[Taxacom] Three different Debates

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Apr 2 16:43:34 CDT 2009

At the risk of further annoying those to whom I owe things....

We seem to have at least three separate conflated issues in this discussion:

1) "Universally accepted classification" -- the notion that we will all
eventually agree on a single "classification" in the sense of an arrangement
of organisms on a cladogram as representing some semblance of historical
"reality", and/or a stable hierarchical set of names that we all follow
consistently.  This seems to be the theme represented in Mario's last
paragraph below.  I doubt that anyone on this list believes that such a
"universially accepted classification" will be adopted anytime soon.  We're
a very long way from achieving intellectual satisfaction with the
arrangement of organisms (phylogenetic or otherwise) and/or the structure of
their hierarchical names (Linnaean, Phylocodian, or otherwise).  Such
debates will undoubtedly continue, as they should.

2) "Three classifications", ala Richard Zander's post below.  If I
understand Richard's point correctly, his concern is about different
*methodologies* of desciding how to apply hierarchical names to sets of
organisms.  I'm not sure I get the difference between "morphology" and
"phylogeny", when quite often mophological characters are used to
hypothesize phylogenetic relationships....but that's a separate issue.
Perhaps what Richard meant by the "three classifications", is what I would
think of as:
	a) "traditional" or "eclectic" classifications (old-school
naturalist view -- as has been done for most of the past 250 years or so --
"a species is what a community of taxonomists says it is", etc.)

	b) phylogenetic or cladistic classification (aka, "monophaschism",
strict monolphyly/holophyly, assigning ranked names strictly in accordance
with hypothesized phylogenetic branching patterns, etc.)

	c) using a system of non-ranked names, attached to specifically
defined clades (aka Phylocode)

These are three different ways of applying nomenclature to clusters of

3) "Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time". I *think* this is what Don Colless
was getting at in his post yesterday -- that is, we can acknowledge that
Nomenclature and phylogeny are two different (perhaps broadly overlapping)
arts, and can perhaps peacfully co-exist as long as we're all clear about
what we're talking about. Traditional Linnaean names have served an
extremely useful function for two and a half centuries, and there's no
reason they shouldn't continue to do so.  Cladograms represent a much more
information-rich method for communicating hypothesized phylogenetic
relationships, and there's no reason they shouldn't continue to do so.
Phylocode names may or may not ultimatley prove to be a more efficient way
of communicating cladograms via text-string labels than, say, force-fitting
Linnean names to serve this purpose, and/or some other mechanism (e.g.,
Kinman's system).  The dabate on this last point rages on, and as far as I
can tell, there's no reason to think it won't continue to do so.

Back to the salt mines for me....


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Mario Blanco
> Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2009 9:28 AM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] (no subject)
> Richard,
> what you (and other people) see as a "problem" (phylogenetic
> classification) is viewed as a "solution" by others, 
> including me. So, your "fixes" (return to a traditional, 
> non-phylogenetic classification) will become our "problems", 
> which then we will try to "fix". It all depends on your 
> viewpoint. Even among "traditional" taxonomists there are 
> competing classifications for certain groups (and the same is 
> true for phylogenetic taxonomists).
> It is going to be like this probably for the rest of our 
> lifetimes and even beyond. That is why I don't think there 
> will ever be a single, universally accepted classification. 
> And this discussion will go on and on until everyone realizes 
> this point. Which is unlikely, I know.
> -----------------------------
> Mario A. Blanco
> Department of Biology
> University of Florida
> 227 Bartram Hall
> Gainesville, FL 32611-8526
> -----------------------------
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject:     Re: [Taxacom] (no subject)
> Date:     Thu, 2 Apr 2009 10:20:04 -0500
> From:     Richard Zander <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
> To:     Jim Croft <jim.croft at gmail.com>, <Don.Colless at csiro.au>
> CC:     taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Well, there's a problem with the dichotomy, Jim. There are 
> three classifications, a traditional one based on morphology 
> (expressed traits, anyway), a phylogenetic one based on a 
> combination of morphology and phylogeny, and the phylocode.
> The trouble is that the phylogenetic one is gradually being 
> changed more and more into a purely sister-group 
> classification and the phylogenetic one is replacing the 
> morphological one rapidly. "Them" is now "us."
> To fix this requires an evaluation of phylogenetic 
> classification (e.g. 
> APGII), and if the phylogenetic classification does not truly 
> represent what we feel is the best way to present an 
> evolutionarily based classification, then to publish an 
> alternative in the field of one's expertise. Otherwise there 
> will be a true dichotomy, a complely phylogenetic 
> (holophyletic) classification and the phylocode. If we want 
> anything else, we must do the work and present it in the 
> marketplace of ideas with a thorogoing justification.
> _______________________
> Richard H. Zander
> Missouri Botanical Garden
> PO Box 299
> St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
> richard.zander at mobot.org
> ________________________________
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Jim Croft
> Sent: Wed 4/1/2009 11:59 PM
> To: Don.Colless at csiro.au
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] (no subject)
> But we do...  one is used by 'us'... and the other is used by 
> 'them'...
> jim
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