[Taxacom] methodological plurality

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Nov 22 15:28:22 CST 2012


But, what use is a tree with, say, 70% support, or whatever? Should I trash it in favour of one with 75% support? They may both be wrong! Does it matter?



________________________________
From: Kipling (Kip) Will <kipwill at berkeley.edu>
To: Robert Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au> 
Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Friday, 23 November 2012 10:21 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] methodological plurality

I see my sarcasm app wasn't working.

[I am now assuming my straight face] I'm not in this for the trees for 
their own sake at all. I'm a taxonomist who loves all the things you 
list. I also want solid, defensible phylogenies, something PJD didn't 
get to. Yes, my starting point is systematics and phylogeny, if you mean 
primary in that sense, but you can't jump to ecology or evolutionary 
biology without a good phylogeny/ Unless the question is quite 
restricted, anyway. I don't think phylogeny just helps answer taxonomic, 
ecological and biogeographical questions, they simply can't be properly 
addressed without phylogeny at all.

Among others, Darlington and Sloane are in my mind giants on whose work 
I am happy to stand. But now we can do a much better job of testing what 
they could only conjecture.

When I reclassify the Australian pterostichine carabids, and I will, I 
hope you and others find my justifications and results convincing, thus 
my concern about where those trees are coming from.

On 11/22/2012 12:58 PM, Robert Mesibov wrote:
> Will Kipling:
>
> "> 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'.
>
> Great, then I can go back to Darlington?s mental analyses of the
> Australian fauna and spin the best story ever about carabid beetles
> and no one will care. Much easier than wrestling over methods."
>
> I think you may have misunderstood my point. Spinning a story (about
> relationships and inferred history) seems (to me) to be increasingly
> less interesting than aiming to discover more about species biology.
> If that sounds to you like 'exploring character states of the
> terminals', fine, you're primarily a systematist, and wrestling over
> methods is worth your time and effort.
>
> An Australian carabidologist might be more interested in looking at
> formic acid and other chemical defence production, given that
> carabids here survive in a landscape saturated with ants. Lots of
> taxonomic, ecological and biogeographical questions to be
> investigated, and systematics will help the investigations. But maybe
> not, I suspect, the kind of systematics that obsesses about support
> values and their meaning.
>


-- 

Contact info:

Kipling W. Will
Associate Professor/Insect Systematist
Associate Director,Essig Museum of Entomology

send specimens to:
Essig Museum of Entomology
1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, #4780
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-4780

letter mail to:
130 Mulford Hall
ESPM Dept.- Organisms & Environment Div.
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720

fax 510-643-5438

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