[Taxacom] middle ground approaches (in both paraphyly and the end-Cretaceous extinctions)

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Mon Aug 13 20:23:28 CDT 2018


Ken's appeal for middle ground may be laudable, but its not really
pertinent to science. The idea of 'middle ground' is a political concept, a
sort of juggling of different opinions where each gives up some of their
position to accommodate others. This is not science in the sense that
science is about trying to identify what is going on in the universe and so
far as we may understand the universe, there is no middle ground. Either
something is or it is not and selecting an opinion between conflicting
views of what is or is not has nothing to do what what really is or is not.

Deciding to utilize groupings that leave out some of their members is
certainly a choice that anyone is free to make. And if there is a majority
opinion to recognize some as such then fine, but its just a political
decision (all decisions that require a vote are political, just like
whether Pluto is a planet or not).

Wonder what a half paraphyletic/monophyletic group looks like?

John Grehan

On Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 8:29 PM, Kenneth Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Hi All,
>
>       As one who usually looks for a middle ground, I think this nasty
> feud was senseless.  The volcanic eruptions were massive and certainly
> would have had a severe impact on biodiversity.  But it would have been the
> asteroid impact that finished off the dinosaurs that remained (as well as
> other taxa).  If it weren't for this double whammy (massive volcanism
> followed by an enormous impact), some dinosaurs might have gotten through
> it.  But the one-two punch was just too much.  Such a middle ground view
> makes sense, and it would have avoided a senseless and nasty feud.
>
>                    --------------Ken
>
> P.S.  The current feud over formal paraphyletic taxa is also senseless.
> Instead of two extremes (the zero paraphyly of strict cladism vs. the old
> excessive use of paraphyly), a middle ground recognizing the most useful
> and least controversial paraphyletic taxa would be a perfect middle ground
> approach.
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of JF Mate <
> aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
> Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2018 1:05 PM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] mass extinction how science works
>
> If only somebody had observed the impact live. Only way to be truly sure...
>
> On Sat, 11 Aug 2018, 15:44 John Grehan, <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > For a little irony, biogeography is not the only field where opponents
> (as
> > opposed to to the ideas which are fair game) are targeted. Below some
> quote
> > from a recent article in
> >
> > https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/
> dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/
> [https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/2018/07/WEL_
> Bosker_Dinos/facebook.jpg?1532535665]<https://www.
> theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-
> extinction-debate/565769/>
>
> The Nastiest Feud in Science<https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/
> archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/>
> www.theatlantic.com
> A Princeton geologist has endured decades of ridicule for arguing that the
> fifth extinction was caused not by an asteroid but by a series of colossal
> volcanic eruptions. But she’s reopened that debate.
>
>
>
> >
> > For the record, I have long wondered about the intensity and consequences
> > of any asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous given the
> biogeographic
> > evidence for the massive amount of correlation between modern
> distributions
> > and Mesozoic tectonics. If an asteroid hit were responsible for the mass
> > extinctions it was not massive enough to obliterate the biological
> > structure of the ecosystems within which the extant groups existed,
> > particularly right next to the Chicxulub crater.
> >
> > John Grehan
> >
> > When Keller examined the El Kef samples, she did not see a “bad weekend,”
> > but a bad era: Three hundred thousand years before Alvarez’s asteroid
> > struck, some foram populations had already started to decline. Keller
> found
> > that they had become less and less robust until, very rapidly, about a
> > third of them vanished. “My takeaway was that you could not have a single
> > instantaneous event causing this pattern,” she told me. “That was my
> > message at that meeting, and it caused an enormous turmoil.” Keller said
> > she barely got through her introduction before members of the audience
> tore
> > into her: “Stupid.” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” “Totally wrong.”
> > “Nonsense.”
> >
> > Ad hominem attacks had by then long characterized the mass-extinction
> > controversy, which came to be known as the “dinosaur wars.” Alvarez had
> set
> > the tone. His numerous scientific exploits—winning the Nobel Prize in
> > Physics, flying alongside the crew that bombed Hiroshima, “X-raying”
> > Egypt’s pyramids in search of secret chambers—had earned him renown far
> > beyond academia, and he had wielded his star power to mock, malign, and
> > discredit opponents who dared to contradict him. In *The **New York
> Times*,
> > Alvarez branded one skeptic “not a very good scientist,” chided
> dissenters
> > for “publishing scientific nonsense,” suggested ignoring another
> > scientist’s work because of his “general incompetence,” and wrote off the
> > entire discipline of paleontology when specialists protested that the
> > fossil record contradicted his theory. “I don’t like to say bad things
> > about paleontologists, but they’re really not very good scientists,”
> > Alvarez
> > told *The**Times*
> > <
> > https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/19/science/the-debate-over-
> dinosaur-extinctions-takes-an-unusually-rancorous-turn.html
> > >.
> > “They’re more like stamp collectors.”
> >
> > The greatest area of consensus between the volcanists and the impacters
> > seems to be on what insults to sling. Both sides accuse the other of
> > ignoring data. Keller says that her pro-impact colleagues “will not
> listen
> > or discuss evidence that is contrary to what they believe”; Alan
> > Hildebrand, a prominent impacter, says Keller “doesn’t look at all the
> > evidence.” Each side dismisses the other as unscientific: “It’s not
> > science. It sometimes seems to border on religious fervor, basically,”
> says
> > Keller, whose work Smit calls “barely scientific.” Both sides contend
> that
> > the other is so stubborn, the debate will be resolved only when the
> > opposition croaks. “You don’t convince the old people about a new idea.
> You
> > wait for them to die,” jokes Courtillot, the volcanism advocate,
> > paraphrasing Max Planck. Smit agrees: “You just have to let them get
> > extinct.”
> >
> > All the squabbling raises a question: How will the public know when
> > scientists have determined which scenario is right? It is tempting, but
> > unreliable, to trust what appears to be the majority opinion. Forty-one
> > co-authors signed on to a 2010 *Science* paper asserting that Chicxulub
> > was, after all the evidence had been evaluated, conclusively to blame for
> > the dinosaurs’ death. Case closed, *again*. Although some might consider
> > this proof of consensus, dozens of geologists, paleontologists, and
> > biologists wrote in to the journal
> > <http://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5981/973.1> contesting the
> > paper’s methods and conclusions
> > <
> > https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/Archive/May-2010/
> KT-Controversies-the-Science-letters
> > >.
> > Science is not done by vote.
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