[Taxacom] Why character-tracking doesn't happen?

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Fri Sep 12 11:38:33 CDT 2008

> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Thomas G. Lammers
> I don't think there is a better methodology than cladistics for answer
> relationship questions above the level of species.  Flawed though it
> it
> is the best possible.  My problem is with those who ascribe FAR too
> value and import to their imaginary stick figures, who paint
> into ridiculous corners because they do not view cladistics as a tool
> rather as a religion to be adhered to steadfastly.  The refusal to
> paraphyletic taxa is the most blatant example of a priori philosophy
> dictating counter-productive results.  I know a reptile or a fish when
> see one, and the fact they are defined on the basis of plesiomorphies
> bothers me not one whit.

I don't think that rejecting paraphyletic taxa means one is viewing
cladistics as a religion rather than a tool. One may be able to know a
reptile or a fish, but that does not make them natural entities in the
sense of a monophyletic group. In the same way, one 'knows' what
constitutes the 'Nearctic' in biogeography without that meaning that the
Nearctic is a natural rather than artificial biogeographic entity.

> Classifications, IMO, should take into account cladistic
> but
> they should not mirror them slavishly.  If a more useful
> obtains through recognition of paraphyletic taxa, or by not giving
> taxa equal rank, so be it.

If one is attempting to use classification as a representation of
relationships then paraphyletic taxa are not 'useful' in this context
because they do not represent relationship of most closely related taxa.
I would not, for example, use any classification that denotes a group
'reptilia' as a classificatory entity.

Just my admittedly ignorant opinion.

John Grehan

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