[Taxacom] categorical systematics

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Jan 24 17:18:44 CST 2014

Yes, just because the totality of evolution is a continuum (which may not actually be quite true?), doesn't mean that discrete categories aren't appropriate for classification, particularly for extant taxa (a time slice of the tree), and the fossil record is so fragmentary that we will never see much of the continuum anyway.

From: Ken Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com>
To: Fred Schueler <bckcdb at istar.ca>; "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Saturday, 25 January 2014 12:00 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] categorical systematics

Hi Fred,                          But we never be able to sample but a small percentage of that continuum.  Extinction has already chopped the tree of life into bits and pieces, and we can only sample a small percentage of those bits and pieces that have survived.    
      So in my opinion we are actually sorting and categorizing what bits and pieces we can collect, and thus putting them into groups (which is the opposite of taking a whole and chopping it up).  Linnaean categories have served us well in this process over many generations, and in my opinion so have many paraphyletic taxa (and I thank David Campbell for his comments on that).              -----------------Ken 

Fred Schueler wrote:
Evolved taxa are naturally categorical classifications, but Linnaean 
categories are a partitioning of a continuum into segments, and I 
suppose I'm just biased against this practice.

In our autobiographical whinge - http://pinicola.ca/transition.ca-we 
write "Fred also realized, during the composition of his thesis, that 
in every case where he'd classified a phenomenon into categories, the 
situation was better explained as an ordination or regression – a 
response to continuous variables, rather than a chopping-into-parts.                          
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