Pachycondyla, a genus that wasn’t

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striata1
Pachycondyla striata, Brazil

When I first saw the following figure, presented by myrmecologist Chris Schmidt at a social insect conference, the whole room broke into laughter:

pachycondylatree1
Multi-locus Bayesian phylogeny of Ponerinae, adapted from Schmidt (2013), with Pachycondyla colored in red.

Pachycondyla, among the most common ants in tropical regions worldwide, turns out to be a motley assortment of unrelated species. While the taxonomy of the world’s 12,000 or so ant species is obviously still a work on progress, I don’t think any of us had seen a case where ant names showed such a non-relationship to their genealogy. We knew before that Pachycondyla wasn’t really a natural group. But this? This was bad.

I’m writing this post because Chris has just published his study in Zootaxa, and while the paper is behind a subscription barrier, the data and tree are available for free on Treebase. A follow-up paper is also in the works to bring the taxonomy into line with what is known from ant phylogenetics. Most Pachycondyla will likely revert to older names (NeoponeraBothroponera, etc.), with only a handful of Neotropical species- including P. striata, above- remaining in a reduced Pachycondyla.


source: Schmidt, C. 2013. Molecular phylogenetics of ponerine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Zootaxa 3647 (2): 201–250.

 

45 thoughts on “Pachycondyla, a genus that wasn’t”

  1. Wow! I thought we’d never see this work actually published! Looking forward to the work that can be done now that the foundation is actually in print.

  2. Roberto Keller

    One crucial thing to understand is that Pachycondyla as we currently know it is the result of the late Bill Brown reclassification of genera boundaries within Ponerinae. This involved merging many genera into one large and “generalized” group. Brown never intended his redefined Pachycondyla to be monophyletic. In fact, if you read his monographs, he was quite clear in his intention to have Pachycondyla as a paraphyletic group from which other, more specialized genera will have evolved.

    Brown was an evolutionary taxonomist (as opposed to a cladist). For him paraphyly was ok. Non-monophyletic groups in his classifications were intentional. He knew that different groups of species within his Pachycondyla were more closely related to other genera, and he wrote down all his speculations. He just did not bother to produce explicit tree-shaped hypothesis reflecting his views. One has to (the horror!) actually read his monographs.

    The only confusion comes from the fact that when systematics finally got formal quantitative methods to reconstruct phylogenies and got access to lots of molecular data, many people assumed that classifications could be converted directly into nested monophyletic groups. Many pre-cladistics taxonomist never intended their classifications to reflect phylogeny the way we now give for granted.

    1. And, an excellent article about the history of evolutionary and cladistic taxonomy involving WM Wheeler, Creighton, Brown and Wilson is in the Journal of the History of Biology: “Building on Bedrock: William Steel Creighton and the Reformation of Ant Systematics, 1925–1970” by Joshua Buhs, who also wrote The Fire Ant Wars. This comes from a PhD thesis in history about the early-and-mid 20th century ant taxonomy. A great read.

      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1004712911037

      1. Thanks for the article. Creighton provided a history of early ant systematics in his 1950 monograph which I found insightful. Now I can bring the story up to the time I started studying ants.

    2. Thanks for this insightful comment, Roberto. I’m glad you bring this up, because I had included a bit about Brown in my original version of this post, but decided the history of cladism was perhaps too much for a post intended as a brief announcement.

      Really glad that Terry linked the Buhs article, too. I hadn’t seen that either.

    3. My taxonomy professor, David A. Young of NCSU, was an evolutionary taxonomist. He felt that non-monophyletic groups better reflected evolutionary changes between species, something that node-focused cladistics doesn’t do as well.

  3. Steve Shattuck

    Chris and I are putting the final touches on the taxonomic revision of the Ponerinae and hope to submit the manuscript in the next month or so. As a teaser, it’s looking like the subfamily will have 46 recognised genera, which includes 6 new genera, 12 generic names coming out of synonymy and 3 new synonyms being proposed.

    1. A teaser indeed! I cannot wait to see or hear more about this. Have you and Chris done anything with the Pachycondyla ferruginea group, for example?

