[Taxacom] Phylogenetic Classification?

Thomas Lammers lammers at uwosh.edu
Sat Jul 25 12:29:59 CDT 2009

----- Original Message -----
From: kennethkinman at webtv.net (Kenneth Kinman)

>>Consider the fact that before spermatophytes evolved, pteridophytes were the only tracheophytes in existence.  In other words, pteridophytes were a clade before one of them happened to give rise to spermatophytes.<<

This oft-ignored 500-lb Gorilla in the Room is one of the strongest bits of evidence that (pardon the mixed metaphor) the Emperor Has No Clothes.  This "sliding scale", the extreme "relativity" of relationships is troubling.  It bothers me that a group of organisms, *through no "fault" of its own* can lose its status as a clade and become anathema simply because of what its descendents have done.  In my opinion, *meaningful* taxa are defined on the basis of aspects and features integral to them, not by accidents of
history, not by who their relatives are.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: cladistics is a philosophically flawed approach to classification.  A wonderfully useful method for constructing phylogenetic hypotheses and inferring past evolutionary events has been corrupted and perverted into a scientically-bankrupt approach to classification, by those who seek a simplistic religious dogma to worship.  I wish that I were clever enough, sufficiently well-read in the pertinent literature, to deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce that this flawed philosophy deserves, but I am not.  On the other hand, I am not enough of an organic chemist to thoroughly analyze the chemical content of horse manure, either.  But I *do* know enough not to step in it.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Curator of the Herbarium
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh


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