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My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cladistic taxonomy: weird spinoff of Darwinism

Darwinists have generally been unable to articulate any reason(s) why Darwinism should be taught at all, let alone why Darwinism should be taught dogmatically. They usually just make a vague statement that teaching Darwinism is necessary to maintain the USA's technological competitiveness, or something like that.

Here are some good reasons for teaching Darwinism:

(1) Being familiar with Darwinism is part of being an educated person because it is widely accepted among scientists.

(2) For scientists, knowing Darwinism is necessary for understanding cladistic taxonomy and some scientific papers.

One reference says about cladistic taxonomy,

The Linnaean system is still used in some branches of biology. But in other branches, and particularly in vertebrate paleontology, it is rapidly being replaced by a system referred to as cladistics or phylogenetic systematics. Cladistics was invented by the German entomologist Hennig in the 1950s, but the basic methods of cladistics were devised in the 19th century by philologists attempting to reconstruct the histories and interrelationships of European languages.

Another reference says,

The basic idea behind cladistics is that members of a group share a common evolutionary history, and are "closely related," more so to members of the same group than to other organisms. These groups are recognized by sharing unique features which were not present in distant ancestors. These shared derived characteristics are called synapomorphies.

Note that it is not enough for organisms to share characteristics, in fact two organisms may share a great many characteristics and not be considered members of the same group. For example, consider a jellyfish, starfish, and a human; which two are most closely related? The jellyfish and starfish both live in the water, have radial symmetry, and are invertebrates, so you might suppose that they belong together in a group. This would not reflect evolutionary relationships, however, since the starfish and human are actually more closely related. It is not just the presence of shared characteristics which is important, but the presence of shared derived characteristics. In the example above, all three characteristics are believed to have been present in the common ancestor of all animals, and so are trivial for determining relationships, since all three organisms in question belong to the group "animals." While humans are different from the other two organisms, they differ only in characteristics which arose newly in an ancestor which is not shared with the other two.
(emphasis in original)

So a starfish is more related to humans than to jellyfish? Is this the sort of stuff they are talking about when they say that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"?

Of course, there is some arbitrariness in traditional Linnaean taxonomy as well. For example, it is somewhat arbitrary to regard bats and cetaceans as mammals with some avian and ichthyic features, respectively, rather than as birds and fish with mammalian features. But cladistic taxonomy carries the arbitrariness to a whole new level.

Labels:

54 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Being familiar with Darwinism is part of being an educated person because it is widely accepted among scientists. <

This is a straw man position that nobody else has stated. I do not mean your misinterpretations either.

> For scientists, knowing Darwinism is necessary for understanding cladistic taxonomy and some scientific papers. <

Not necessarily.

You follow this with a demonstration of your ignorance about cladistic taxonomy.

Monday, October 30, 2006 4:35:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...
>>>>> Being familiar with Darwinism is part of being an educated person because it is widely accepted among scientists. <

This is a straw man position that nobody else has stated. <<<<<

?????? How can that be a straw man position? That is my own position. A straw man position is a weak opposing argument -- often a misrepresentation of an opponent's position -- that is set up to make an easy target.

>>>>> For scientists, knowing Darwinism is necessary for understanding cladistic taxonomy and some scientific papers. <

Not necessarily.

You follow this with a demonstration of your ignorance about cladistic taxonomy. <<<<<<

????? Cladistic taxonomy is based on evolution theory.

Monday, October 30, 2006 7:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> ?????? How can that be a straw man position? That is my own position. <

Yes, your straw man position.

> A straw man position is a weak opposing argument -- often a misrepresentation of an opponent's position -- that is set up to make an easy target. <

Exactly. That is why you constructed this by misrepresenting the position of the evolutionists.

> ????? Cladistic taxonomy is based on evolution theory. <

But understanding cladistic taxonomy is not dependant on a deep understanding of evolutionary theory. Chemistry is based on nuclear physics but knowing chemistry does not require a knowledge of nuclear physics.

I know that I am wasting my time with this post. It will go completely over your head. Most things do.

Monday, October 30, 2006 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>> I know that I am wasting my time with this post. <<<<<<

You are not only wasting your time but you are also wasting space here with your breathtakingly inane comments. I would very much appreciate it if you would stop wasting your time on this blog.