      1. Steve Shattuck

        They may have ended up in a new genus along with their closest relatives. You’ll just have to wait and see!

    2. Vincent Perrichot

      Steve, will the fossils be considered as well? In 2011 Cedric Aria and I were asked by the reviewer and the editor to publish a male “Pachycondyla” (Zootaxa 2870) as a “genus and species indet.” so I’d love to see that fossil named eventually.

      1. It could revert back to Brachyponera. In a 2009 paper, Chris Schmidt grouped chinensis with the genotype of Brachyponera, B. croceicornis.

  4. James C. Trager

    Thinking about this phylogeny and its implications some more, it comes to mind that this reminds me a bit of the phylogeny of myrmicines in the 2006 PNAS paper by “Evaluating Alternative Hypotheses for the Early Evolution and Diversification of Ants” by Brady, Schultz, Fisher and Ward, in which the highly derived dacetines, attines, etc. are interspersed in “non-intuitive” ways among genera with conservative morphology. We still have much to learn. . .

  5. Pingback: Pachycondyla: Neue Systematik zu erwarten! - Ameisenforum.de

  6. Pingback: Improbable Research » Blog Archive » Group laughter at the social insect conference

  7. Thanks for the cool article Alex!
    Nick, how do you know Mr. Luskin didn’t write his article before the comments were posted?
    Strange to see you here any way, shouldn’t you be busy banning or burning books along with your colleagues?

    1. The comments were finished by May 18. Luskin wrote his post June 5 or 6. And anyone who knew anything about the fields of systematics and phylogenetics would not have made the dumb assumptions he made, anyway, comments or no comments. It’s permanently amateur-hour over at the Discovery Institute, you can see it in virtually every post. This is just a particularly salient example.

    2. If there was intelligent design, how come that intelligence made so many humans so stupid ? [LOL]

      If there was intelligent design, why bother to have species go extinct all the time and waste all that effort – and have to do it all over again ?

      Why bother to ban or burn books when ignoring or making fun of them is so much more efficient and juicy ?

      1. ” Why bother to ban or burn books when ignoring or making fun of them is so much more efficient and juicy ?” Good question BioBob, you should ask Nick that. Does any one on here believe that stopping publication of a book is ok? What about academic freedom? Anyone care any more? Nick helped get a peer reviewed book pulled because he doesn’t like the authors, not because of what was in the book. He hadn’t even read the book yet. Is that acceptable? Love to get your opinion on it Alex.

  8. Nick writes: “ignorant hacks” … “amateur hour”

    Way to make the people you are attacking feel intellectually free to post their views by opening your comments with personal attacks, Nick. I’m sure your chosen style of discourse wins you great plaudits with your colleagues.

    Actually, I did not have to read the comments to know that Pachycondyla wasn’t intended to be “phylogenetic” because Myrmecos’s blog post itself said “We knew before that Pachycondyla wasn’t really a natural group.”

    And since I quoted that exact sentence in my post over at Evolution News & Views, it’s not as if my readers over at ENV won’t be made aware of that point. So not only was I aware of that point in my post, I acknowledged it to ENV readers.

    Nick, on the other hand, prefers to misrepresent my arguments for the purpose of making personal attacks. How many of times have I experienced this at the hands of Nick? I dunno…I stopped counting years ago.

    But that’s beside the point, because “phylogenetic” or not, these ants were grouped into this genus for SOME reason. I’m obviously not a myrmecologist, but I suspect those reasons had something to do with shared morphological similarities between these ant species, and perhaps also some behavioral and phylogeographical reasons mixed in as well.

    In any case, there had to be some reason (e.g., shared similarities) these ants were originally placed together within Pachycondyla, and whatever those reasons were, they seem to be incongruent with the genetic data discussed here.

    So I’m not here to rebuke Nick or make personal attacks–I’m here to learn. And I’d love to learn from some myrmecologists what those original reasons were for originally grouping all these species within Pachycondyla.

    Nick, if you’re willing to shelve the ad homs for a few minutes, is it possible we can just have an interesting conversation about science without making personal attacks? What do you think?

    Thanks.

