Compromise in the air? (was: Boolean games)

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Mar 11 21:17:59 CST 2005

     You're right, I should be thankful some strict cladists (like yourself) have finally conceded that paraphyletic groups are natural.  Now if we could only take the next step, and agree that certain exceptions should be made for extremely useful, formal paraphyletic taxa, we would actually have the template for a cladisto-eclectic compromise.  This is what some strict cladists do anyway (dipterists using Nematocera being an excellent example), and those who intend to always use Nematocera aren't really strict cladists and have crossed into compromise territory already.  It is really not much different from how people like Benton and I want to approach vertebrate classification.  At least give us back our traditional Sarcopterygii and Amphibia (and the latter would result in a traditional clade Tetrapoda that actually includes many of the extinct tetrapod taxa that are now excluded).

      And this may sound very strange coming from someone who has turned strongly against PhyloCode, BUT HERE GOES.  I would probably support a PhyloCode if it included provisions for occasional exceptions where major formal paraphyletic taxa (explicitly marked) would be allowed in order to foster stability and renewed harmony in the taxonomic community.  Especially exceptions such as Bryophyta and Pteridophyta in botany, Sarcopterygii and Amphibia in vertebrates, Prokaryota in microbiology, and invertebrate phylogeny is still too poorly known to determine what exceptions would be most important there.

      Some strict cladists would no doubt cross this line, and allow such exceptions, if they didn't fear retribution from hardline colleagues.  And once a few PhyloCodists begin to compromise on this, the whole Cladisto-Eclectic Thirty-Years' War would wind down, and we would actually become partners rather than adversaries.  I know I should be more patient and wait for the inevitable, rather than ranting on, but I am anxious to get started fashioning an optimal synthesis.  If we are going to shoe-horn classificatory methodology into one "world-view", it should be one of compromise, not an unyielding strict cladism.  We really aren't all that far apart.
        Ken Kinman
Curtis wrote:
     Once again, you are not listening.  I specified some months ago that I have come to regard paraphyletic groups as natural, because they can be unambiguously derived from clades.  My objections to them are on different grounds, one of which is the confusion they seem to have introduced in Tom's teaching of the embryophytes....

      While I object to paraphyletic formal taxa, both paraphyletic and even polyphyletic groups concepts ("worms", e.g.) can be useful in some contexts.  It's when we try to shoe-horn all of human experience into a specific world-view that we run into problems (and yes, I'm accusing you of doing what you claim, in some cases correctly, that cladists do).

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