[Annelida] Swima the swimmer]

Kirk Fitzhugh via annelida%40net.bio.net (by kfitzhug from nhm.org)
Sat Aug 22 22:06:19 EST 2009

Thanks Greg. Replies inserted below. ...Kirk

Greg: There are always compromises made when one is constructing papers. Otherwise we would never publish anything; endlessly waiting until we had assembled all the data that is deemed necessary by purists.

Kirk: I have no problem with people having different perspectives on how to do systematics. But, the field can’t operate in a vacuum immune from the more general foundations that have been explicated and found uncontroversial in science as a whole. I fail to see how it’s appropriate to label me a ‘purist’ for finding such a basic point of view important. You claim that “we would never publish anything” if we followed “purists.” I’m perplexed why you’d say this, when you’ve said several times that you intend on presenting a more comprehensive analysis, even though you’re not a “purist.” I guess the problem isn’t with “purists” after all. It’s not so much that people publish cladograms using sequence data yet relegate mention of other characters only when describing specimens for formal nomenclatural reasons that bothers me; it’s the fact that they know of the requirement of total evidence since it’s been in the systematics literature since 1989 and the broader scientific literature since the 1950's and provide no valid epistemic reasons for violating it. That has nothing whatsoever to do with labeling anyone a “purist,” but has everything to do with applying principles of reasoning that transcend all fields of science.

Greg: Phylogenetics is an iterative process and we all felt that the sequence data analysis, which incidentally will swamp any morphological dataset when its finished, was worth putting out as short note for a broad audience. A more complete detailed analysis and assessment, for digestion by the true friends of annelids, will appear in an appropriate journal in due course, and will no doubt pass unmentioned in this forum.

Kirk: While systematics might be an iterative process (whatever that means), data “swamping” is a straw man argument. Given that our goal is to present explanations of observations, the number of observations of any class of character is irrelevant. The issue is that an explanation of a set of effects that willfully excludes other effects known to be relevant to the explanations of either set should be viewed with scepticism. For the life of me, I fail to see why this simple observation would be met with the need to label me a “purist.”

Greg: The methods we used produced congruent results with reference to the establishment and position of Swima, and so should satisfy phylogeneticists of various philosophies, with the exception of you of course. If we had published only the parsimony analysis, we would have expected similar disparaging rants from those who prefer model-based approaches. Being pluralistic does not diminish rigor or concern for evidence.

Kirk: While this won’t make a bit of difference, I have published extensively on the fact that congruence is a meaningless measure. While the exercise of showing congruence might be satisfactory to those who need it, this is no justification for its acceptance. I encourage anyone to go through my analyses of this subject and show me where I’m mistaken, rather than simply labeling me a “purist” and ignoring the arguments that have been presented. What I’ve brought to this forum isn’t a disparaging “rant.” I’ve developed a rather solid published groundwork for my position. If that qualifies as a “rant,” then I’d have to say it’s one of the more sane “rants” in systematics.

I have no doubt that using any available options in a computer package doesn’t diminish anyone’s interest in evidence. But a pluralistic approach in this context is one of sacrificing one of the uncontroversial maxims of reasoning in all the sciences.
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