[Taxacom] Methodological plurality [was cladistic analysis for morphological characters -- UPGMA is not cladistics]

Dan Lahr dlahr at ib.usp.br
Thu Nov 22 05:00:46 CST 2012

Hi Robert,

Yes, that is the paper (amazing by the way).

And I do agree with your view on a switch back to organismal biology.  At
least in protists, this seems to be the way to go. Better microscopes,
better microscopy techniques and cheaper sequencing all contribute to this.
 Making a tree is almost a collateral effect of just studying the bugs -
and I do like that.


On Thu, Nov 22, 2012 at 12:05 AM, Robert Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>wrote:

> Dan Lahr wrote:
> "Bob O'Hara has a great quote in one of his papers that says that big
> questions in science are never solved, they just dissipate as people figure
> out that they didn't matter, but they are important in the development of
> science."
> Is this the paper you mean?: http://rjohara.net/cv/1993-sb  O'Hara quotes
> John Dewey from 1910:
> "Old ideas give way slowly, for they are more than abstract logical forms
> and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained
> attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction
> persists—though history shows it to be a hallucination—that all the
> questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered
> in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in
> fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of
> questions together with both of the alternatives they assume—an abandonment
> that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent
> interest. We do not solve them: we get over them. Old questions are solved
> by disappearing, evaporating, while new questions corresponding to the
> changed attitude of endeavor and preference take their place."
> A few years back (as discoverable in the Taxacom archives) I was seriously
> concerned that systematics was displacing alpha taxonomy. One reason was
> that I didn't see enthusiastic tree-builders taking much interest in
> discovering new species. If you got a tree, by whatever method, then you
> had a rough-enough structure for your particular interest (classification,
> phylogeny, biogeography). The tree structure wasn't going to be drastically
> changed by addition of more terminals, so why bother looking for them?
> Aiming for the One True Tree was the research goal, and new species were
> just going to add minor refinements, or noise.
> I'm sensing a slow shift in the literature back to an emphasis on species
> biology, in which species relationships are sort of interesting but not the
> really cool things worth studying. If I'm right, then 'What method did you
> use, and why?' is a question we may be 'getting over'.
> --
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
> Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
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Daniel J. G. Lahr, PhD
Dept of Zoology, Univ. of Sao Paulo, Brazil

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