[Taxacom] Robust argument

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Sun Jun 28 04:20:15 CDT 2009


> IMHO this is what Richard Pyle and others have done on 
> TAXACOM a number of times, i.e. argued that genes are the 
> only things passed down the evolutionary tree, therefore 
> everything we can infer about organismal history is somehow 
> inherent in the genome, and if we could only read the genome 
> properly we'd have the whole evolutionary story.

Welllll.... not quite.  I don't think I said that genes are the only things
passed down the evolutionary tree, per se. I did ask what in *morphology* is
phylogenetically informative that is not also *somewhere* in the genome; and
so far I haven't seen any examples.  In one of my posts I alluded to
biogeography as one of the tools for understanding how we can extract the
phylogenetic information from the genome.  But the extent to which
biogeography can inform phylogeny (which in my use of the term encompasses
what you refer to as "organismal history") is highly variable depending on
the mode of reproduction of the organism.

I'm fairly certain that I never said that everything we can infer about
organismal history is somehow inherent in the genome. Fossils may reveal a
lot of information that extant genomes no longer carry
(although....ultimately the informatic value of the fossils is morphology,
which for the most part *was* embedded in the dead oragnism's genome, even
if that information has long been lost to time).

And, I am absolutely, positively certain that I never, ever, ever said,
implied, or intentionally insinuated that "if we could only read the genome
properly we'd have the whole evolutionary story." In fact, I believe quite
the opposite.  When we are (eventually) able to wring all the information we
can about evolutionary history out of the genome, I am VERY confident that
we will be FAR short of the whole story.  The point I was trying to make was
that there is nothing phylogentically informative about morphology that is
not *somewhere* in the genome -- independent of our ability to decipher the
information.

The fact that I do not disagree with anything in the rest of your post
(except the bogus straw-man chemical analogy), supports the conclusion that
our perspectives are not too far apart. I just wish I wasn't so inarticulate
as to be misinterpreted to this extent.

Aloha,
Rich

Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
  and Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html







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