[Annelida] theories, Eunicid phylogeny

H.A. ten Hove hove at science.uva.nl
Thu Mar 23 06:38:39 EST 2006

At 21:19 22-3-2006, you wrote:
>Dear Wormers,
>Kirk¹s letter promoting his own work represents his opinion and not
>scientific facts.

Dear colleagues,

My mailing program told me that Jim Blake’s at 
that time still unread mail probably was 
offensive. Having met Jim a couple of times, 
during which he never gave me the impression that 
he had such character traits, I read his mail 
with more than usual care. I was not impressed 
that Jim did not have the balls to use the 
correct translation of cojones, but this is quite 
understandable in the light of my previous 
observation, and the Spanish word probably the 
reason of the two red peppers assigned to his 
mail. However, I fully agree with Jim, without 
scientific arguments there is no progress.

Only then I read the discussion between Torsten 
Struck and Kirk Fitzhugh. I must confess 
that  Eunicid phylogeny is not something which 
keeps me spell-bound, so I had to retrieve the 
mails from the trash.  I wonder whose starting 
sentence is more “inflammatory”. Gentlemen, 
please stick to the scientific argument, and 
don’t feel personally attacked by an opinion you 
don’t share. Without even trying to evaluate the 
train of thoughts of one as opposed to the other, 
I have a few very simple observations, a word of warning.

In both mails there is mention of “scientific 
fact”. I am old enough to have seen a series of 
books used in their time as “bible” of taxonomy, 
starting with Mayr, than Hennig and Wiley (and 
maybe I am doing Simpson injustice). Professors 
working from a too rigid “faith” in one of these 
bibles generally did not survive long in the 
halls of systematics. I keep telling my students 
that any “fact” is a product of its time and its 
philosophical or theoretical context (as no doubt 
Kirk Fitzhugh can better explain than I can). In 
short, as a scientist I am not dealing in 
certainties, but in uncertainties, not in facts, 
but in hypotheses. It should be the concern 
of  any scientist to give the best possible 
hypothesis within its contemporary framework.

That Kirk Fitzhugh is trying to attack that 
framework, by a series of scientific papers, may 
be annoying for those who in good faith tried to 
use the “best practice”, but the least we have to 
do is try to understand his reasoning (which is 
not an easy job, at least not to me).


dr. Harry A. ten Hove
Zoological Museum
University of Amsterdam
Mauritskade 57
P.O.B. 94766, 1090 GT Amsterdam
the Netherlands
hove at science.uva.nl

More information about the Annelida mailing list