[Taxacom] hominid challenge and Pavetta challenge

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Sep 23 18:44:56 CDT 2009

> if we accept, on the basis of molecular results, that morphological evidence is unreliable
NOT ENTIRELY UNRELIABLE IN EVERY CASE! Morpho- evidence is likely reasonably reliable in most cases. A few cases where morpho- evidence (allegedly) gives the wrong answer doesn't mean it is totally unreliable in every case ...
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Barry Roth [barry_roth at yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, 24 September 2009 11:30 a.m.
To: Taxacom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] hominid challenge and Pavetta challenge

It's not up to me to answer on behalf of John, but I take his question as a serious methodological one:  if we accept, on the basis of molecular results, that morphological evidence is unreliable, how can we turn around and, in a case where molecular data are unavailable, accept the available morphological evidence as trustworthy?

I suppose this could be justified as "you work with what you've got," and that is of course a familiar situation for paleontologists.  But if a whole modality of data is dismissed as unreliable, then you shouldn't be able to cherry-pick the situations where you accept and trust it.  At least not if consistency -- rather than special pleading -- is considered a virtue in phylogenetic analysis.

Barry Roth

--- On Wed, 9/23/09, Stephen Thorpe <s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz> wrote:

We have already been over this ground, John:
There is less reliable evidence for establishing relationships of fossil taxa (cf. extant taxa), both because no molecular evidence is available, and also because less morphological evidence is available anyway! Tell us something we don't know! It doesn't make it completely unreliable ...


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