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PARSIMONY!!!



Lately parsimony has become the horse to beat on the list.  So I think
once again it's time to define our terms, so that we're not arguing about
different things.  Parsimony is often stated to mean that all things being
equal, the simplest explanation tends to be right.  That definition is
essentially true, but by turning it around, I think it becomes more
relevant to the discussion.  In that case, the hypothesis that needs the
fewest leaps of faith is the most parsimonious.  This is not really a
theory, it's a way of evaluating the evidence.  And of course, once all of
the data is in (which, sadly, it never will be), then the correct answer
HAS to be the simplest one (which, presumably, would also be the _only_
one).  So really, how can evolution _not_ be parsimonious?  I suspect that
what the issue is here isn't about parsimony per se, but rather about the
application of parsimony to a data set as small as ours is in
paleontology (after all, look at how any times in the past the "most
parsimoniest" explanation has been overturned by new data).  I can't argue
with that.  I'm sure that many aspects of evolution are either mose
concoluted or more subtle than we'll ever be able to elucidate from the
paucity of our data set.  But let's face it.  We're capricious animals.
Some of us like scaled dromeousaurs.  Some prefer fully flocked ones.  So
what we need is a rule to help filter out some of the arbitrariness from
the process of selecting from competing hypothesis.
    I'm sorry if I seem to be waxing poetic, but this is the crux of what
the scientific methodology is about.  I know is doesn't work as often as
we'd like (or even close), but if any one has a better idea, I'm open to
suggestions

Scott Hartman

P.S. Could you imagine if, instead, we decided to select the most
complicated of the competing hypothesis...?