Monday, October 30, 2006 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

< So a starfish is more related to humans than to jellyfish? Is this the sort of stuff they are talking about when they say that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"? >

No, it is not; it is in fact rather startling and not common sense. It may well be true, however; I would be curious to know what the statement is based on. In any event, a starfish is a far more advanced creature than a jellyfish. Coelenterates are extremely primitive.

BTW, how come you describe cladistics as a "weird spinoff" rather than as an example of the explanatory power and fertility of evolution? Your attitude seems like "heads I win, tails you lose."

< ... it is somewhat arbitrary to regard bats and cetaceans as mammals with some avian and ichthyic features, respectively, rather than as birds and fish with mammalian features. >

That is a profoundly ignorant statement, and, as such, a fine example of the hazards of trying to operate without an understanding of evolution.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 12:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

> I would very much appreciate it if you would stop wasting your time on this blog. <

I would very much appreciate it if you would attempt to answer the many questions that you are asked on this blog. You seem to believe that if you are unable to answer a question that you have won the debate. Sorry, it only shows that you have lost.

Please don't waste time and space with your breathtakingly inane claim that others don't answer questions. In your case it is just that you are unable to.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Fake Dave said,
>>>>>> So a starfish is more related to humans than to jellyfish?

It may well be true, however; I would be curious to know what the statement is based on. <<<<<<

I presume that the statement is based on evolutionary ancestry.

>>>>> how come you describe cladistics as a "weird spinoff" rather than as an example of the explanatory power and fertility of evolution? <<<<<

You yourself described one of cladistics' findings as "rather startling and not common sense."

>>>>> ... it is somewhat arbitrary to regard bats and cetaceans as mammals with some avian and ichthyic features, respectively, rather than as birds and fish with mammalian features.

That is a profoundly ignorant statement, and, as such, a fine example of the hazards of trying to operate without an understanding of evolution. <<<<<<

Bats and cetaceans were classified as mammals long before evolution theory was a consideration in taxonomy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 3:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

>> So a starfish is more related to humans than to jellyfish?

It may well be true, however; I would be curious to know what the statement is based on. <<

< I presume that the statement is based on evolutionary ancestry. >

Well, duh, of course. The interesting claim is "more related" -- that implies some unit of measurement, so the question is what that measurement says, what was compared. Then we could consider whether the interpretation is reasonable.

< You yourself described one of cladistics' findings as "rather startling and not common sense." >

The point of science is not to validate what passes for "common sense". Sometimes "common sense" will be served (perhaps after being redefined a bit); sometimes it will not.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 5:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

BTW (apropos of that last bit re "common sense"), I'm very skeptical of those aspects of quantum mechanics that supposedly require its defenestration.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 5:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The major reason that echinoderms are considered more closely related to all vertebrates has to do with their larvae. While echinoderm adults are radially symmetrical, their larvae are bilaterally symmetrical. That coupled with their dueterostome body plans places echinoderms closer to vertebrates than other animal taxons. This relationship has recently been confirmed independently with genetic analysis.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW - your labeling cladistic taxonomy as "weird spinoff" is simply another demonstration that you don't have the slightest clue about what biology is and how it works. Cladistics is a tremendously powerful tool used to classify organisms, direct research in productive directions, and illuminate possible research avenues not visible through the traditional (archaic) Linnean system.

Stop rambling about things that you are completely unqualified to comment on, let alone understand.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:10:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...

>>>>> The major reason that echinoderms are considered more closely related to all vertebrates has to do with their larvae. <<<<<<

Here is what the article says,

For example, consider a jellyfish, starfish, and a human; which two are most closely related? The jellyfish and starfish both live in the water, have radial symmetry, and are invertebrates, so you might suppose that they belong together in a group. This would not reflect evolutionary relationships, however, since the starfish and human are actually more closely related.

The article does not say that the starfish is more closely related to humans (or vertebrates) than the jellyfish is -- what the article says is that the starfish is more closely related to humans than to the jellyfish. If the article had made the former statement, I would not have objected.

>>>>> BTW - your labeling cladistic taxonomy as "weird spinoff" is simply another demonstration that you don't have the slightest clue about what biology is and how it works. <<<<<

I was only commenting on what I quoted from the article.