    Casey
    cluskin@discovery.org

    1. Hi Casey — to even have to have a reasonable discussion about this — e.g. what I would expect when grading a student’s essay question in a phylogenetics course, for instance — you would have to hit most or all of these topics:

      evolutionary systematics
      phylogenetic systematics
      shared ancestral characters
      shared derived characters
      Hennig
      phylogenetic signal

      …and apply them to this specific situation, indicating that you understood the basics of what was going on in the professional scientific discussion.

      When speaking to the public about such a topic, I would expect not only the above, but some introduction for the general reader about what the above terms mean and how the professional scientists are understanding what is going on using these concepts.

      If one was going to be so bold as to actually try and say something that would actually contribute to a professional scientific discussion in this area, I’d expect not only the above, but some understanding of the details of the situation — e.g., which taxonomists were using which concepts and methods when.

      And finally, if one was going to draw some radical conclusion about how this study is a piece of evidence in favor of the idea that the professionals are totally off-base and their whole field is a crock, which is precisely what you attempted to do in this case, then I would expect not only the above, but an actual statistical analysis of the data, a statistical test of the evolutionary hypothesis versus whatever your hypothesis is supposed to be, etc.

      But, you didn’t do any of these, probably because you couldn’t even pass a test on the concepts up in step #1, let alone engage in a meaningful professional discussion on these topics, let alone run the statistical methods that would quantify the degree of similarity and difference between different classifications (which is vastly superior to just brazenly throwing around inaccurate terms like “distantly related” and “wildly different”).

      Even worse, you made all of these mistakes while representing yourself as an expert to a general audience which has no ability to assess these topics.

      Thus, the terms “ignorant hack” and “amateur hour” were entirely appropriate. You’re holding forth on a propaganda blog, as part of a continuing campaign to tear down the scientific field I work in, and you don’t even get the phylogenetics 101 necessary to enter the discussion. I wouldn’t pull out the rhetoric in a private or a teaching setting, where I would happily answer the questions of a student or whatever (there’s nothing wrong with ignorance by itself, just with pretending to have knowledge when you don’t) but you’ve already trumpeted your ill-informed opinion across the blogosphere. In that situation, it’s my duty to call you out.

      But, you’ve now expressed allegedly sincere interest in learning. Good on you. If you really want to redeem yourself, here’s your assignment: start with giving us the definitions of those terms I listed, and then give us a paragraph or two explaining how they probably apply in the case of Pachycondyla (This looks to be an example of a very common phenomenon, which happens when old Linnaean taxonomy is updated with modern phylogenetic methods.) Finally, what scientific/statistical steps would one take to test one’s hypothesis about the taxonomy behind the genus Pachycondyla?

  9. I’m saddened by your reply Nick, as I was hoping that you might be able to refrain from making personal attacks for a little while so there could have a conversation about science. Instead, you chose to double-down on personal attacks, and taking it upon yourself to “grade” me. But I’ll turn the cheek here and submit myself to your scrutiny for a moment, because that’s what you want:

    Despite your many words, you haven’t actually established that (a) anything I said was wrong, or that (b) I actually am ignorant of anything you claimed. The one nitpick you laser-in-on is that I casually called those ant species “distantly related,” which surely was far more accurate than calling them “unrelated species,” as Myrmecos did…

    Somehow you decided to require me to pass a 6-part test on systematics (which covers some basic concepts I learned about during my undergrad and graduate studies, actually) in order to have the honor of dialoguing with you. But for Myrmecos, he can use strictly inaccurate terms ( though ones commonly used in the literature — see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=%22unrelated+species%22 ) like “unrelated species” and you’ll treat him, well, with the dignity and humanity he deserves.

    In any case, I did not come here to experience the standard personal attacks or from Nick. I came here for a different reason–to learn about why various ant species were originally grouped within Pachycondyla.

    If anyone here would like to enlighten me on this, I’d be happy to listen.

    Thanks.

    Casey

  10. I think Nick is fully justified in his statements about the agenda of the Discovery Institute.

    I also think Casey’s comment about lax use of terminology around relatedness is a worthy point.

