[Taxacom] Hatfields vs. McCoys (was: Phylocriminetics)

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Thu Dec 30 22:20:30 CST 2010

 Hi Richard, 
         I understand your arguments, but I think that
looking at species level evolution (and classification) can be a lot
different than evolution of taxa at higher taxonomic levels (which are
FAR older and the gaps therefore far greater). Such differences in
degree are where "apples and oranges" are indeed a good analogy because
generally the further back in time you go, the less data is available
(and such gaps make the sister group approach more appropriate).                      
       The brown bear-polar bear relationship is
relatively recent and is different in degree than relationships between
taxa at ordinal, class, or higher taxonomic levels (where the divergence
was tens or hundreds of millions of years ago). Applying the term
semi-holophyly to such higher level taxa can hardly be argued to be
nonsensical (much less crippling the study of modern biodiversity).        
       Therefore, as two different non-strict cladists
(you and I) arguing semantics because one concentrates on species level
evolution and the other much broader taxa, seems largely
counter-productive when we are both arguing against the MUCH greater
damage being caused by strict cladism in general. 
       So semantically ("jargon"-wise). I guess we will
have to agree to disagree on whether semi-holophyly is helpful or not in
particular cases, mainly because we tend to concentrate on taxa at
different taxonomic levels (which have far different "gap" problems).
But such disagreement seems minor compared to our shared view that
strict cladism can be EXTREMELY harmful to systematics and biology in
          In any case, I suspect that my approach is
more likely to bridge the gap between evolutionary taxonomists and
strict cladists in the long run. I fear that your approach (while
possibly theoretically appealing to some evolutionary taxonomists) is
not conducive to the greater goal of bridging those greater differences.
In other words, the old "Hatfield vs. McCoy" approach just perpetuates
decades of disagreement and does little to take advantage of common
       When the Hatfields and McCoys face a greater enemy, they need to
put their minor differences aside.   So I therefore totally understand
Richard Pyle's frustration that such academic debates tend to divert us
from the more important issues of conservation of existing taxa.  I
think that both (conservation and evolutionary classifications) are both
important and worth fighting for, but conservation does have a higher
priority (particularly when extinction threatens a genus or family of
organisms. and thus a bigger slice of biodiversity than one species
within a speciose genus).        
          United we stand and divided we fall, so let's concentrate as
evolutionary  taxonomists on the problems of strict cladism, and more
broadly as biologists against humans who generally think "manifest
destiny" (and worse yet modern consumerism) is their highest calling.
It is really sad that all those advances of the 20th Century are too
often subverted for the minor convenience of the relatively rich (like
medicine resulting in mere cosmetic procedures) making some doctors rich
over those who just want to fight real diseases).              

Richard Zander wrote: 
                If you want
classification to be based on evolution, you should explicitly state an
dancestor-descendant relationship (if you have the data to infer one,
and you do with these bears) and discuss the data (the paraphyletic
sister group nesting) secondarily. Using only "paraphyly" or
"semi-holophyly" continues to refer to the modern practice of basing
classification on unanalyzed data, not theory, which results, often, in
nonsense and cripples biodiversity study. 
            Joe Fatch goes in the slammer when
you focus on the process of evolution, and walks if you make
"semi-holophyly" your primary focus, which implicitly rejects analysis
of process. Thus, I counsel NO use of the jargon of phylogenetics when
discussing the use of evolution of taxa as a basis for classification.
If you only have a cluster of a bunch of species, then you should
classify then as an evolutionarily poorly understood group. If anyone
has a scientific theory-based alternative to my suggestions above, I'd
like to hear it. 

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