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replying to pomposity



Dr. Headden,
To take your second criticism first, Reptilia can be defined by both content and features. Its content is all amniotes excluding two highly derived clades called birds and mammals. Its features are those of amniotes which lack the derived features of mammals or birds. These contents and features are so simple that many well-educated children could comprehend them.
And your ivory-tower disdain for public perceptions is regrettable. That public pays for most scientific research, and they deserve more respect. And they intuitively understand that paraphyletic groups are indeed natural (holophyletic until one or more of their descendant clades raced far ahead of the others---in this case birds and mammals). Many well-educated members of that public, along with a great many biologists, believe that strict cladists have virtually brainwashed themselves and their students into an irrational state of paraphylophobia.
In the strict cladist's world, classifications must be purely genealogical, no matter what the cost. Practicality, usefulness, and hierarchical stability sacrificed in favor of pure predictive power. And no amount of divergence impresses them. And an ancestor is more closely related to it descendants a thousand generations down the line, than it is to its own siblings and parents. One who thinks in this manner has no right to accuse others of rigid Stone Age thinking.
As for Archosauriformes, it has in my opinion improperly been given the suffix usually reserved for chordate orders. Fish and birds orders have been given this suffix officially, and in my 1994 book I extended it to all chordate orders, including Saurischiformes, Ornithischiformes, Pterosauriformes, and Crocodyliformes, and the paraphyletic order (Thecodontiformes) which gave rise to the four orders just listed. The Thecodontia has no doubt been recognized longer than you have been alive, by some very brilliant biologists. And given the uncertainties of how these groups are interrelated, it continues to make perfect sense to classify Thecodont ancestors in a paraphyletic order rather than hanging out their in classificatory limbo because the cladists can't decide where to put them. There at least 28 families of thecodonts in this paraphyletic order, and the ivory-tower cladists maybe let their paraphylophobia keep them from recognizing it, but that is their problem, and the rest of world is getting fed up with such pompous attitudes.
If some cladists are so self-righteous in their attitudes toward the rest of the scientific community and society at large, then perhaps they deserve the backlash that has begun to build against them. I suggest you enjoy the advantage you now hold, because it will mostly likely not last much longer. The silent majority, who are not strict cladists, will not put up with such pompousness much longer. That a continuous tree of life can be divided without creating some paraphyletic groups is a cladistic illusion that cannot be maintained indefinitely. The most important lesson I learned from Peter Ashlock was that cladistic analysis is a very powerful tool when done correctly, but the translation of cladograms directly into purely cladistic classifications (cladifications as Ernst Mayr calls them) can never produce stable, useful classifications in the long term. And when they are based on poor cladistic analyses, such cladifications can be extremely misleading and so scientifically fallacious that they threaten to erode the public's confidence in science in the future when such fallacies are finally exposed.
------Ken Kinman
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"Jaime A. Headden" wrote:
  Archosauriformes contains the proposed nomen
Saurischiformes, which is unresoved to endless uses of
modified eponyms; Saurischiformes is uninformative
towards use: it is equivalent to Saurischia, and is
quite redundant. I would not think that renaming a
taxon based on a descriptive system that only
circumnavigates included taxa would be workable when
classifying.

Kinman wrote:
  A single "semi-paraphyletic" Reptilia is far
superior----paraphyletic in the traditional sense, but
made complete (holophyletic) by the addition of the
two Kinman markers {{Aves}} and {{Mammalia}}.>
Headden responded:
  It would not be superior to recognize a taxon that
could not be defined by content or features, unless
you really buy the colloquial use and impression of
"reptiles" as the definition. Use of the term
"reptile" implies a member of Reptilia. Science has
shown this inclusion is no longer historical -- as
such being based on rather dated impressions of
biological superiority and ranking (from the Golden
Ladder to Linnean classification). Reptilia means
reptile, and going "Okay, the public thinks all
reptiles are cold-blooded, sprawling, sluggish things
that go _gump_ in the night and couldn't for the life
of themselves compete in any way with the forthright,
superior mammals that we are, ah-hah," is backwards
from where we've gotten.
  The public has not been completely educated in
understanding the current scientific opinions
regarding phylogenies, so current public opinion
regarding what, precisely, encompasses the term
"fish," "mammal," or "reptile" -- or something closer
to this list, "bird" -- is stuck in the Stone Age. If
it flies, it's a bird; if it swims, it's a fish; if
it's cold-blooded...
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