[Taxacom] Position Announcement

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Tue Oct 30 13:53:31 CDT 2007

Some of this is moot. It takes the weighing of two different studies, in
the marketplace of ideas, for a choice to be made by peers. We cannot
ignore molecular systematics and "tree-thinking" but its fusion with
traditional systematics is stymied by the gimmicks of monophyly and no
surviving ancestors, and especially the now almost universal practice
that statistical analysis of a data set can result in near statistical
certainty while a host of assumptions remain unchallenged or

I note that the most recent issue of Taxon contains three letters to the
editor, one of them by myself, offering cogent arguments against
ignoring (or just mapping onto molecular cladograms) morphological data.
The remainder of the articles were largely of actual systematic studies
ignoring (or just mapping onto molecular cladograms) morphological data.
To make any inroads on the molecular juggernaut, we must present actual
systematic studies that combine information on expressed traits and
molecular lineages in a manner that is competitive with molecular

I believe this can be done if those who want to see morphology more
important in modern systematics contribute papers reflecting this. One
must recognize that molecular systematics is largely speculative in
emphasizing statistical power over reliability and the first step in
sensible combining of inferences from expressed traits and from
molecular traits is to avoid the gimmicks of monophyly and no surviving

I have seen papers that recognize paraphyletic groups as most
parsimonious in explaining evolution, so it can be done. For a more
complete method of evaluating published cladograms, see

Richard H. Zander 
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle
> Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 1:34 PM
> To: 'John Grehan'; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Position Announcement
> Thanks, John -- fair enough.  Some minor points of disagreement (e.g.,
> still feel that both lines of evidence are better than one -- so long
> they are interpreted carefully), but now that I've woken up a bit, I'm
> quite cantankerous enough to argue about it! :-)
> Aloha,
> Rich
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: John Grehan [mailto:jgrehan at sciencebuff.org]
> > Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 8:29 AM
> > To: Richard Pyle; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Position Announcement
> >
> > Rich,
> >
> > A fair question indeed. I think I would avoid the pom-poms,
> > but I would not be as upset (or upset at all) with a solely
> > morphological study because I have my own bias which is that
> > morphological analysis is cladistically defensible as being
> > cladistic whereas molecular methods are basically phenetics
> > dressed up in cladistic terminology and techniques (I know, I
> > know, others on this list think I am nuts).
> >
> > But if the advertisement has said that they were only
> > interested in creating a molecular phylogeny then that at
> > least would be precise. My disagreement with that choice
> > would not matter.
> >
> > As in the first paragraph, I am not for the view that one is
> > better off doing both morphological and molecular approaches.
> >
> > By the way, I submitted a paper on hominid origins that
> > created some strong objections from reviewers who did not at
> > all like the idea that molecular evidence could be wrong when
> > morphology pointed to an alternative (fortunately the editors
> > took the position that a minority view did not of itself
> > preclude publication).
> >
> > John Grehan

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