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Re: Birds and pornography
> < However, _Archaeopteryx_ "looks" strikingly similar to _Deinonychus_...>
> True: go far enough back into the ancestry to creatures never seen alive,
Some animals have been seen alive, and we know less about them than about
several well-preserved fossils. I'm not referring to cryptozoology, but e.
g. to many species of beaked whales or the new deep-sea squid.
> and you can find animals so like two groups that classification is
> arbitrary. So drop clades; why bother with them? Classifying animals
> the base can be considered a pedantic exercise.
Hey. This is our _interest_ on this list, animals around the bases of
something. If _all paleontology_ is a pedantic exercise, then so be it, but
we'll nevertheless _have to_ classify said animals, and plants and others,
> In Jefferson's wonderful phrasing, groups should be distinguishable at a
> glance by a traveler on horseback.
Maybe they should. Too bad, often they simply aren't. Remember what I wrote
last time? Vermes! Vermes! :-)
> He had real doubts about whether
> skeletal information should be used in distinguishing groups,
Well, Linnaean taxonomy is (or originally was, before 1859) nothing else
than finding the most beautiful set of boxes and drawers to pigeonhole every
living being in. People were able to discuss which set of characters (such
as fur color, hooves, skeleton, etc.) was more beautiful to give a beautiful
classification. I write "beautiful" all the time because taxonomy was an
_art_, not a _science_.
Meanwhile we've discovered _evolution_, means, the fact that there
is something that connects all organisms in a certain pattern. Too bad for
Jefferson, in all respect. :-| We don't need to choose which characters we
like most anymore. We have found something much more objective to do. (Mind
the comparative.) Now we want to find out the shape of the tree, and, so
that we can talk about it, to put names on certain branches of the tree, not
to make the most beautiful system of how to collect stamps, er, organisms,
and that by testable, scientific means. Of course phylogenetic _taxonomy_ is
not a science. But it produces names useful for the understanding of the
science of phylogenetic _systematics_.
> These contradictory conclusions aside, I can acknowledge your point, right
> up until you make the assertion that any view different from your own must
> be antiscientific because inherently based on obsolete notions of
> superiority and inferiority.
I think HP Tim Williams did that to show the _origin_ of the rank system,
not the beliefs of those that still use it.
> If you want to argue in favor of basing classification on current,
> guesses rather than hard observations of extant animals, I will consider
> anything you say respectfully.
What about hard observations on (hard :-P ) fossils? What about hypotheses
and theories? Science, after all, doesn't just mean to describe what is, but
also to make testable hypotheses about why.
> Just please don't assert that the alternative is only wrong-headed
> philosophical mush. Doesn't seem very persuasive to me.
Well, there are 2 alternatives. One is phenetics, which has self-destructed
for several good reasons. The other is the art of Linnaean taxonomy. I don't
like either. I don't want to need to discuss whether an organism whose
position in the tree is _known_ should be _regarded_ as e. g. a bird or not.