[Taxacom] Phylocriminetics

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Dec 29 14:25:25 CST 2010

well,instabilityisalsobad, and so is never finding two classifications which 
agree ... so it is a trade off

if a paraphyletic group seems unlikely to be uncontroversially resolved, then 
retain it (but flag it as paraphyletic)

this doesn't aid science, but it does aid information management, and the latter 
is important too ...

From: Richard Zander <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Thu, 30 December, 2010 9:14:45 AM
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Phylocriminetics

No, Stephen, paraphyly is always bad. There are enough problems without 
introducing a new artificial classification for some taxa when we have a viable 
alternative based on science. We already have a complete range of classification 
by any number of ancient, semi-modern, and modern schemes. These scheme, 
however, build on each other as theories of relationships. The most modern 
involve theories of evolutionary process. Why eliminate those (for some) and 
substitute artificial classifications? 

How does retaining some paraphyletic groups for taxonomic classification 
purposes aid science? Which comes first, taxonomy or science?
* * * * * * * * * * * * 
Richard H. Zander 
Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA 
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and 
Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site: 


From:Stephen Thorpe [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 2:08 PM
To: Richard Zander ; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Phylocriminetics
I think you are confusing systematics with taxonomy - paraphyly may be bad in 
the former context but since taxoomy is in part nomenclature and information 
management (and therefore not merely "science"), it may be preferable to retain 
some paraphletic groups for taxonomic classification purposes...


From:Richard Zander <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Thu, 30 December, 2010 8:19:49 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] Phylocriminetics

Several people (including Ken Kinman) have questioned why I now reject
"paraphyly" as an unnatural, unscientific term. I've worked up an
analogy to emphasize how theories of natural processes are important in
science and, when ignored, can create chaos.

Systematics, in a nutshell, is scientific because it can be seen as a
single study, begun in the mid-1700's, that seeks to generate an
evolutionary or otherwise natural (causal connections of natural
phenomena) tree of life from all information. Facts are gathered
(floristics, faunistics, cluster analyses, cytology, whatever) and
theories of process (of descent with modification) are generated through
intellectual inference (induction, deduction) from those facts.
Problematically, sister-group analysis in phylogenetics yields
evolutionary relationships of extant exemplars and, if isolated from
theory, can be well-supported. If theory, commonly disturbingly moot, is
eliminated, we have what may appear to be rocket science.

The analogy with systematics is the new science of phylocriminetics.
This creates a Tree of Crimes by sorting crimes by inferred shared
perpetrators. The data set is the set of clues associated with each
crime, as m.o. All clues that are not informative of sister groups are
thrown out. Thus, of any three crimes, two are more closely associated
by shared perpetrator. One gets a nice, often well-supported dichotomous
tree, particularly when DNA is used. The Tree of Justice project is
well-funded by the National Crime Foundation. The product is an
impressive tree of crimes, known as Justice.

A voice cries out: "Hey, what about causal processes?" Another voice
asks: "Who dunnit?" Phylocriminetisists reply that theories of causal
relationships are intuitive, subjective, and just-so-stories of
superannuated or postmortal sherlockians, and are irrelevant to the new

Now, consider a phylocriminalogram (murder, parking ticket1) parking
ticket2 . . . .  The clues associated with the murder and parking
ticket1 makes the two parking tickets paraphylocriminetic. That is,
shared clues (bloody fingerprints, etc.) make one of the parking tickets
sister to the murder. SO ...

Aged, pre-paradigm police say: "Hey! Joe Fatch got the two parking
tickets so he is probably the shared perpetrator of all three crimes."
Analogy: Evolutionary systematists see the sister-group triple in terms
of progenitor-ancestor relationships, not as paraphyly-apophyly
sister-group terms.

Phylocriminetics on the other hand reply we should throw out all
autapoclues (bloody knife, missing million dollars, bloody quarter,
etc), and rename the murder as a parking ticket, and let Joe Fatch walk.
Analogy: Phylogeneticists reject clear cases of macroevolution and hide
them by renaming them.

Those who retain use of the term paraphyly but allow the apospecies to
retain its unusual name (like you, Ken) also let Joe Fatch walk.


* * * * * * * * * * * * 
Richard H. Zander 
Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA 
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:


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