[Taxacom] Felsenstein lecture available on-line

William Baker W.Baker at kew.org
Wed Dec 3 06:03:11 CST 2008

In June, I posted an advertisement to Taxacom announcing that Joe Felsenstein would be giving the annual Sir Julian Huxley lecture to the Systematics Association on 2 July 2008. In response to requests from Taxacom subscribers, the lecture was recorded and is now available at http://www.systass.org/events/JH-Lecture-2008.shtml. The title and abstract are as follows:

Not the fly on the wall: can systematists cope with uncertainty?
Joseph Felsenstein, University of Washington

In reconstruction of molecular phylogenies, biologists have largely shifted their emphasis from inferring a single phylogeny to being comfortable with statistical descriptions of the uncertainty about it, whether by using bootstrapping, jackknifing, or Bayesian posteriors. Similar developments for morphological and behavioral characters have been slower in coming, as there have been fewer defensible statistical models available. The spread of statistical approaches to the comparative method is changing that. I will describe some new developments in statistical models for discrete as well as continuous morphological characters. They can infer correlations of character change across a phylogeny. However these inferences must necessarily be very noisy and uncertain. How will systematists and other evolutionary biologists cope with this uncertainty, if they cannot look forward to further molecular sequencing reducing it? Can we make use of the information without ignoring its uncertainties or overreacting to them? If we cannot hope for an exact account of actually what happened in evolution, is despair inevitable?

William J. Baker PhD
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE
Tel: +44 20 8332 5224
Fax: +44 20 8332 5278

Please note that due to works on the new Herbarium building, there will be disruption to visitor services and access to the collections.  Please contact us for details before arranging any visits for 2008/9.

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