Re: ORIGINS: Phyletic Change

Keith B Miller (
Fri, 13 Sep 96 11:06 CDT

Bob wrote:

>Ernst Mayr criticized Goldschmidt for holding that, "logic as well as
>historical fact tell us that the big categories existed first, and then in
>time they split in the form of the genealogical tree into lower and still
>lower categories" (Goldschmidt, 1952. 91-2). Mayr said "With this
>interpretation Goldschmidt has fallen into the error of considering these
>categories something natural rather than (particularly in the crucial area of
>branching) a man-made artifact. Our recognition of a higher category and
>its designation, delimitation, and placement in a hierarchy have a large
>arbitrary component" (Mayr, 1963 pp. 600-1).
>These criticisms are automatic, defensive reflexes. Rather than reexamining
>their paradigm in the light of the objective data, these authors attack the
>data and the straightforward interpretation of it in order to protect the
>evolutionary paradigm. The stakes are high. If the top-down view prevails,
>the Darwinian paradigm will suffer irreparable loss.

Bob is imputing negative motivations to others he disagrees with. By
implication, he is also disparaging my motives. Such a response is
entirely unwarranted. He has no basis for imputing motives to others. I
have no stake in the outcome of this debate other than an interest in
truth. That classification imposes order on the objects being classified
is undeniable. All I am arguing is that this fact must be brought into the
discussion. There are a number of excellent books on the complexities of
classification and on the assumptions that are built into different
classification methodologies.

Classification _is_ a man-made artifact. This is not a debatable issue.
This is true of _any_ classification. The category "chair" for example is
an abstract classification. While the objects have objective reality, how
we group them is subject to the rules of classification. Not everyone will
agree that a given object is a "chair."

Bob cannot dispute the role of classification in generating the "top down"
pattern of taxa appearance simply by describing the pattern. (He keeps
writing as though I am denying the pattern - which I am not.) A tree
branching (diverging) upward through time, if grouped hierarchically from
the present, _will_ result in the more inclusive categories appearing
before the less inclusive reach their greatest diversity. Anyone can
demonstrate this to themselves by drawing a tree and grouping the branches
beginning at the top. This observation, noted by many others, cannot be
dismissed by accusations of blind adherence to Darwinism.


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506