[Taxacom] Mona Lisa Smile
deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Mon Jul 31 00:27:08 CDT 2006
I've been offline since my last post on this thread, and I haven't finished
reading it all through yet, so this may be moot/old/addressed already,
Some time ago, Tom Lammers responded to my post:
> >>The "Classification Is A Hypothesis" approach you advocate
> (to which I
> >>do not personally subscribe), seems to
> imply that there is some sort of singular "natural"
> classification "out there", against which these
> classification hypotheses can be "tested".<<
> There is. It's called "the actual historical facts of the
> group's evolution."
I would regard that as a hypothesis about phylogenetic relationships -- not
a hypothesis about classification. How we choose to incorporate evidence
supporting or refuting phylogenetic hypotheses into our human-imagined
classifications is not about hypothesis-testing, it's about language
definitions of terms, and communication.
> These populations we see today ARE
> derived from pre-existing populations through modification
> over time.
In many/most cases, they may well be (introgression being among the spoilers
of neat bifurcating phylogenies).
> I believe that
> the more closely our classification reflects that underlying
> "truth," the better it is.
I think you mean that you believe that classification should closely reflect
hypotheses about phylogeny, and that ideally the classifications should
usually/always reflect our "best" hypotheses of phylogeny. I think this is
what Ken Kinman would brand as "strict cladism" (or -- what was the word Ken
used -- "Monomania"? I prefer "monophilia" -- goes better with
In any case, many taxonomists share this belief, many others do not. But
regardless, we're talking about "belief" here -- that is, an opinion about
the prefered human-defined "axis" about which our primary classification
scheme should revolve. This is not a hypothesis to be tested, but rather a
convention to be defined.
> We can argue about whether
> cladistics is the best method for inferring this historical
> truth, or HOW our classification should reflect it (e.g., is
> paraphyly okay?), but I cannot imagine anyone thinking it
> would be a BAD think if our classifications reflected
> evolutionary history.
I would agree that most of us agree that evolutionary history should be the
primary guiding principle of our Linnean classification schemes. The
arguments are really about how much "wiggle-room" we should allow ourselves
in order to gain more functional classifications in particular
circumsatances, and/or more stable taxonomies.
But I think Pierre's original point is that perhaps we should have several
different such constructs within biology to emphasize different aspects of
biological affinity (and therefore allow more effective field-specific
communication). But the meta-point is that classifications are
human-defined constructs, not hypotheses to be tested. Phylogenies are
hypotheses that can be tested; but the degree to which we map our
classifications to these phylogenetic hypotheses is obviously still a matter
of some debate.
Taxacom mailing list
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
More information about the Taxacom