[Taxacom] Felsenstein lecture available on-line

Karl Magnacca kmagnacca at wesleyan.edu
Fri Dec 5 08:06:53 CST 2008

On Fri, December 5, 2008 2:29 am, John Grehan wrote:
>> Molecular data are especially vulnerable to errors from
>> misidentification, contamination, etc., which must be in mind
>> if an unusual result appears.
> Cheers, cheers. That's more than most molecular systematists are willing
> to admit.

You should get out more.  Any molecular phylogeneticist will admit to
far more than that.

> In practice the trouble with checking alignments by hand is that no one
> (at least of the papers I have seen) bothers to specify how they make
> their personal alignment decisions, just give the results. So there is
> no predictability to their hand method. Voodoo systematics rears its
> head again.

It's quite simple: it's the same way that you decide which morphological
characters are "good" and which are "clearly so homoplasious as to be
worthless".  Voodoo systematics, indeed.  Morphology is good and often
better than molecular methods, but it suffers from its own limitations
as well.  It's not the problems of molecular phylogenetics that bug me,
because they can be noted if not always corrected; it's the
self-righteous attitude of some of those who do only morphology and
claim to be following the One True Way.

Okay, enough of the mini-rant (a result of my traumatic upbringing :-)

Karl Magnacca
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Zoology
Trinity College, Dublin 2

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