[Taxacom] Mona Lisa Smile

Ken Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 26 22:51:33 CDT 2006

     I agree that there are numerous "correct" classifications, and that 
testing can show all of them to be phylogenetically correct simultaneously.  
The increasingly inclusive variations of Family Hominidae are a clear 

     But they are not equally optimal in making the classification stable 
and useful to the vast majority of users, and that is true even when one 
restricts oneself to holophyletic taxa only.  But sometimes a paraphyetic 
taxon (e.g. the traditional Pongidae) is just too useful and stable to 
justify switching to any of the far less optimal cladified alternatives 
(particularly when there is no clear agreement even among strict cladists 
which cladified alternative they prefer).  Being phylogenetically correct is 
just one criterion a taxon needs to meet.  Clearly I believe a properly 
labelled paraphyletic taxon can be just as correct as any strictly cladified 
alternative, and that it can exceed them in being far more stable and 
  ----Ken Kinman
>From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
>To: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Mona Lisa Smile
>Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 03:30:31 -1000
> > At 06:13 AM 7/26/2006, pierre deleporte wrote:
> > >I my view, the worst "divorce from reality" (I would rather say:
> > >"divorce from realism") could well be the lasting belief in the Holy
> > >Grail of a unique, universal, optimal-for-all-purposes
> > classification.
> >
> > Of course not, for the simple reason that (as I constantly remind my
> > students) A Classification Is A Hypothesis.  As such,
> > classifications are constantly being tested, a process that
> > either supports them or fails to support them.  That's why
> > taxonomy IS science.
> >
> > That does not mean that we cannot arrive at a classification
> > that withstand repeated testing and so achieve a modicum of
> > long-term stability and broad utility, perhaps to the point
> > where we would call it a "theory."
>I don't think that was Pierre's point.  I think he was saying that there 
>are many "correct" (optimal?) classifications, depending on the axis around 
>which you want to arrange your classification (phylogenetic vs. ecological 
>vs. phenetic, etc.)  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".
>We've had this conversation before on this forum, and I'm pretty sure I 
>know Pierre's position on this (which is very similar to my own). I rely on 
>him to correct me if I'm wrong.

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