    However, I’ll just try to answer Casey’s latest question, which does touch closely on this blog post, and is a good question. Why were various ant species originally grouped within Pachycondyla? A full exposition of this topic would require a re-reading of the original description of the genus and much of the subsequent literature that assigned species to it, took them out, and put them back in. The simple way to think of it is covered in the following bullets:
    – Originally, all ponerine ants were considered a single genus, Ponera. The defining characteristics were rather vague and few and essentially identical to the defining characteristics of some of the large genera in the subfamily today.
    – (The rank of genus is somewhat arbitrary – which not call them subgenera, or tribes or ??? – but we do strive in systematics to make all higher groups monophyletic, a la Hennig.)
    – Anyway, soon other genus names were coined within the subfamily to contain the morphologically highly distinctive species within this far-flung group of related ants. These distinctive ones are typically those with modified head and mouthpart morphology, associated with specialized predation and dietary habits.
    – (There was that term “related”! Yes, all ants are related by common ancestry, and all Ponerinae are more closely related by virtue of more recent common ancestry, as determined by their higher degree of similarity of shared, derived genetic and morphological characteristics. The means for determining the possession of these “shared derived traits” are in the realm of Nick’s “test”, so I won’t go into it all, but lets take this as good science, based on well-defined, repeatable and proscribed methods, and a large amount of hypothesis testing by ant systematists.)
    Pachycondyla was a name applied to a large number of ponerine species that we can now say had diverged genetically, but had not diverged much in external morphology. And this is the key to your question, Casey, the species share a set of morphological traits very little changed from those of the ancestral ponerine, but which traits are holdovers from the past, masking the internal changes that remained unseen by traditional morphology-based taxonomic approaches – in other words, Pachycondyla species are grouped on the basis shared ancestral characters.
    – The cool thing is that now, armed with knowledge of the genetic differences among them, more careful scrutiny of the morphology of the various Pachycondyla can be seen to support the genetic scheme, hence the “6 new genera, 12 generic names coming out of synonymy” mentioned by Steve Shattuck above.

    This is how science progresses, by proposing hypotheses, testing them in various ways, and modifying understanding and interpretation based on the results. We scientists feel good about such changes, as they demonstrate to us the power of the methodology to gain deeper and more informative understanding of the natural world that we study.

  11. Casey! No attempt to even try to answer the questions? It would be easy if you actually knew the topic — see Trager’s response. Unfortunately for you, though, it would be hard to get these particular topics right just from learning stuff on google or from popular sources. I didn’t *really* get Hennig until a year or two of grad school, working with some datasets, and doing my own phylogenetic analyses.

  12. Dear James,

    Like Julianbre, I too want to genuinely thank you for the helpful history of Ponerine ant systematics–I do appreciate it. Thanks also for taking a few minutes to answer my question. This is all fascinating stuff.

    I also genuinely appreciate you explaining terms like “shared derived characteristics”–primarily because it was kind of you to take the time to so and I believe it was done in good faith, not because it was necessary. As I mentioned, I learned about that concept years ago while in school.

    But don’t you know that you’ve just committed Nick’s worst nightmare–an evolutionary scientist treating a Discovery Institute guy with dignity and respect, and even conceding that he made a valid point? Don’t you realize not supposed to do that. 🙂

    In any case, I wrote an extensive riff explaining why the fact that there are shared morphological similarities between the species once grouped within Pachycondyla — now contradicted by genetic evidence — shows why I believe the methodology used to construct phylogenetic trees is inconsistent, based upon dubious assumptions (e.g., shared biological similarity implies inheritance from a common ancestor, except for when it doesn’t), and unpersuasive. But I’ve decided not to post it here–because my purpose here is to learn and not debate with those who are willing to have a civil conversation. In that regard, I genuinely appreciate your comment James.

    Also, in that regard, Nick, I’m not interested much in taking your test, because your demonstrated purpose is to intimidate those who disagree with you through personal attacks and contrived (and insultingly simple) entrance exams which must be passed in order to speak with you. This is, of course, is not a sign of my ignorance but rather of merely your widely known and long-cherished debate-strategy designed to paint those you disagree with as ignorant, foolish, or worse. Your endgame is that by repeating the mantra that your opponents are ignorantamateurfoolish etc., you can bully some fence-sitters to your side, and keep those on your side from asking the wrong questions evolutionary biology.

