[Taxacom] On pattern and structure

Jason Mate jfmate at hotmail.com
Mon May 23 14:37:19 CDT 2011

" The phylogeny provides the structure on to which organise the distributional data." This is structuralism. Why can't both pattern and distributional data be explained by a theory that accounts for both? Why relegate distributional data to a pattern. That pattern is ONLY of present-day relationships of exemplars, which needs itself explaining given the inconsistencies (paraphyly) and contradictions (versus morphological cladograms of same taxa). Structuralism is a quick fix based on the impressive precision of measuring present-day relationships, but does not develop a scientific theory.

Even the word "estimation" is loaded. In statistics, we "estimate" when no hypothesis is available. No hypothesis? No previously postulated evolutionary theory? None?"

It is structuralism. I make the assumption that the distribution of taxa is a property of said taxa and can be studied like other essential properties. I make the assumption that the totality of the species´ phenotype determines, to a point, its ecological distribution. As such the phylogeny allows me to arrange the data in such a way that I can make inferences. But just because I have a phylogeny adorned with data I don´t have an explanation. It is an analytical method not a theory. You go in with a hypothesis (I´d prefer to call it a hunch), you gather your data, you analyse it and see if the inferences derived from the analysis refute or support your hypothesis. As for prexisting theories I only go in with Occam´s razor. It is the lesser of all evils. 

Regarding the word estimate, please be charitable, I mean that the phylogeny is an estimate. I can´t know if its true, no matter how well it helps me explain the data so I assume it is a valid estimate. Future data may very well prove my wrong.



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