[Taxacom] Phylogenetic classification? (and a masterpiece by Knox)
jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Mon Jul 27 10:20:49 CDT 2009
It seems to me that the 'problems' of instability have always haunted
phylogenetics of every kind. It's not just a problem of cladistics.
Maybe life is inherently ambiguous.
Irony about 'phylogenetics' pushing aside taxonomy (although the latter
does require the former in the sense that one groups things together),
but it seems that there is always one view pusing aside another.
Molecular phylogenetics, for example, pushes aside morphology. Molecular
dispersalism pushes aside panbigoeography. Some might argue that
molecular phylogenetics has effectively pushed aside cladistics by
reinstating phenetics - for all that molecular analyses are dressed up
in cladistic terminology and techniques.
I've never worried about the 'truth' in science. I am interested in
approaches the better predict the empirical world - but then of couse
there is no objective universal criterion of predictability.
Panbiogeography predicted geological and tectonic facts, but that did
not make an ounce of difference to ooponents.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Stephen Thorpe
> Sent: Sunday, July 26, 2009 11:38 PM
> To: lammers at uwosh.edu
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Phylogenetic classification? (and a masterpiece
> There is nothing intrinsically wrong with phylogenetic (cladistc)
> classification - it is just that although it solves some problems, it
> creates others (cake and eat it syndrome!) It solves the problem of
> instability due to subjectivity, but instead creates instability due
> to incompleteness of data. I guess the HOPE is that one day, data will
> be complete, so it is temporary instability (that's the theory,
> anyway!) Furthermore, the really BIG evil of phylogenetics is that it
> has become a bandwagon which has taken over and pushed taxonomy to the
> sidelines, outcompeting it for funding (new toy syndrome!) Someone of
> note in the taxonomic world recently told me that he turned his back
> on phylogenetics for the reason that 90+% of all the species that have
> ever lived are extinct and unlikely to be found as fossils (or if
> found as fossils, then unlikely to be informative enough to be
> useful). With so much missing information, data will never be even
> remotely complete. Also, my worry, though I'm not really up on the
> relevant details, is that I haven't seen a proof that cladistic
> methodology is even likely to uncover the evolutionary truth.
> Objectivity alone doesn't imply truth: let's all follow an algorithm
> so that the outputs depend only on the inputs and not on who is doing
> it. Great, we all get the same answer - but, er, is it the truth????
> Quoting Thomas Lammers <lammers at uwosh.edu>:
> >>> As for "the coup de grace that this flawed philosophy deserves", I
> >>> believe that it already exists in an
> > excellent, 49-page, masterpiece (Knox, 1998).<<
> > Yes, I am quite familiar with Eric's paper, and agree it is
> > excellent. Eric has one of the sharpest minds in the business. But
> > it's not a coup de grace if the intended victim is still alive and
> > causing trouble more than a decade later. A real coup de grace
> > would make everyone slap their heads and cry, "Jeez, how could we
> > have been so foolish???"
> > Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.
> > Associate Professor and Curator of the Herbarium
> > Department of Biology and Microbiology
> > University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
> > http://www.uwosh.edu/departments/biology/Lammers.htm
> > http://www.kewbooks.com/asps/ShowDetails.asp?id=615
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