    As I’ve told you before, this is a losing strategy–because fair-minded people realize that you’re unwilling to engage in serious, civil scientific dialogue with prominent folks who disagree with you. The effect will be (and is) that you turn people off faster than you can demonize them. You should take Princess Leia’s advice: “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingertips.”

    To be sure, some WILL fall-in-line because they feel threatened by your ridicule if they challenge you or question your strategy. Too late for me, I guess: How do you say it– I’m “calling you out” on your tactics?

    In any case, since none of your personal attacks on my competence and knowledge are being made with good faith, good evidence, or out of a desire to seek the truth, I’m thus not really interested in conversing with you, other than to talk about how your values, and my values, are very different. Because that’s what’s really on display here: not my ignorance, but your distasteful tactics.

    Until you decide to treat me with civility, respect and dignity, and show a willingness to have a serious, civil conversation about the science, this is probably the sort of reply you’re going to get from me, because this is all you’re giving us to talk about. So I must decline your offer to answer your questions. But you may find a further explanation of why the methods used to infer common descent are logically inconsistent (regardless of whether some consistency index can be calculated for some phylogenetic tree) sometime in the near future on ENV.

    One final point, Nick, regarding Hennig, I probably didn’t encounter his specific name in my undergrad or graduate studies, although I certainly did learn about cladistics. I didn’t study Hennig the man in much detail until the past couple years when I served as a research assistant to Steve Meyer on his book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

    For a great paper which discusses how cladistics is by-very-nature impotent to explain the processes that caused the Cambrian explosion, see Princeton historian of science Keynyn Brysse’s, “From weird wonders to stem lineages: the second reclassification of the Burgess Shale fauna,” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 39: 298–313 (2008).

    I’m going to sign off from this thread now. Thanks again.

    Casey

    1. Feh ! dunno why god would bother with insignific-ants (a mere 22,000+ species).

      Everybody I know agrees with J.B.S. Haldane:

      The Creator, if He exists, has “an inordinate fondness for beetles”.
      “God is most likely to take trouble over reproducing his own image, and his 400,000 attempts at the perfect beetle contrast with his slipshod creation of man. When we meet the Almighty face to face he will resemble a beetle (or a star) and not Dr. Carey [the Archbishop of Canterbury].”

      Pachycondyla and the species currently stuck in there will have to look after themselves, I suspect, just as they always have, since there is so much to do making more beetles.

  13. Hi Casey,

    I also genuinely appreciate you explaining terms like “shared derived characteristics”–primarily because it was kind of you to take the time to so and I believe it was done in good faith, not because it was necessary. As I mentioned, I learned about that concept years ago while in school.

    Suuuuure you did. All you had to do beforehand to show you actually knew this before someone explained it to you was to answer my question by saying something like the following: “Pre-cladistic taxonomy, i.e. ‘evolutionary systematics’, was typically based on overall similarity and/or a few characters subjectively deemed ‘significant’. Shared ancestral characters and shared derived characters were not distinguished, and because of this, the groups formed by these methods were often paraphyletic or polyphyletic grades rather than monophyletic clades. This was to be expected, rather than a surprise, because evolutionary systematics explicitly allowed for ancestral, non-monophyletic groups. Hennig pointed out the importance relying only on shared derived characters for doing objective, repeatable classification, and phylogenetic systematics, which has now essentially replaced evolutionary systematics, follows in this tradition, as do cladistics and subsequent probabilistic methods (both of which are applied to both morphological and molecular data). As researchers revise the old taxonomy of past generations, they quite often discover situations where certain taxa, typically the ones thought to represent the generalized “ancestral” condition, fall apart under phylogenetic analysis. It looks like this fairly typical situation happened with these ants.”

