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Re: science and philosophy



> Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 00:30:20 -0700
> From: "Tracy L. Ford" <dino.hunter@cox.net>
> 
> Nature will and does throw us curves and that is what Cryptovolans
> is, a curve.

I don't see this.  _Cryptovolans_ is only a surprise if your mental
framework has "types" such as "flying bird" and "ground-bound
dromie".  Given that framework, something like _Cryptovolans_ will
surely be a surprise -- just as _Archaeopteryx_ was to the scientists
of the time who didn't expect to see a "transition" like that.

But in these enlightened days, it's just another point on the tree,
isn't it?  An especially _welcome_ extra point that fills in a big gap
in our previous knowledge, to be sure, but still fundamentally nothing
out of band.  Nothing that I'd describe as a "curve ball".

What I don't understand about this specimen is why people on this list
have been seeing it as a blow for cladistic methodology (I think it
started with GSP?)  The idea seems to be that if cladistics was any
use, it would have predicted something like _Cryptovolans_.  But of
course it works based on the set of specimens we have when we run the
analysis.  Now we have the new specimen, results of new analyses will
reflect that.  How does that invalidate the process?  Rather, it is a
_strength_ of cladistic analysis that its hypotheses can be so
quickly, easily and reproducibly revised by the addition of new
specimens.

 _/|_    _______________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor   <mike@miketaylor.org.uk>   www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  ... but Doctor, surely the odds against that happening are
         astronomical!