>>>>> Cladistics is a tremendously powerful tool used to classify organisms, direct research in productive directions, and illuminate possible research avenues not visible through the traditional (archaic) Linnean system. <<<<<

Well, according to my sources, Linnaean taxonomy -- which you call "archaic" -- is still hanging in there in some branches of biology.

>>>>> Stop rambling about things that you are completely unqualified to comment on, let alone understand. <<<<<<

And stop making supercilious remarks where you are so resoundingly rebutted.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Stop rambling about things that you are completely unqualified to comment on, let alone understand. <

If he were to do that the blog would disappear.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

< The article does not say that the starfish is more closely related to humans (or vertebrates) than the jellyfish is -- what the article says is that the starfish is more closely related to humans than to the jellyfish. If the article had made the former statement, I would not have objected. >

Really? To me, that is an astonishing admission for you to make. I.e., you are admitting kinship with the echinoderms. Far out.

Anyway (thanks Anonymous for the hint), several Web articles shed light on the reasoning here. See protostomes (already far ahead of the coelenterates) and deuterostomes. The latter entry has this sentence that caught my eye: "Cleavage is indeterminate - the cells' fates are not determined early on." That may have been the most important innovation for our superphylum, in that it opened up broad possibilities. More on deuterostomes.

The idea that the starfish is closer to us than to the jellyfish is making more sense.

< Linnaean taxonomy -- which you call "archaic" -- is still hanging in there in some branches of biology. >

It gets to do that in areas where its limitations are not too disabling.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Fake Dave said,
>>>>>> you are admitting kinship with the echinoderms. <<<<<

I admitted nothing of the kind -- read my statement again.

>>>>>The idea that the starfish is closer to us than to the jellyfish is making more sense. <<<<<

If taxonomy is going to be changed to reflect the notion that starfish are closer to humans than to jellyfish, then taxonomy might as well be thrown out the window.

Most living organisms have already been classified under the Linnaean system and changing the classifications now is IMO very disruptive. Also, IMO cladistic taxonomy has really made a mess of things -- an example is the taxonomy shown below, from the Wikipedia article on vertebrates --

Infraphylum Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates)

- Class †Placodermi (Paleozoic armoured forms)
- Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
- Class †Acanthodii (Paleozoic "spiny sharks")

Superclass Osteichthyes (bony fish)
- Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
- Class Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish)
-- Subclass Coelacanthimorpha (coelacanths)
-- Subclass Dipnoi (lungfish)
-- Subclass Tetrapodomorpha (ancestral to tetrapods)

Superclass Tetrapoda (four-limbed vertebrates)
- Class Amphibia (amphibians)
- Series Amniota (amniotic embryo)
-- Class Sauropsida (reptiles and birds)
-- Class Aves (birds)
-- Class Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles)
-- Class Mammalia (mammals)

So now there is an "infraphylum" called "jawed verterbrates" which includes mammals, birds, certain kinds of fish, etc.. How is a minor feature like "jaws" the primary unifying characteristic of such a broad range of organisms whereas a major feature like a bony skeleton no longer unites bony fish with amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals? And how is there ever going to be any kind of consensus on such arbitrary classifications?

Thursday, November 02, 2006 3:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

> Most living organisms have already been classified under the Linnaean system and changing the classifications now is IMO very disruptive. <

This from a clown who once expressed his desire that all technical progress stop to give him a chance to catch his breath.

> Also, IMO cladistic taxonomy has really made a mess of things <

Followed by an example of where it has clarified things.

> How is a minor feature like "jaws" the primary unifying characteristic of such a broad range of organisms whereas a major feature like a bony skeleton no longer unites bony fish with amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals? <

If you understood evolution, you would find the answer obvious. There is nothing arbitrary about it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 6:18:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

>> you are admitting kinship with the echinoderms. <<

< I admitted nothing of the kind -- read my statement again. >

The prase at issue: "... starfish is more closely related to humans ... than the jellyfish is ..."

You stated that you "would not have objected" to that. I took that to mean that you accepted that starfish are "related to humans".

If that is not what you meant, then what did you mean? How can something be "more closely related", yet not related?

Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:17:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

^prase^phrase" ... sorry.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

Real Dave said...

> If that is not what you meant, then what did you mean? <

Do you assume that Larry(?) knew what he meant?

