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Re: Test? or Trojan Horse? ("No Genera" Principle)

  My intent in the previous post was to inform, and supply my
opinion [of that article]. This is the first paper, I'm aware
of, that specifically refuses the use of the term "genus" while
establishing a taxon based on an individual organism (specimen)
and considers the term "species" as a basic biological group [of
the above biological unit], from which all taxa are grouped
around. I see this as an infamous test case that will probably
see a response or two in JVP, Syst. Bio., etc. 

<Sounds to me like an attempt to use Linnean binomials, but
since  Linnaeus isn't politically (cladistically) correct, we
just won't give him credit any more.>

  It's not a matter of political correctness, as I see it.
binomials are very popular, and while Flynn et al. use the term
"praenomen" for the capitalized italic nomen, they refuse the
idea that the genus is any more real than the family, etc. This
is what I have come to perceive as more valid than, say, the
genus and thus other ranks, are actually realistic separations
of organization of evolution. Why adopt a system that does not
reflect natural descent, but say this is better than the
alternative, and that's the astounding volume of so-called
unique groups that may stem forth? One might want to validate
the value of base taxa that should then be incorporated into a
group for which the -idae modifier is attached, and so forth,
which would be the only means I can see of salvaging the method
of -idaes and -oideas, etc..

<It looks like a genus and "quacks" like a genus, but if we
don't call it a genus any more, then we don't have to follow the

  Yeah, but what's a "genus"? The simple answer is a group of
species. But if you want a group of species here, then does a
taxon have to have two whole species before a genus is involved,
or does there have to be two unique ranks for a single organism
to begin with? Linnaeus' intent, I understand, what to easliy
differentiate a basic name [genus] with a modifier [species],
then up to include groups of these basic names [family, order,
class, kingdom -- he added phylum later].

<...and it will be a confusing mess trying to determine which
Codes apply to which names.>

  One code fits all.... This is how it should have started to
begin with, to avoid the whole problem we are faced with now.
Now we have to resolve the idea that Plants and Animals are not
all that different at the base, and aren't so unique to
eachother than we thought. Are Animals so wonderfully terrific
now that this should be the identifier and qualifier for the
separation of kingdoms? The ability to photosynthesize?
Chloroplasts? Haemoglobin?

<But I guess the idea really is for PhyloCode to supplant the 
traditional Codes as soon as possible, and the chaos would
hasten that process.>

  It's kind of like gangrene or frostbite: The longer its
allowed to sit, the worse it gets. You handle it as fast as
possible. Maybe back in the 1970's this would have been easier,
if everyone hadn't been so fearful of the institutions docking
them for such anti-evolutionary principles [I really don't know
why the hierarchal system was seriously challenged less

<BEWARE:  Trojan Horse of Systematics.>

  Most of us are aware. We know what will come. Now comes the
storm, but would you rather endure a tropical depression, or a
monsoon? Some would dread the first, but most dread the second,
and there's little help coming when the monsoon hits, and the
radical "no names, no clades, no ranks" everything-falls-down
scenario may be possible [I'm not trying to predict here]. You
preserve as much as you can that actually seems biologically

<Species are not that different from higher taxa. If we delimit
them naturally, higher taxa are also real. And since species are
continually evolving, they are also arbitrary. Substituting
cladistic "arbitrariness" in the place of traditional
"arbitrariness", is definitely the best way to befuddle.>

  This is the point made by those who advocate removing ranks:
Ranks have, and do, instill the idea that there is some extra
special differentiation involved above the next speciation event
or dichotomy that would have otherwise naturally occured. In
this case, a different colored hair means nothing but to set
that one organism apart. If its descendants possess this
mutation, then all the better to them. My brother has blue eyes,
and the only other member of my stem-family with
other-than-green-eyes is my now desceased grandfather on my
father's side. This makes neither him, nor my brother, extra
special, or me or my father and uncle who preserved the materal
gene instead, and that especially on my mother's side. But
should by some Hendelian factor my brother marry and sire with a
blue-eyed girl another blue-eyed girl (unless it's recessively
knocked out by the dominant green), this makes him only a subset
of our big ol' family. And that's without ranks.

<Cladists are still using ranks, but they just won't call them
ranks any more, so "cladifications" won't have that useful,
stable structure that restrain cladistics from creating chaos.>

  And here we really are dealing with semantics. Except that
those cladists who are choosing not to label "Family" in front
of their Indicatoridae may actually not consider the group to be
something special when considering the Bucerotidae. And do we
really need five whole names to mean the same content becuase it
fits some idea that this little wierd archosauromorph is at the
_base_ of the group and not just a micro little subset of the

  And to establish, perhaps, the essential question: What is an

<The CHOICE isn't between taxa and ranks.>

  No, it's between evolutionary paradigms.

<Cladists just want to vastly increasing the number of ranks,
and not calling them ranks just makes them feel justified (and
perhaps less guilty) about doing it.>

  Cladistics is not about names, it's about relationships, as my
fried Nick Pharris has told me a while back, and names are a
whole other subset. Anyway, doing what? I can easily name the
group to include Oviraptor, Chirostenotes, and Caenagnathasia as
something other than Caenagnathoidea, based on a series of
morphological characters that suggest the last is not a
caenagnathid as suggested since 1994. However, I'd be doing two
things, not one: 1) recognizing a group and differentiation of
morphology that incorporates a certain paradigm in evolution
(acquisition of an appaently diagnostic series of characters or
mutation) and 2) naming that group for easy reference to the
group. One reason why some names should stay established as
originally intended, to reduce the profusion of groups. Linnaean
taxonomy has the added profusion of naming a group and being
_required_ (when forming a subfamily, for instance) of
establishing all other genera in that family as a subfamily of
opposite use, so that if there was _one_ subfamily, there _had_
to be two or more. Bonkers? In establishing birds in subgroups
of Aves, it became common practice to identify a group (or
single bird) that could not be fit easily into one Order or
could be established in two or more (take the pelican and
stork-like shoebill, for instance) should then be established in
its own Order; not only that, as became common with dividing the
passerines into oscines and suboscines, and with Tyrannii,
Furnarii, and Passeres, to establish a genus in a suborder if
there were enough forms to be differentiated, so you not only
get an Ardeiidae, and Ardea, but an Ardeiformes, etc. All to
establish the single genus *Ardea.* This is excessive. Names
that did not correspond to the proper paradigm were discarded so
that a more "fitting" name was used. Why drop Reptilia again?
Whose paradigm is the taxonomy supposed to adhere to? The
paradigm is befitting only in Linnaean taxonomy if descent
through modification is seen as a possible, not exact, process,
and that categorization for easy of research is the only real
reason why we should have taxonomy. Is it?

  My turn to face the music, then.

Jaime A. Headden

  Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Pampas!!!!

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