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Re: Princeton Field Guide



This is my 7th e-mail today, I'll have to address the issues of electronic publication, *Sophophora melanogaster*, and the PhyloCode later... except that, for the issue of reticulate evolution, I can point to Note 2.1.3 http://www.ohio.edu/phylocode/art1-3.html and Art. 16 http://www.ohio.edu/phylocode/art16.html .

 “There isn't a standard in the first place.”

 There’s broad agreement, at this time in history and in those
 particular sets of researchers, that the degree to which Greg lumped
 species into single genera was unwarranted. Otherwise few would have
 complaints worth responding to and he himself wouldn’t feel the need
 to pressure the community to follow his lead.

 That’s all I meant, not that there was anything formal and published
 regarding supposed standards. A sociological commentary, if you
 will.

Well, the way I see it, GSP and the rest of the community are talking past each other.

GSP tries to take some extant tetrapod genera as they are commonly treated today, like *Canis*, as a kind of standard to determine how much morphological diversity a genus should have (...though he does not, AFAIK, try to actually measure this or estimate it in a reproducible way); most or all professional "dinosaurologists" simply don't care about this and instead prefer monotypic genera for nomenclatorial convenience -- they want to name monophyletic taxa only, and by far the simplest way to keep genera monophyletic when our knowledge of their relationships changes is to make them all monotypic. *Canis* as today's textbooks have it is unlikely to turn out to be paraphyletic anytime soon, so it doesn't need to be split into a bunch of monospecific genera for this reason*, and those neontologists can do their own thing anyway, we don't care. :-)

* Would be a nontrivial task anyway. The wolf, the red wolf, and the coyote are one, two, or three species depending on the species concept.

 So while I’m not a solipsist, that’s mostly because parsimony
 suggests it’s a bad idea. ;p

Beautifully said!

 (There’s some quote from a reasonably well-known ?19th-century
 ?geologist about the assumptions behind science being
 self-defeating, and I recall it being admitted by philosophers to be
 unassailable by logic despite the obvious success of science, but I
 cannot for the life of me remember the exact quote or who said it. If
 anyone knows, please, e-mail me.)

I don't know it, but here's my take on it: Science requires that there is a consistent reality. This reality does not need to truly exist outside of our heads -- if I'm the solipsist, science is arguably rather pointless, but it still works --; it just needs to be reasonably consistent. Once there is such a reality, falsification and parsimony can tell us a lot about it. Funnily, _whether_ reality is consistent is _itself_ a testable hypothesis; it is being tested in every single observation of anything ever. So, science pulls itself up by its bootstraps. :-)

Science cannot, however, prove that I'm not the solipsist. If you believe science is to tell you something about truth as opposed to mere reality, science is indeed self-defeating. But I don't see why I should care about that... especially given the abovementioned parsimony argument.