Thursday, November 02, 2006 5:17:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Fake Dave said,
>>>>> If that is not what you meant, then what did you mean? How can something be "more closely related", yet not related? <<<<<

I misspoke. What I should have said was that your breathtakingly inane comment deliberately sidestepped the real issue here -- whether starfish are closer to jellyfish or to humans.

VIW said,
>>>> Do you assume that Larry(?) knew what he meant? <<<<<

The question was directed at me -- so why don't you shut up and let me answer it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006 5:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry,

Starfish are more closely related to humans than they are to jellyfish. They really are! That is why common sense is not a tool used in science. That fact that starfish and jellyfish both live in the ocean is immaterial in determining relationships. All dueterostomes (repeat all) are more closely related to each other than they are to anything that is not a dueterostome. Echinoderms and vertebrates (all of them) are dueterstomes. Jellyfish are not! Jellyfish aren't even triploblastic for crying out loud! The fact that you will now have to search wikipedia for the term triploblast is one more nail that can be used to hold up your "Idiot" billboard.

Jaws are a 'minor feature'? How did you come to that conclusion? Because you say so? Why then does almost every vertebrate on the planet have jaws? Seems like it might be a pretty major feature to me!

I know you won't stop with idiocy, but could you at least attempt to moderate the sheer volume of it please. My abdominal muscles hurt from laughing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Linnean classification is archaic. Biologists understand it's severe limitations. They can use it as a sort of short hand when discussing lifeforms, but they are always aware of the fact that it is arbitrary in many ways. Cladistics is a method to reduce the level of arbitrariness within classification.

For example from your wikipedia example, within the Osteichthyes you list three subclasses, Ceolocanthimorpha, Dipnoi, and Tetrapodomorpha. Can you tell me which two of these three are more closely related to each other? (No fair searching the Tree of Life).

Second, why are ancestral tetrapods a subclass and modern ones a superclass. At what geological time frame do you start placing tetrapods in the subclass? Are dinosaurs a bony fish or do you have to go further back? Do you see why it becomes arbitrary to pick a cutoff? Linnean system was a huge step in understanding life but it is outdated. Cladistics built upon it and eventually replaced it. Sorry you didn't get the memo. It was posted in every biological journal for the last 50 years. You must have been out of the office when they came around.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or maybe you were busy searching for meteorites?

How did that go, by the way?

Thursday, November 02, 2006 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> The question was directed at me -- so why don't you shut up and let me answer it? <

My response was not directed at you. Much of what is posted here is not directed at you as it usually goes over your head.

It is also usually a good guess that you will dodge making a reply to any pointed question.

Friday, November 03, 2006 6:06:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said ( Nov. 02, 2006 9:52:53 PM ) --
>>>>> Starfish are more closely related to humans than they are to jellyfish. <<<<<

As I said, if taxonomy were changed to reflect the notion that starfish are closer to humans than to jellyfish, then taxonomy might as well be thrown out the window.

>>>>That fact that starfish and jellyfish both live in the ocean is immaterial in determining relationships. <<<<<

Wrong. For example, the fact that amphibians spend part of their lives in water and part on land is the determining factor in their taxonomic classification.

>>>>> All dueterostomes . . . .are dueterstomes. <<<<<

Why don't you learn how to spell "deuterostome" so that I can look it up?

>>>>> Jaws are a 'minor feature'? How did you come to that conclusion? <<<<<

Squid have "jaws" (beaks). So maybe we should have the following classifications: Phylum Jawed Animals, Subphylum Jawed Vertebrates, and Subphylum Jawed Invertebrates.

The paramecium has bilateral symmetry, so maybe the paramecium should be classified with humans.

You need to go back to high school and take a remedial course in biology.

Anonymous said ( Nov. 02, 2006 10:12:29 PM ) --

>>>>> Do you see why it becomes arbitrary to pick a cutoff? <<<<<

Any taxonomic system must have a lot of arbitrariness in deciding which features to emphasize.

>>>>>Linnean system was a huge step in understanding life but it is outdated. Cladistics built upon it and eventually replaced it. <<<<<<

Wrong. Cladistics has not replaced it.

