so much beloved by cladists. They result (optimally) from a
> consensus of conscientious, trained, taxonomic opinion.

The above paragraph very eloquently characterizes my own feelings about the
Linnaean system, and how it should be used.

Aloha,
Rich

=======================================================
Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
http://www.bishopmuseum.org/bishop/HBS/pylerichard.html




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