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Re: alvarezsaurids/cladistics

From: jrhutch@garnet.berkeley.edu (John R. Hutchinson)
 > ... I hope that those folks on the
 > list that aren't well versed in the ontology and epistemology of
 > science aren't being seduced by a vocal but irrational minority.

I think this is a little unfair.

There are a number of very *rational* arguments against basing
*taxonomy* solely on cladistic analysis.

 > But I still fail to
 > grasp what they propose as an _alternative_; ...

For a detailed presentation of an alternative, look at the second
main section of _The Principles of Systematic Zoology_ by Ernst
Mayr and Peter Ashlock.  This section, written mostly by Dr. Ashlock
before his untimely death some years ago, is well worth reading to
get a perspective on a way to use more than just branching points
in deriving a classification.  (Though I do think the method still
needs some work, and I might tend to use correlations rather than
counts to attach weights to internodes in a cladogram).

[BTW, I would hardly categorize Dr. Mayr as either irrational or
extremist, yet he opposes cladistic taxonomy].

 > Conventional Linnaean taxonomy, where the few
 > self-declared masters of a certain taxonomic group declare what the
 > almighty has delivered to them in a dream on a mountaintop?

Nobody has used that method for years.  That is as much a mis-
representation of the supporters of evolutionary taxonomy as some
of the statements you object to are regarding cladism.

 > I hate to say
 > it, but that paradigm is rasping its last gasp.

I agree.
 >     I'd sure like to see something better than cladistics, but nothing
 > else that I've seen yet has the same or more objective qualities as
 > cladistics does.

Have you even *looked* at Peter Ahslkock's ideas??

Or even really tried to understand Ernst Mayr's approach to

 > Some people are evidently pretty firmly entrenched in their opinions,

On both sides.  Cladists are often as entrenched in their opinions
as their opponents.

[And, again, I am NOT opposed to cladistic analysis, or even against
using the results of cladistic analysis as *part* of the process of
generating a classification].

swf@elsegundoca.ncr.com         sarima@ix.netcom.com

The peace of God be with you.