In boasting that evolution is a grand unifying overarching "theory of everything" in biology, biologists are engaging in a prestige war against scientific and technological fields that do not have their own grand unifying principles or theories. The irony is that biologists can brag about many real advances that have been made in biology over the last few decades and do not need to resort to this boast about evolution theory.

=============================

"I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me." -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Friday, November 03, 2006 8:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should go back and take a high school biology class? How lucky, my place of work has three of them meeting everyday. Even better luck, a person with a degree in Zoology (you know the study of animals) teaches the class. More luck for me; the teacher is already familiar with me. In fact, he bears a creepy resemblance to me! Oh wait! That's just my reflection.

Why should taxonomy be thrown out because you don't understand it? How does your non-acceptance of reality have any bearing on whether we should keep an entire field of knowledge? Me thinks the arrogance is a little thick in here.

Amphibians spend part of their lives in water? Really? You don't want to run to wikipedia to check that do you? Hint. Hint. Hint. There are several hundred species of frogs that do not reproduce in water! Several hundred! The actual characteristics used by actual biologists to classify extant amphibians: tetrapods without an amniotic egg. Not where they live! What a maroon!

I'll grant you that I misspelled deuterostome. Trying to do this from memory can be difficult and I made a mistake. However, I noticed that you didn't comment on whether jellyfish are closer to starfish than humans are? What is the implication of deuterostomic development? Any comment on triploblasts?

Squids have jaws? Really? What bones are they made of? What muscles are inserted there? Are they anything like the jaws of insects? Or is it possible that the term 'jaw' is a simple, common word and not a specific scientific term? Maybe scientists classify the different "jaws" of living things based upon their basic anatomy, physiology, and development? Could that be why squid 'jaws' are completely irrelevent? Bonus points if you can tell me the evolutionary explanation for vertebrate jaws! Double bonus points if you can find the independent genetic confirmation!!

Paramecium are bilaterally symmetrical? I'll grant you they are bilateral, but I doubt (from memory) that they are symmetrical. And just how many cells are paramecia composed of? What kingdom (since you so love Linneaus) are paramecia found in? I'll give you a hint, it isn't animalia.

Taxonomic systems do have arbitrariness built in. That's what I said. Cladistics is a method that can be used to reduce the amount of arbitrariness. That is why it is more powerful. That is why modern taxonomists use it. The only people who still cling to Linneaus's seven levels are non-biological dilettantes.

You don't even rate dilettante. You are simply an ignoramus with delusions of adequacy.

Friday, November 03, 2006 7:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Fafarman said...

I have a couple of questions.

Regarding the frogs that lay eggs out of the water, how are the eggs protected if they do not have the amniotic sac?

Also, from my reading about deuterostomes etc., saying the starfish is "more closely" related to humans than to jellyfish seems to reflect the sharing of branches on the family tree, rather than some absolute "distance" measurement. Am I missing something? Were deuterostomes and triploblasts especially difficult to achieve? In terms of the evolutionary time elapsed, there's probably about 200 million years separating the jellyfish and the starfish, versus about 500 million between us and the starfish.

Saturday, November 04, 2006 6:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Questions? Ok, I'll bite.

The frogs have several strategies but the primary one is to construct an egg shell out of foam (they whip up a protein secretion with their legs). The shell shelters the eggs and the embryos go straight to adult form without hatching.

Sharing of branches on the family tree is how we determine relatedness! How else could it be done. If you want to know how closely related you are within an extended family follow the family tree back. The more generations you go back to find a common grandparent the more distantly related you are to an individual. The "absolute" distance is how recent the common ancestor is. For echinoderms and vertebrates, the common ancestor is more recent than for cnidarians and vertebrates. Thus we are more closely related to echinoderms. Our morphology has absolutely nothing to do with how related we are. We use morphology to help figure out relatedness. The best tool to analyze morphological differences is cladistics!

You have the 200 million year difference between jellyfish and echinoderms and 500 million between vertebrates and echinoderms. Therefore, vertebrates and jellyfish are separated by 700 million years! We are closer to echinoderms than to cnidarians.

"Difficulty" in evolving a body plan is completely meaningless. That is not how evolution works. Your working from a teleological mind frame. Evolution is not directional driven to create any certain form. Triploblast and deuterostome body plans were an advantage for our ancestors, therefore the genes for that body plan were passed down. They are so advantageous that are large percentage of the descendents retain the body plan today.

