genetic and morphological systematics

John Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Thu Jan 12 14:09:37 CST 2006

With the orangutan-human evidence of morphology in mind, finally, a molecular geneticist (Marks 1994 - American Journal of Physical Anthropology 94:59-79) making some sense:



"The history of biological anthropology shows that, from the beginning of the 20th century, grossly naïve conclusions have been promoted simply on the basis that they are derived from genetics, without having been fully thought-out."


"When molecular and morphological data disagree, both must be re-examined carefully, for genetics has been used irresponsibly as a form of scientific validation, both in American society and in American science."


"It does not follow, though, that any data provided by genetic analysis are more fundamental, and therefore more credible, in the analysis of evolutionary patterns."


"The genotype has different properties from the phenotype, and one can hardly rank as inherently superior or inferior two such phenomenologically distinct kinds of studies."


"[The genotype/phenotype distinction]...provide an independent test of phylogenetic hypotheses...Here, corroboration is valuable, but discordance is difficult to interpret."


"Molecular evolution has not "provided a 'magic bullet' for phylogeny".


The conclusions of molecular genetics "need to be carefully weighted and integrated, not blindly obeyed"


"The thoughtless use of genetics has never done anyone any good, and it seems unreasonable to expect it to be of value in contemporary physical anthropology."


"The distinction of note lies not in molecular-vs.-morphological data, but rather, in well-executed research and well-reasoned conclusion, vs. their opposites."


John Grehan



Dr. John R. Grehan

Director of Science and Collections

Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14211-1193

email: jgrehan at

Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372



Ghost moth research

Human evolution and the great apes



More information about the Taxacom mailing list