    You would have gotten bonus points for noting “the high support values for most of the branches in the posted figure indicate that the statistical support for this particularly phylogeny is overall quite strong, i.e. it appears that a lot of data is congruent with it”. Even more for saying something like: “Even though Pacyhycondyla was shown to be non-monophyletic, its distribution on the published tree looks like it is not completely random on the phylogeny, a hypothesis that could be tested with a permutation test. If confirmed, this might indicate that some of the characters upon which Pacyhycondyla was based actually did have some detectable phylogenetic signal, despite some degree of homoplasy (since even characters with some homoplasy can still have some phylogenetic signal). This hypothesis could also be tested, e.g. by calculating CI, RI, etc., for each of these characters and comparing the values to null distributions. In addition, mapping these characters onto the phylogenetic tree would reveal if their distribution reflects the distribution of the Pachycondyla classification.”

    Until you decide to treat me with civility, respect and dignity, and show a willingness to have a serious, civil conversation about the science, this is probably the sort of reply you’re going to get from me, because this is all you’re giving us to talk about. So I must decline your offer to answer your questions.

    Casey, getting high and mighty with me is pretty rich, considering that (1) you had already demonstrated ignorance of the key issues and concepts in this discussion, in your original blogpost, with phrases such as “severe phylogenetic conflicts” (um, no…the original classification wasn’t phylogenetic), (2) it was you who put this on the table for your readers as evidence against common ancestry, indicating that the whole field of phylogenetics is bogus, and that we don’t know what we are talking about, and (3) you’ve been doing this, professionally, for years.

    Ironically, if you actually understood what was going on, you would realize that the entire taxonomic revision that we are discussing in this thread is a product of biology becoming more evolutionary than it was under “evolutionary systematics”, taking Darwin’s tree of life more seriously than it was taken before, and that the strong statistical support we get for the phylogenetic pattern we see is confirming evidence that this is the right approach to take.

    But you may find a further explanation of why the methods used to infer common descent are logically inconsistent (regardless of whether some consistency index can be calculated for some phylogenetic tree) sometime in the near future on ENV.

    Great! I look forward to you confusing simple issues like rooting and outgroups and character polarity; ignoring the real issues like statistical support, inference, and hypothesis-testing; a complete failure to run your own data analysis to test your contentions against real-world data; a cherry-picking of phylogenetic conflicts from the literature, with no understanding of the commonality of known causes of such conflicts; and also ignorance of the fact that agreement and disagreement between trees is a quantifiable thing, and that most disagreements are statistically minor, and overall agreement is usually the rule rather than the exception.

    One final point, Nick, regarding Hennig, I probably didn’t encounter his specific name in my undergrad or graduate studies, although I certainly did learn about cladistics. I didn’t study Hennig the man in much detail until the past couple years when I served as a research assistant to Steve Meyer on his book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

    Wow, so — you’ve been a professional critic of evolutionary biology for something like 10 years, and you only heard of Hennig in the last few years???? That’s, well…incredible! It’s like, I don’t know — imagine if someone spent 10 years claiming, professionally, that plate tectonics was false, and spent most of that time unaware of Wegener. Scientists who actually did research on plate tectonics might reasonably expect their opponents to do a little better before taking them seriously as something other than poor students of the topic desperately in need of remedial education. They would have a right to be rather indignant. It’s one thing if some guy off the street doesn’t know these things, that’s perfectly natural; but if someone is a professional critic claiming that a major field of science is bankrupt down to its roots, well, they had better know their stuff.

    And as for Stephen Meyer’s book — you as research assistant explains quite a lot about the epic-level errors in the book regarding taxonomy and phylogenetics, which I point out in my review of Meyer’s book at Panda’s Thumb:

    Meyer’s Hopeless Monster, Part II
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html

    …many of the Phylogenetics 101 issues we’ve seen pop up here recur there as well.

    For a great paper which discusses how cladistics is by-very-nature impotent to explain the processes that caused the Cambrian explosion, see Princeton historian of science Keynyn Brysse’s, “From weird wonders to stem lineages: the second reclassification of the Burgess Shale fauna,” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 39: 298–313 (2008).