Do you see why we make fun of you when you pipe up about a subject on which you know practically nothing! Where do you get the gall to claim that biologists are completely wrong when you don't even know some basic facts that are common knowledge to undergraduates? This is why you are considered a complete crank and flake. Remember this lesson!

Saturday, November 04, 2006 9:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I misread your 200 million and 500 million values. I'm not sure where you got them from. I see several qualifiers like probably. Does this mean you just pulled them out of your ass or are the referenced somewhere?

Saturday, November 04, 2006 9:19:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

Anonymous, don't confuse Dave with Larry. While Dave is Larry's brother, he appears to be interested in actually learning when he poses a question. Although, as in this case, he may be incorrect in his initial understanding, he is actually thinking about what he's talking about. There's no shame in being wrong, only in refusing to admit being wrong when your error is pointed out.

Dave, in answer to your questions:

>>>Also, from my reading about deuterostomes etc., saying the starfish is "more closely" related to humans than to jellyfish seems to reflect the sharing of branches on the family tree, rather than some absolute "distance" measurement. Am I missing something?<<<

Yes, this is accurate. And in terms of absolute "distance" as a measure of relatedness, in cladistics the only meaningful measure for that would be to compare the number of generations of each species since they diverged. Which means that, since the lineage leading to modern humans has a much longer average generation time than the one leading to modern starfish, modern humans are therefore more closely related to modern jellyfish than are moderrn starfish!

>>>Were deuterostomes and triploblasts especially difficult to achieve? In terms of the evolutionary time elapsed, there's probably about 200 million years separating the jellyfish and the starfish, versus about 500 million between us and the starfish.<<<

This is where your problem arises. Notice how I specified above "modern"? I did so for a reason. Once jellyfish and starfish arose, they didn't stop evolving. I haven't checked your numbers for accuracy, but let's assume they are accurate as follows:

Approximately 200 million years after their last common ancestor lived, the first recognizable starfish and the first recognizable jellyfish arose. Shortly before this, a lineage broke off from the starfish lineage and 500 million years later led to humans. What can be said about the relative relatedness of the species?

1. Ancient jellyfish and ancient starfish are more closely related to each other than either is to modern humans.
2. Modern humans are more closely related to ancient starfish than they are to ancient jellyfish.
3. Modern humans and modern starfish are more closely related to one another than either is to modern jellyfish.
4. Due to generational differences, modern humans are marginally more closely related to modern jellyfish than are modern starfish as an absolute "distance" measure, but this distinction is largely ignored in cladistics.

Let's draw a simplified genealogy.

..A..
.B..c
d.E.F
g.h.i
J.k.l
.M.N

'A' is the last common ancestor of all the species being considered, and splits into lineages 'B' and 'c'. 'B' is the last common ancestor of starfish and humans. 'c' represents the lineage that leads to jellyfish. 'd' and 'g' represent the lineage that leads to modern humans ('J'). 'E' is ancient starfish. 'F' is ancient jellyfish. 'h' and 'k' represent the lineage leading to modern starfish ('M'). 'i' and 'l' represent the lineage leading to modern jellyfish ('N').

So according to this simplification, lets revisit our relationships, in decreasing relatedness.

Ancient starfish and ancient jellyfish are equivalent to first cousins.
Ancient starfish are the equivalent to great-aunts to humans.
Ancient jellyfish and humans are the equivalent to first cousins, twice removed.
Humans and modern starfish are equivalent to first cousins, once removed.
Humans and modern jellyfish are the equivalent of third cousins, once removed.
Modern starfish and modern jellyfish are the equivalent of fourth cousins.

Hope that helps, Dave.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 3:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone is impersonating me on this blog. I demand that they cease immediately!

Sunday, November 05, 2006 8:57:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

< The best tool to analyze morphological differences is cladistics! >

Oh, I certainly agree with that.

< Sharing of branches on the family tree is how we determine relatedness! How else could it be done? >

That is the only way it could be done. However, the question is somewhat tautological and there are some wrinkles in it. For instance, the way we define "family tree" for individuals isn't the same as it is for species. Kevin mentioned "generations" (note that this is one of the areas where species' family trees differ from individuals'). That raises the question of how do we assess long runs of little or no change?

