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Am I a Cladist?

James McInerney, Zoology jamm at nhm.ac.uk
Tue Feb 9 11:22:21 EST 1999

You wrote...

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.


[James] I think there is one more point to be made and that concerns the 
relative merits of the parsimony method.  Certain individuals have 
espoused the opinion that this is the only method that can be 
used...period.  This has had the effect of putting others off.  If you 
are going to decide to use/not to use parsimony methods, then the reason for 
making this decision should be based on sound scientific principles, not 
as a reaction or attraction towards/away from personalities.


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.


The original  point I was making 
was that the definition of cladist at the moment is somebody who uses 
parsimony methods exclusively in order to infer phylogenies.  Somebody 
who believes that this is the only acceptible method and has no time for 
any of the other available methods for reconstructing phylogenetic 
relationships.  It's not my favourite definition of the word, but it is 
the one that is used.

I think we are all cladists in the absolute sense of the 
word, but the accepted definition of cladistics is somewhat removed from 
what the word should mean.

This wouldn't be a serious point at all, were it not for the fact that by 
defining somebody in this way (i.e a cladist or not a cladist), then you 
are ring-fencing a whole branch of systematics and you are either 'in' or 
'out', or at least that is how it will be percieved.  Perfectly good 
methods will cease to be used, because of this.

my 2p worth.


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