[Taxacom] New systematics book

Michael A. Ivie mivie at montana.edu
Sun Sep 8 16:53:17 CDT 2013

> Mike:
> So ... I should read all the cladistic literature, then I'll be a
> cladist?

Of course not, but you would have your questions fully answered, which is
what you asked for.  Conversion is not the same as understanding.  You
have a right to be a contrarian, and as one you serve an important role. 
But, asking for explanations that have already been provided is just poor

> I suggest you read my book, all the points made in the
> cladistic literature are refuted therein.

Right after I read the Creation Institute's books that make exactly the
same claims.  Generally, I avoid books published independently of
editorial review by vanity presses like CreateSpace Independent Publishing

> But I suppose you already know
> that, given that the fatal flaws of phylogenetics are soooo evident, and
> just won't accept it.

A fatal flaw causes fatality. Phylogenetics is not dead, it is not dying,
it is still evolving as a successful lineage, so your statement is
overblown in the nicest terms I can think to use. You do yourself no good
by rhetorically overstating your points in the ridiculous.

> Monophyly? Cladistics recognizes evolutionarily nonmonophyletic groups
> every time it lumps taxa or splits them based on a classification
> principle, a cladistically redefined "monophyly" based on
> computer-spewed patterns.

OK, this might be a point you need explained.  Cladistics does not
recognize anything.  It produces a branching diagram based on data
provided to it.  A Cladist, a phylogeneticist, an evolutionary taxonomist
or a creationist, but in any case a PERSON (very different) may do
something with those data to construct a classification, but that is done
by a sentient being, not "Cladistics."  This misunderstanding on your part
could explain much of what you object to.

There is no automatic conversion from a cladogram to a classification.
There are no universally agreed to or enforced rules on doing so. 
Heavens, there is not even agreement on how to do the analysis that
produces the cladogram!  It is an individual interpretation each and every
time.  There is never, ever a "true classification."  That is a
nonsensical concept.  There is a true but (at least currently)
undiscoverable phylogeny, but that is different.

As an entomologist, most of the classifications I use and propose are not
based on monophyly.  There simply are to many taxa and not enough workers
doing the appropriate work to have the cladograms available to use.  It
would be nice, in my view of the world, if we had the data we need to work
in the direction of monophyletic taxa for every lineage, but I won't live
that long.  Some of the classifications we use, and that are still useful
for TAXONOMY, were done by rabid creationists.  But, they are not as
useful in providing information as those based on well supported concepts
of monophyly.

Next, the attempt to reverse the meaning of monophyletic to an arcane side
definition is just silly, it reeks of desperation. It is the equivalent of
claiming the correct meaning of "rape" is "seizure of property" because
that was the original meaning a thousand years ago.  The world has moved
on, language evolves, and the vast majority of people using that word
since 1972 interpret it as the ancestor and ALL descendents.  Check the
OED, that usage is the correct dominant and nearly universal one in this

> "Personal aversion"? A lone voice in the wilderness blown away by the
> great winds of cladistic revolution? Huh.

Certainly not a lone voice, but probably a bit lonely.  Like I said, there
are times I lean toward using non-monophyletic taxa myself, especially
when things are not well settled with really solid phylogenetics, and I
think most practitioners do the same.  Ken is right that there have been
lots of misuse of bad phylogenetics to overturn well understood taxa with
no gain and significant loss.  Basically, in the main the community just
ignores those classifications.  For the majority, the "goal" is monophyly,
the practice has a long way to go.

The phrase "Birds are Reptiles" is just so much more informative, powerful
and evocative than "Birds are descended from Reptiles." It simply screams
out that there is a lot to learn when you present that to a student. The
fact that the majority of scientists that want to recognize birds and
reptiles as mutually exclusive taxa are Creationists and Intelligent
Designers should make you stop and think. Clearly you are not in those
camps, but the company you keep should make you nervous.  What name you
want to put on the 2 groups (amniotes, flying dinosaurs) is not important,
that is just nomenclature.

> "Suck it up and get back to work"? Well, I've had 30 years of accepting
> cladistics because I could not really figure out "what's wrong with
> cladistics? Gotta be something but what the heck is it?" I've also
> suggested a new way to get back to work using acceptable advances in
> phylogenetics plus classical methods in my book, and I am certainly
> doing so.
> Cladistics has led to "fantastic progress"? Yes, it has.
> I detect annoyance. I apologize for my last message in which I got
> carried away. I should not have mentioned that person (you are not
> mentioning either) in such a manner.

Trying to make yourself out to be a victim of a Cladistic Cabal equivalent
to Lysenkoism is... what is the word?  (can't use "stupid", that would be
rude...) inappropriate?  Lysenkoism got people killed, imprisoned, exiled.
 The worst that you can claim is having been ridiculed a bit.  Hardly even
worth mentioning in comparison.

So, don't accept cladistics, rail on about its shortcomings, provide novel
innovations to improve the tool kit, all good things.  But don't ask
others to do your scholarship for you.


> Richard
> ____________________________
> Richard H. Zander
> Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
> Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
> Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:
> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/21EvSy.htm
> UPS and FedExpr -  MBG, 4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis 63110 USA
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael A. Ivie [mailto:mivie at montana.edu]
> Sent: Saturday, September 07, 2013 6:10 PM
> To: Richard Zander
> Cc: mivie at montana.edu; Ken Kinman; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] New systematics book
> Richard,
> I was rebuked off list for engaging you with my posts on this topic with
> a rejoinder about pig singing.  Therefore, it seems this is not a
> discussion that interests the group. I made a joke, you took it
> seriously.
> To answer your questions, you do not need any response from the list.
> Please read Systematic Zoology, 1975-1992; Cladistics 1985 to date, and
> Systematic Biology 1992- to date, as well as books by Wiley and others.
> Your points are exhaustively and repeatedly addressed therein, although
> sometimes intemperately and even occasionally rudely.  However, you
> probably, actually surely, know all that -- you just don't want to
> accept it.
> You simply don't like classifications constrained by monophyly.
> Sometimes, neither do I, probably at times virtually everyone feels that
> way.  Fine, propose classifications that are not based thereon.  No one
> will stop you, but you will be criticized by some, and many will not use
> your classifications, big deal.  Suck it up and get back to work like
> everyone else.
> However, this personal aversion of your does not require an entire book
> to justify not liking monophyletic classifications.  Preference is just
> that.
>  Just state you don't use monophyly.  Do understand, however, your
> aversion does nothing to negate the theory or operational methodology of
> a minutely debated series of issues that led to something that is well
> established to have given us a generation of fantastic progress in
> understanding the evolution of life on earth.
> Mike
> P.S. birds are reptiles, get over it.

Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
Montana Entomology Collection
Marsh Labs, Room 50
NW corner of Lincoln and S.19th
1911 West Lincoln Street
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

(406) 994-4610 (voice)
(406) 994-6029 (FAX)
mivie at montana.edu

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