To make the point more sharply, the definition of "species" that I'm familiar with is a group that cannot interbreed with another group considered to be a different "species". However, this seems to be a bit controversial, as follows:

Since the advent of the theory of evolution, the conception of species has undergone vast changes in biology; however no consensus on the definition of the word has yet been reached. The most commonly cited definition of "species" was first coined by Ernst Mayr. By this definition, called the biological species concept or isolation species concept, species are "groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups". However, many other species concepts are also used ...

Suppose, for instance, that modern sharks (which have changed little since the Devonian) were able to interbreed with Devonian sharks? I'm not claiming that they could, and the question is of course moot, but what if they could? What do we then say about the "distance" between them? This is not just on morphological grounds, but on genetic grounds.

< I think I misread your 200 million and 500 million values. I'm not sure where you got them from. >

They are recalled impressions from my reading. Please do not "quote" me, as I am not quoting anyone else and have not researched it myself. At least my reading was recent.

< 1. Ancient jellyfish and ancient starfish are more closely related to each other ... etc. ... Hope that helps, Dave. >

Yes, indeed it does (and I mostly agree with your observations, with the caveats noted above). Thanks, Kevin.

One other observation I would make is that there are undoubtedly some members of the evolutionary family tree that were not actually separate species, but rather, races or exceptional individuals within a species. I've no doubt that it is very difficult to track these kinds of issues, and the paleontologists have their work cut out for them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, I totally missed the Dave in front of Farfarman.

Sorry about that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other point. Devonian sharks are not identical to modern sharks. Overall body plan is conserved (it is an excellent plan adopted numerous times by other lineages). However, there is no indication that Devonian sharks were genetically similar to modern sharks. Look at the genetic diversity within just the living species. Huge swaths of variability.

Paleontologists use a separate definition for species often called chrono-species. There is a fair amount of arbitrariness in setting age limits on specific chrono-species.

I came across someone on ScienceBlogs documenting all the different, usable definitions of species. I think they were up to about 23!

Mayr's biological species concept is very powerful but it is still human minds categorizing things that exist within a continuum. Example: ring species.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said to Fake Dave ( Nov. 04, 2006 9:15:35 PM ) --

>>>>>> Do you see why we make fun of you when you pipe up about a subject on which you know practically nothing! Where do you get the gall to claim that biologists are completely wrong when you don't even know some basic facts that are common knowledge to undergraduates? This is why you are considered a complete crank and flake. Remember this lesson! <<<<<<

Now you are even attacking Fake Dave, who is on your side. You are really sick.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous "Fake" Dave said...

LOL! :-D

Sunday, November 05, 2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

< I came across someone on ScienceBlogs documenting all the different, usable definitions of species. I think they were up to about 23! >

If you can dig up the link, I think I'd like to read this. Thanks!

BTW, in rooting around I found this. Looks promising (but I haven't explored it yet).

Sunday, November 05, 2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

W. Kevin Vicklund said ( 11/05/2006 03:07:36 AM ) --
>>>>> Hope that helps, (Fake) Dave. <<<<<

No, Kevin, it doesn't help. All you have done is just state some of your own personal arbitrary rules for determining interspecies relationships.

Achieving consistency and consensus in taxonomic classification would be hard enough without the unnecessary complications of evolutionary considerations. One reference says,

Keeping up with scientific nomenclature and common names can be challenging. There is frequent disagreement about the concept of what determines a biological species or subspecies (or even the existence of subspecies) and how to classify and name them. The science of naming and classifying animals (taxonomy or systematics) is constantly changing and there are often conflicting interpretations. Since there is not one list made by an organization that is unanimously accepted as the final authority on nomenclature, herpers are left with a confusing variety of multiple common and scientific names.

As I said, promoting Darwinism as some kind of grand unifying principle of biology is just waging an asinine prestige war against other fields of science and technology.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 3:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

> All you have done is just state some of your own personal arbitrary rules for determining interspecies relationships. <

All he has done is state the currently widely accepted rules. You have done nothing.

> Achieving consistency and consensus in taxonomic classification would be <

Impossible without evolutionary considerations.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 5:23:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

< herpers >

Herpers? Not a word. Apparently short for herpetologists.

