[Taxacom] The more you know the more you lump|split.

Anthony Gill gill.anthony at gmail.com
Thu Jul 18 18:46:01 CDT 2013

Fair enough points Rich - and I agree that much of the current changes in
classification (at least in fishes) are premature - but your email raises a
range of questions about what counts as evidence in systematics. My own
take is that prevailing systematics has lost its way in how we
differentiate evidence from inference (if indeed there is even an attempt
to present "evidence" in a phylogenetic study).


On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 9:20 AM, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>wrote:

> Hi Jim,
> > It would be interesting (and fun!) to know from the Taxacom faithful what
> > arguments/research experiences would support either of these two views
> > and which view they would most identify with.
> I identify with both points of view, depending on the specific details of
> the circumstance.  My own philosophy has drifted more towards:
> "The more you know, the more you appreciate the importance of nomenclatural
> stability."
> I have always maintained that using (Linnean) nomenclature as the de-facto
> proxy for representing phylogeny -- except for the most well-established
> and
> uncontroversial groups -- is a practice that ultimately leads to more harm
> than good.
> Of course, we have a long tradition of using nomenclature (and
> classification through nomenclatural clusterings) to represent
> "relationships" -- and I think that's perfectly fine.  But nomenclature is
> a
> tool for human-human communication that is simply not fit-for-purpose in
> communicating phylogenies to the level of detail that our modern tools,
> technologies, and practices encourage us to entertain.
> If I were God of Taxonomy, I would impose a commandment: "Thou shalt not
> destabilize existing nomenclature until the evidence supporting
> nomenclatural destabilization has itself stabilized."  In other words: use
> cladograms and other tricks/tools to communicate hypotheses about
> phylogenetic relationships until there is a robust consilience of evidence
> that is stable and non-controversial.  Once the evidence is stable, and the
> evidence points to "relationships" that are incongruent with the existing
> and otherwise stable nomenclature, *then* change the nomenclature as
> appropriate (but even in that circumstance, I think it's a fool's errand to
> endeavor to completely eliminate paraphyly from nomenclatural
> classification).
> The gap between prevailing hypotheses about phylogeny and scientific
> nomenclature should be inversely proportional to the confidence in the
> phylogeny (i.e., the greater the confidence, the smaller the gap).
> Aloha,
> Rich
> Richard L. Pyle, PhD
> Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
> Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
> Dive Safety Officer
> Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
> 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
> Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
> email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
> http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html
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Dr Anthony C. Gill
Natural History Curator
A12 Macleay Museum
University of Sydney
NSW 2006

Ph. +61 02 9036 6499
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