Lucy in Newsweek

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Mar 31 18:01:28 CST 2004

John Grehan wrote:
     Ken may go on about his skepticism of the morphology since it does not agree with 'genetic' relationships, but one could also look at the morphology as a test of the genetic claims....
    People like Ken also face the quandary that if morphology is so unreliable as not to be relied upon at all unless supported by DNA molecules, then all fossils are meaningless (everyone tries to step around that one, but its the obvious and necessary consequence).
     I agree that genetic claims should be tested with morphology, BUT vice versa as well.  If your morphological claims are valid, I find it hard to believe that there is no genetic evidence to back it up.  The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (in spite of my nitpicking at their classification) is doing a great job of combining morphological and molecular evidence.  Ape phylogeny could benefit from a similarly balanced approach instead of looking at it as strictly morphology vs. molecules.
     As for my supposed "quandry", fossils are obviously NOT meaningless, and I don't regard all morphology as unreliable.  I do think some morphological characters are more reliable than others, just as I think some molecular characters are more reliable than others.  It's just a matter of discovering combined data sets in which certain molecules and certain morphologies become more and more congruent (just like the angiosperm group is doing).  Instead of criticizing molecular data altogether, I would suggest looking for molecular data that is congruent with your morphological data.  Likewise the molecularists need to find more morphological data to support their claims of a Pan-Homo clade (and that includes morphological data from fossils).  Until then I am going to be skeptical about BOTH sides in this debate (and since there are more than two possible tree topologies, both might end up being wrong, or at least only partially right).  This debate is far from being settled one way or the other, and there seems to be too much heat and not enough light.
         --------- Ken Kinman

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