< Achieving consistency and consensus in taxonomic classification would be hard enough without the unnecessary complications of evolutionary considerations. >

Say what? That's absurd.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 5:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that Fake Larry(?) doesn't read the material he quotes.

Monday, November 06, 2006 6:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the 26 species concept link.
It includes commentary from the auther concerning the usefulness of each.

Monday, November 06, 2006 8:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry,

I acknowledged my mistake and apologized. However, I noticed that you made no comment on your previous assertation that living in both water and terrestrially was how we classified amphibians. No thoughts? Any idea what an axlotl is?

Any further regurgitations of wikipedia concerning paramecium?

Found a reason why protostomic cnidarians should be considered closer to deuterostomic echinoderms than deuterostomic vertebrates?

Any comments of substance at all? Or is it your typical bugblatter beast defense? Ignore it hard enough and it will go away!

Monday, November 06, 2006 8:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry, just out of morbid curiousity, what system do you suggest we use as the basis for taxonomic organization of species? Alphabetical? Color? Taste? Ick, factor? Once you used your non-existent method of taxonomy, how would it be used to guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world?

Monday, November 06, 2006 8:50:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...
>>>>>Larry, just out of morbid curiousity, what system do you suggest we use as the basis for taxonomic organization of species? . . . . . Once you used your non-existent method of taxonomy, how would it be used to guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world? <<<<<<

To me, the purpose of taxonomy is to have a uniform system of naming and classifying organisms, and not to "guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 3:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> To me, the purpose of taxonomy is to have a uniform system of naming and classifying organisms, and not to "guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world." <

But to the rest of the world?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 7:08:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Fafarman said...

Anonymous said...
>> Larry, just out of morbid curiosity, what system do you suggest we use ... ? <<

LOL!

>> Once you used your non-existent method of taxonomy, how would it be used to guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world? <<

< To me, the purpose of taxonomy is to have a uniform system of naming and classifying organisms, and not to "guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world." >

Um, Larry(?), how about answering his question?

BTW, a "uniform system" is not feasible, as the subject matter is too variable.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Fake Dave said --
>>>>>>Anonymous said...
>> Larry, just out of morbid curiosity, what system do you suggest we use ... ? <<

LOL!<<<<<<

That is supposed to be funny?

>>>>how about answering his question? <<<<<<

I did.

>>>>> BTW, a "uniform system" is not feasible, as the subject matter is too variable. <<<<<

OK, I should have said that the purpose is to seek a system that is as uniform as possible. Introducing evolutionary considerations is contrary to this purpose.

VIW wheezed,
>>>>>But to the rest of the world? <<<<<

You stupid fathead -- he asked for my personal opinion and I told him that I was giving him my personal opinion.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 3:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

>>>>>>Anonymous said...
>> Larry, just out of morbid curiosity, what system do you suggest we use ... ? <<

LOL!<<<<<<

> That is supposed to be funny? <

No. That is supposed to be a legitimate question that you have ducked.

>>>>how about answering his question? <<<<<<

> I did. <

You didn't.

> I should have said that the purpose is to seek a system that is as uniform as possible. Introducing evolutionary considerations is contrary to this purpose. <

In what way?

>>>>>But to the rest of the world? <<<<<

> he asked for my personal opinion and I told him that I was giving him my personal opinion. <

But your personal opinion is often a long way from reality. It was, and perhaps still is, your personal opinion that the Moon landings were faked and that meteors come from inside the atmosphere.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 5:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't answer the initial question. You stated what you think it should be like, but you did not state what the system would be? I ask again (sometimes repeatedly pounding your head against a wall can be theraputic), what system would you use to name and classify organisms? Dewey decimal? Size? Funniest? Biggest genetalia? What?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

genitalia

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the purpose of taxonomy is << to have a uniform system of naming and classifying organisms, and not to "guide research and develop a deeper understanding of the biological world." >>

Who in this great wide world would care? If it is not useful for anything, why should money and time be spent classifying organisms? What the hell color is the sky in your world?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW - I still haven't seen an acknowledgement that you wouldn't know an amphibian from an echinoderm in your head. It's OK. You can admit that you are biologically illiterate, we already know. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal defense again Larry?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 8:19:00 PM  

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