[Taxacom] Frustrations and the future
kinman at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 12 22:22:56 CDT 2007
I might not have internet access much longer, so trying to wrap up
some loose ends in anticipation. I can only hope that I might have had some
small part in nudging some people (those who actually need nudging) in the
direction of striving for the long term, relative stability of taxonomy and
the classifications that are intimately entwined with it.
In zoology, both Ernst Mayr and Peter Ashlock are gone, so I hope
others will keep pointing out that limited paraphyly (explicitly expressed)
is not only a natural reflection of broad evolutionary processes, but is
also a necessary check (as in checks and balances) on the excesses of
"unbridled" cladism. Cladistics is great, but without checks and balances,
its power (coupled with unrecognized uncertainty) can become destructive and
destabilizing, the prime example being a virtual strait-jacket of a code
called PhyloCode which is causing harm even before it is implemented.
Hopefully it never will be!!
Botany I'm not so worried about, since even strict cladists in that
sphere seem more cautious (e.g., APG group) and naming many proposed new
clades only informally (like "core eudicots" and the like) rather than
prematurely flooding the literature with new formal names. Likewise, I
think Bacteriology will become just as cautious once the Three Urkingdom
(a.k.a. Three Domain) classification is discredited, and taxonomic inflation
among prokaryotes is curbed (especially the likes of numerous "candidate
Kingdoms" and the resulting splitting into candidate Phyla, Classes, etc.
Not that new Classes and Orders of bacteria don't remain to be discovered
and named (they do), but that their importance will not be swamped by large
numbers of unnecessary taxa that are merely the result of excessive
splitting. The same goes for protists.
Anyway, however frustrated I get, I still remain optimistic that the
excesses of strict cladism have largely run their course and that a more
moderate attitude is beginning to replace it as more workers challenge it in
the way that Ashlock and Mayr once did. The sooner the better.
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