[Taxacom] Mayr and Ashlock (was: Users of Epacridaceae)

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Tue Mar 31 09:11:47 CDT 2009

Hi Karl, 
       The evolution debate is a much larger issue for
science as a whole, but we seem to be slowly winning that debate through
persistence, education, and voting out the extremists. But as
taxonomists we have a responsibility to produce the best classifications
that we can, particularly for family, order, and class level taxa that
are most widely used. 
       People like Peter Ashlock and Ernst Mayr have
warned the strict cladists for decades that their all-out war to stamp
out paraphyly is destabilizing, but the benefits of cladistics overall
have largely masked the damage being done. However, we have entered a
period of diminishing returns from strict cladism, and the continued
destabilization of classifications is going to increasingly chip away at
our credibility. Ashlock and Mayr are gone, but a new generation is
slowly beginning to realize that their long-term vision was right all
along. The APG has done wonders for angiosperm classification, but they
just got a little carried away with their lumping and cladification. But
it is in vertebrate classification at class, order, and family levels
that the greatest damage has been done, and that should be a clear
warning to those who still think strict cladification is all good and
paraphyly is all bad.  Mayr and Ashlock's textbook should be more widely
read, but sadly I suspect it is still out-of-print.
              -------Ken Kinman 
Karl wrote: 
Ken, I respect your opinion on this subject, but sometimes I have to
wonder about what kind of world you think we live in. Most of the people
who pay the taxes for government-funded research in the US aren't
"strict cladists" because they don't even think evolution is true, not
because they support allowing paraphyletic groups. 

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