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Am I a Cladist?

Joe Felsenstein joe at evolution.genetics.washington.edu
Fri Feb 5 11:36:44 EST 1999

In article <79a4mt$8f5 at net.bio.net>, James McInerney  <jamm at nhm.ac.uk> wrote:
>Joe Felsenstein wrote:
>> A cladist could be:
[criteria omitted this time]
[and James ended up concluding:]
>So, Am I a cladist?  I think the answer is yes! (apologies for the
>superflous exclamation mark).  I want to uncover clades of organisms
>that are each others closest relatives.

I was rather snide in some parts of my definitions.  The basic issue
is a serious one, though.  Should "cladist" be defined as one who takes
a particular position on classification, or one who takes particular
positions on how to infer clades, or one who is simply interested in
inferring clades?

I vote for the first of these, but MacInerney and others obviously
fell differently.  Let's at least agree to understand that the
word is used by different people in conflicting ways.

A few addenda, mostly commentary on other posts in this thread.
   1. I was dismayed by how many people took my comment about
      Platnick and Nelson being "cast into the outer darkness"
      as condemnation of them by me.  I was characterizing the
      views of others.  After all, I'm out in that outer darkness
   2. I would disagree with Des Higgin's short potted history of
      methods.  J.S. Farris was the most important advocate of
      parsimony methods and highly important as one who made
      Wagner parsimony practical.  He also was critically
      important in persuading phylogenetic systematists to accept
      parsimony as equivalent to Hennig's principles.  But 
      I doubt that, in doing that, he was arguing for concentration
      on classification as a substitute for inferring the phylogeny,
      as Des said.  Also, his advocacy of parsimony preceded his being
      in Stony Brook, and parsimony was already in existence as a
      criterion before he got involved with it.

These are just peripheral commentary on various posts.  The
main issue is whether we can come to dome agreement how to define
"cladistics" or "cladists".  I suspect we can't.

Joe Felsenstein         joe at genetics.washington.edu
 Dept. of Genetics, Univ. of Washington, Box 357360, Seattle, WA 98195-7360 USA

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