[Taxacom] Hatfields and McCoys (was: Phylocriminetics)

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Sun Jan 2 20:06:15 CST 2011

Hi Richard,
      I completely agree.  But my experience is that zoological strict
cladists are doing a lot more damage than botanical strict cladists.
Therefore I keep my criticisms of APG (in particular) to a minimum.
They seem a whole lot more responsible (than some prominent vertebrate
paleontologists), especially in retaining familiar ranks like Order
(while their zoologist counterparts often don't want to use any ranks
whatsoever).  They oversplit ranks, then complained that there were too
many, and therefore finally decided to abandon them (after their own
splitting caused the problem in the first place).  Yup, you abuse a tool
and it doesn't work so well (ranks as no different than other tools,
which only work well when used responsibly).                                  
       As for focusing on the "horrible", I find the PhyloCode to be the
most horrible development of strict cladism.  Not only its assault on
ranks, but arbitrarily basing taxa on two or more specifiers (genus or
more recently species).  Stability is one thing, but their definitions
will be more like legalistic strait-jackets.  Anyway, once PhyloCode is
implemented, I predict that the mess and damage will become so great
that a counter-revolution will ensue against strict cladism in general.
Nothing like the extremists of a movement (like strict cladism) to bring
attention to its shortcomings.  Thus PhyloCode may cause more damage in
the short term, but may actually be a blessing in the long run if it
wakes more people up to the problems of strict cladism in general.  We
shall see.           
                           Ken Kinman     
P.S.  Even the Hatfields and McCoys finally called off their feud after
about 25 years.  Might take 50 years (1966-2016) for the feud between
strict cladists and evolutionary taxonomists to come to an end, but
better late than never!!!       
Richard Zander wrote: 
    Your evaluation of cladistic classifications is naturally more
sympathetic than mine, since I focus on the horrible and recommend
revolution. To mix proverbs, we must grasp the nettle or fall between
two stools.               
     My beef is mainly with the practice of using sister-group analysis
alone in gauging evolution of the group prior to creating an
"evolutionary" classification. In many cases the classification does not
reflect any sensible evaluation of the data.      
     Of course there are fine taxonomists who use sister-group analysis
plus other data to create good classifications in lots of respects. I
only suggest that, to the extent they rely on the principle of holophyly
in classification, they are cutting corners by short-changing and thus
misrepresenting science. 

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