Taxonomy; Enter Darth Vader

I forwarded several of the postings on taxonomy last week to a good friend,
Darth Vader, for his comments. Since I found them to be of great interest,
I'm sharing them with the group. 

I don't claim to understand a great deal of this whole exchange, but it does
appear that there are at least two sides to the story!

Jim McClements

PS I'll be happy to forward any replies to Darth.

Re: the letters back and forth
Wilbert Hetterscheid toots his own horn on "culton," since he is the one who 
proposed his term (Acta Hort. 413:29. 1995; Taxon 44:161. 1995).  He has also

published a very good annotated history of the principles of cultivated plant

classification (Acta Bot. Neerl. 45:123. 1996).  In this exchange of e-mail
writes a good introduction on changes in plant names but neglected to discuss

his cladogram properly.  What and how many characters were used in 
constructing the cladogram?  What assumptions were made?  What cladistic 
software was used?  PAUP?  Maclade?  How many cladograms resulted from the 
analysis?  Was this the most parsimonious?  The cladistic taxonomist will 
often find that more than one parsimonious cladogram (literally, a tree with 
the least number of branches) will result, and the choice is often
even though the adherents of cladistics claim that their methodology is 
objective.  Cladisticians will also froth at the mouth when more than two are

in a room, each one claiming that "their" method of cladistic analysis is 
better than the "other" cladistic analysis.  I find that cladisticians will 
also interpret their analysis as data, but it is only an analysis of data.  
Cladisticians also hate numerical taxonomists, who use cluster analysis and 
other methods derived from standard statistics.  I am still waiting for a 
synthesis of the two approaches.  Cladistics offers a new way of thinking,
none of their methods have been tested upon known phylogenies.  For years I 
have been urging cladistic and numerical taxonomists to work in the standard 
direction of science, from the known to the unknown.  Often, these methods of

analysis of data work from theory to the known, and the methods have not been

rigorously tested in the real world.  We have so many known phylogenies, from

irises, to orchids, to roses, to oats, but none have been used to test the 
validity of the approaches (except for one paper on linkage analysis in oats 
by Baum).    Molecular biologists are just as religious in their claims, and
particularly like the introduction to Raymond Petersen's (a pteridologist now

at Howard) Ph.D. thesis that I typed (I used to hire our my typing services
a grad student): "Molecular biology, with its associated trinity of DNA, RNA,

and protein, has diverted a number of systematists from measuring petal 
lengths along the primrose path towards phylogeny to a course supposedly more

correctly aligned with the inheritance of the individual taxon."  Our advisor

chopped this sentence up, but I liked the original so much that it has stuck 
in my memory.
Thanks for the e-mails!

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