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Re: Why all the fuss? (flame-free)

On Thu, Nov 08, 2001 at 02:32:45PM +0000, Ken Kinman scripsit:
> So that is the heart of the matter.  Is the banning of formal
> paraphyletic groups worth the price (especially in instability and
> confusion)?  And the answer to that depends on how stiff you think
> that price will be.  Benton obviously thinks the price is too high and
> will only rise as time goes on, while strict cladists believe it will
> be a shorter term problem and that we will not have to continue paying
> that price indefinitely.  I obviously think a modest amount of
> explicit paraphyly would avert a lot of these problems, and could give
> us the best of both worlds, but others clearly disagree.

I think you have this from the wrong end entirely.

The point is not an explicit ban on paraphyletic taxa; the point is that
there is no way to do science about paraphyletic taxa.  (At least, none
has been proposed.)

The essential character of science is that there is a way to agree on
what is factual, which means a way to agree that doesn't depend on the
contents of any particular person's head.

There is absolutely no known way to do this for paraphyletic taxa.
Phylogenetic systems are not able to do this _perfectly_, by any means,
either, but the possibility exists in principle and may be more closely
approached with time and effort.

               To maintain the end is to uphold the means.