Archaeopterygid bird from China

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Wed Mar 30 18:33:26 CST 2005

Ken wrote:

> John,
>       While I do agree with you that the location of oldest
> fossil is not "necessarily" near the origin of a family, I agree
> with Dick that an Asian origin for Archaeopterygidae is presently
> the best hypothesis.

Although I agree with most of the points in Richard Zander's concurrent
post, I think it's important to remember that "best" is a relative term.  I
can't help but believe there is some sort of threshold where the "best"
hypothesis among several is every bit as indistinguishable from "crap" as
the worst hypothesis.  Something with a 2% probability of being correct is
twice as likely as something with a 1% probability of being correct...but
neither serves as a very useful working hypothesis.  I think it all depends
on the particulars of each case.

I don't know the details in this case, but I have to say that I find John
Grehan's position, while perhaps a bit extreme [e.g., "Everything else (I
would submit) is largely, if not wholly, a fanciful conjecture masquerading
as science..."], to be the "best" perspective among several.... :-)

Shitfing gears a bit, this same point is largely why simply knowing that a
particular phylogenetic arrangement represents the "most parsimonious" tree
tells me very little about how much faith I should put in its approximation
to reality (e.g., whether it's worth disrupting nomenclatural stability


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at

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