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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.
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Pete,
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 process.
-------Ken Kinman


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