[Taxacom] SUSPECT: Re: Pongidae (was: orangutan outrage)

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sat Jun 27 13:31:07 CDT 2009

Bravo, John. Good response. 
Much information about past selection of expressed traits or fixation of drifting traits will be there in the genome. Getting it out is the problem. Much history is overwritten in DNA. Slow-mutating sequences miss stuff. Extinct lineages have taken much with them into eraserhood. 
If we could identify proteomically developmental genes generating different expressed traits associated with selection in nature then match them with history accumulated by non-coding sequences, wouldn't that be nice? I think much is expected from QTL studies in this regard. 
I think a feature of misunderstanding on Taxacom are the different ideas different people have about exactly what it is that is evolving. A species? A population? An organism? A trait? An enzyme? A codon? Is ANY change the same as evolution, or is evolution associated with change and the fixation of certain expressed traits in a species that is then stable over long periods of time through maybe stabilizing selection (which is my take on it)? Should we vote? Or is this even more embarassing than our lack of agreement on something so basic? Look it up in the dictionary?
BTW, strong expressions are stimulating, instructive, and worthwhile on Taxacom. I would hate to see anyone blackballed from this listserver for occasionally being robustly annoying. Truth is not necessarily captured by tippytoeing up behind it.
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 John Grehan
Sent: Sat 6/27/2009 11:42 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: SUSPECT: Re: [Taxacom] Pongidae (was: orangutan outrage)


Thank you for taking the trouble to present in simple, first principles,
your view of the situation. This is highly commendable. Naturally I have
a counterpoint.

First on heritable information. There has been quite a bit of debate
over the nature of 'information' and its 'expression' (which implies
preformationism). But going along with your argument I would say that I
understand your statement and for the purposes of the phylogenetic
hypothesis I have no need to contest it.

Regarding the statement that "there is more information" in the genome
than macromorphology - again that depends on the nature of information.
But for my systematics evidence on the orangutan I have argued a
cladistic application whereby the pertinent information is confined to
those features that are unique, or nearly so, to the in-group that can
be individually evaluated before analysis of competing evidence for
relationships within the in group. In the absence of empirical evidence
for base replacement this becomes problematic in molecular sequence
analyses. Some admit this, but then argue the law of large numbers.

As for "Therefore, all information available from morphology is
THEORETICALLY available in the genome" I have no problem with that. The
problem is identifying the morphological apomorphies in the DNA bases.

Regarding" We all have our opinions on the techniques available at this
time, and they are getting better all the time" don't confuse better
techniques with better concepts. Better techniques applied to erroneous
concepts = no improvement at all. One sees this in molecular clock

"We all have our opinions on the techniques available at this time, and
they are getting better all the time" - I already said this.

"So, please stop trying to debate the ridiculous" - I guess you are
right -the molecular claims of immunity from falsification by morphology
are ridiculous. But sometimes they need to be debated nevertheless as
not all take this viewpoint.

"And, just to set the record straight, I and many others still ridicule
panbiogeography at every opportunity" Good for you. Confidence in your
position is commendable. I would be interested to know how you explain
away the success in panbiogeography of making novel geological

"Lastly, I am amazed anyone cares about these 6 taxa" I'm kind of amazed
too. If this were about some obscure ghost moths, for example, no one
would give a damn. On the other hand, the hominid question forces issues
into the open that are otherwise too easily ignored.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. You can return to your cave now.

John Grehan

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