[Taxacom] consensus [encyclopedia of life]

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Sun May 13 08:19:22 CDT 2007

Naturally I would disagree with Ken that his paraphyletic Pongidae is
any less a Babel than anything else. If one or more members of his
'Pongidae' are more closely related to Hominidae then the Pongidae does
not represent anything real with respect to closeness of relationship.

In the case of human-great ape relationships it is cladistics that is
identifying current confusion resulting from the lack of attention to
available evidence and it may end up being a key issue in determining
whether the faith given to molecular similarity as a necessary predictor
of phylogeny is justified.

John Grehan

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Ken Kinman
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2007 1:57 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] consensus [encyclopedia of life]

Dear All,
     Actually we reached a consensus classification on this subject many
decades ago.  A paraphyletic Family Pongidae (great apes) giving rise to

Family Hominidae.   It was the attempts to excessively split or lump
that has resulted in a cladistic Babel.  That's why I have stuck with
the stable consensus classification, and I simply ignore the many
different "cladifications" various workers have come up with.

    It is much easier to view the debates as being over which clade
(genus or group of genera) within Pongidae is the sister group of
Hominidae.  There is probably no clearer case where "cladifications"
have created confusion and actually hindered communication (a military
man might well label them "fubar" taxonomy).
   -----Ken Kinman
P.S.  Also, I'm pretty sure a separate family for hominids probably also
makes the creationists feel a little less threatened, whereas dumping
chimps into genus Homo is an unnecessary provocation (especially since
many taxonomists view it as excessive lumping anyway).

>From: Peter Stevens <peter.stevens at mobot.org>
>To: Thomas Lammers <lammers at uwosh.edu>
>CC: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
>Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 10:24:59 -0500
>There is another aspect of classifications and consensus - which is as 
>much social in the broad sense, rather than simply political, OK, all 
>phylogenies are hypotheses, and some are better supported than others.

>However, given extremely strong support for a particular phylogeny, 
>perhaps Pongo as sister to Homo as Grehan would like, such that we 
>could ALL link arms and walk off into the sunset in mutual agreement 
>and admiration, we still have to reach consensus about the 
>classification based on the phylogeny, or, with the phylocode, the 
>names  that are in general use .  If we don't have this consensus, we 
>have Babel. There might be nothing stopping the combination Pongo 
>For a consensus f the kind about which I am talking, it isn't about 
>science, it is about aspects of the communication of science. I realise

>there are different philosophies of classification, but this issue 
>transcends particular philosophies
>On May 12, 2007, at 8:20 AM, Thomas Lammers wrote:
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
> >
> >> Consensus is a political concept concerning the belief systems of 
> >> the participants.
> >> Sometimes consensus is used in place of "majority". These become 
> >> very troubling standards to introduce into taxonomy, especially 
> >> when creationists are regularly accused of being non-scientific. 
> >> When there is no single standardized taxonomy the issue of politics

> >> is less acute,although it has already emerged with the tree of 
> >> life.
> >
> > Those are indeed valid concerns.
> >
> > At the same time, I think it is axiomatic that "classifications are 
> > hypotheses."  They are not final answers, they all stand pro 
> > tempore.  As such, a hypothesis arrived at via concensus is as 
> > useful, pro tem, as any other.  The important thing is to be honest 
> > about status.
> >
> > Tom Lammers
> >
> > _______________________________________________

PC Magazine's 2007 editors' choice for best Web mail-award-winning
Windows Live Hotmail. 

More information about the Taxacom mailing list