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DEFENDING MODERN BIOLOGY
First my apologies to George. I just realized this morning that his
e-mail late last night was directed to me personally, not to the list. I
was tired and screwed up on that one. Sorry.
I am not the one using debate ploys like putting words into people's
mouths. I do not consider mammals and birds "better". And I said "many
well-educated children", not "every three-year-old".
And whales are indeed quite derived, and I do believe they should be
given ordinal status separate from their four-legged ancestors (see my more
"main-stream" reference, Mammal Species of the World----Honacki, Kinman, and
Koeppl, 1982). Even a cladist like McKenna gives them ordinal status in his
1997 book, although he may change his mind when he realizes he created a
paraphyletic group by doing so.
Strict cladists are just as subjective and arbitrary in their own ways.
Not only what characters to include and exclude from analyses (which is
unavoidable), but strictly defining clades based on arbitrary "anchor" taxa,
even when solid characters are available. Why arbitrarily define Mammalia
as a crown clade (anchored on monotremes with an extremely lousy fossil
record), when you can characterize mammals based on a solid character like
the 3 ear ossicles?
Thecodontia was virtually universally recognized until strict cladists
came along. A list of authorities would be very long, but let's start with
Romer, 1966 (and Carroll, 1988, if I recall correctly).
Thecodontia is a paraphyletic group, not a polyphyletic "trash-can".
And cladists create paraphyletic groups all the time, but just don't realize
it (or admit it), because they apparently believe speciation is actually a
sister-sister splitting process, rather than a mother-daughter budding
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