As for ONE kind of classification ...

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Thu Mar 10 10:38:09 CST 2005

A month or so ago I had dinner with Jack Longino in Costa Rica. Being of
that "dying breed" of old time taxonomists willing to accept some
pragmatic concepts in our classification, Jack pointed out an
interesting analogy.

Yes, we study life on Earth. Yes, there is only ONE Earth. And
apparently only ONE history of life on Earth. So, it is very Very
tempting to declare, therefore, there should only be ONE classification
of Life on Earth, only One way to represent that history in an
informational system, etc. Hence, we all should be using strict
cladistic classifications.

Jack noted that there are other Sciences with deal with Earth. But they
don't get uptighy on the singularity aspect. His example was
cartography, that is, representation of the Earth in the form of maps,
etc. They do not argue much about what is the best, the ONLY way to
represent the Earth, but accept that they are many ways to express
information about the Earth that are useful. And they try to continuely
improve and develop new projections, new types of maps, but not as
replacements for the old standards that most of us use, etc.

So, perhap we should follow their lead. Yes, paraphyletic group are
bad, but in some senses they may be useful.

So, as Ken well knows, at the Diptera WWW site, we use some
paraphyletic and even polyphyletic groups, BUT they are clearly marked
as such so users are warning that in some context they should  not be
used (such as prediction, etc.). Take at look at:


F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution
MRC-0169 NHB
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at e-mail  web site

>>> Ken Kinman <kinman2 at YAHOO.COM> 03/10/05 10:15AM >>>
I would agree with these statements with one exception.  I am
increasingly convinced that we are NOT a dying breed, although strict
cladists did have us thinking that might be the case.  Even after 30
years of its very aggressive attempts to stamp out all formal paraphyly,
they haven't been able to do so, and the tide is turning.  Especially
with the PhyloCode blunder increasingly showing the underlying
vulnerabilities of strictly cladistic classifications, I think a younger
generation of taxonomists will back away from that extreme pendulum
swing, and forge a new cladisto-eclectic synthesis.

     So instead of a dying breed, I think we will be a healthy part of
a new hybrid (highly cladistic, but certainly not strictly cladistic).
Eventually the "dying breed" will be those who refuse to abandon their
paraphylophobic ways, and refuse to accept that branching patterns can
be systematically stored in classifications without sacrificing
stability, practicality, and the evolutionary distance (which are just
some of the benefits of occasional formal paraphyly).
Date:         Thu, 10 Mar 2005 07:27:47 -0600
From:         "Thomas G. Lammers" <lammers at UWOSH.EDU>
Subject:      Re: Latin names versus scientific names [was: So much for
nomenclatural stability]
Comments: To: Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG>

At 01:15 AM 3/10/2005, Richard Pyle wrote:
> > 'Tis a cladist's perspective.  There are still surviving > >
members of the
>dying breed of naturalists who see evolutionary relationships as being
one of the most important kinds of information communicated among
taxonomists via scientific nomneclature -- but not the *only* kind of

Or perhaps more importantly, that we eschew the absolute dependence on
only ONE kind of evolutionary information -- branching pattern.  Some of
us prefer a more wholistic and naturalistic perspective on evolution and
classification than the stringently artificial and monothetic view of
cladistics.  We prefer to take into account *all* aspects of evolution
rather than determining a priori, as Linnaeus did with stamen and carpel
number, that branching pattern is THE most important character to use in
Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

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