    Wow — this statement is so wrong I barely know where to start. That paper is actually the source of one of the figures that I put in my review of Meyer! The paper isn’t perfect on some of the phylogenetics details, but it does explain some of the same key points I emphasized, namely that cladistics has revolutionized Cambrian paleontology, helped us identify the fossils with transitional morphology between phyla, and furthermore allows us to reconstruct the main steps by which the “body plans” were assembled (and proving that it was a stepwise process, not an all-at-once process). Since Meyer thinks that transitional fossils don’t exist and that the bodyplans had to be assembled all at once, and that paper contradicts those key contentions of his, I suspect you’ve copied the wrong line in your quote-mining database or something. Meyer certainly doesn’t cite the paper in his book; if he had read it and understood it, he would have had to entirely revise most of the sections dealing with Cambrian taxonomy and phylogenetics.

    (It’s just possible you’re doing a redo of a tactic Meyer tries out in his book, “cladistics doesn’t explain where new information/structures come from, therefore we can totally disregard it” — but this would be equally bogus — as I note in the review, cladistics reconstructs the overall pattern of what happened, showing us the basic order in which the characters found in the group of interest were assembled. From there we can go to evo-devo, etc., to learn more. Different sciences provide different pieces of the puzzle, this is normal, not a problem for or refutation of those different sciences. Except to creationists.)

    1. This is a great and exceptional reason why those of us, that are just ordinary folks, dislike and distrust those of you in academia. No matter the point of view or the question, you guys just can’t seem to help feeling and being imperious in your tone to those who disagree. Is it any wonder why the majority of Americans view evolution with suspicion, when any one who raises a question is treated to a whole litany of ‘why you are so stupid and I’m not’, mentality, rather than just answering the freaking question and letting the facts speak for themselves. I am so glad I am not subject to college professors and there idiocy any more. What I am sorry for is those of us who still like to learn and question things can’t ask without being treated as though we are some sort of back wood, moonshine swilling, inbred, that needs to be told to just shut up and mind your betters. And still you wonder why the average American thinks you guys are full of waste products. People like this are the simple reason for why most people stay clear of this and roll their eyes at both evolutionist and ID. I just want some one to have the gonads to stand up and say ‘we think it happened this way, but we just don’t know, but here is the best we can give you.’ and then answer the freaking question in a way the lay person can understand, without someone like Nick, ridiculing us for not being scientist, or not agreeing. What’s wrong with you? Are so narcissistic and insecure, you feel the need to make people feel like fecal matter? Does it give you a kick to think your idiocy in ridicule makes you impressive. What a joke. By the way, Thank you, James C. Trager, for making me feel like you were actually helping me understand. You are a gentleman. Sad that the same can’t be said for Nick. He must be a real joy at funerals and parties.

      1. Ana (@telomericfusion)

        Umm, Nick has been dealing with these scam artists for years. They put out popular books, close down comments on their websites, and try to sneak refuted ideas into young minds without having them tested by the scientific community as they should be. This is exactly how you should treat them.

        1. Ana, I’m just a guy who works a silly job at (it rhymes with lostco) and loves science, but I don’t know what scam artist you’re talking about. I have read Noble Prize winners voice the same problems and questions. There is a prominent atheist, who voiced a problem he had with Macro-evolution by saying no one has adequately explained the formation of DNA, the nucleus, RNA, and proteins in the origins of life. From what I understand of this guy, he’s no friend of ID, but he’s also not convinced that macro-evolution is right either. My problem is when someone like that makes this kind of statement, you get the clergy of Dawkins coming out and screaming ‘Infidel’. If there are problems with the theory admit it and let’s let the science take it where it goes, rather than saying we can’t go down this or that road, because it contradicts what the theory dictates. Who cares if someone writes a book or submits something for peer revue that contradicts the prevailing theory. If it’s wrong, refute it. If not are we not better off for it. I know you believe that people are getting bogus information, but your just going to have to trust that there are those of us that are smart enough to compare and contrast and come to the right conclusion. Treating people who have a different hypothesis or question certain aspects of macro-evolution as though they are a vile wicked creature is only turning the public against you. They see it as elitism and arrogance. But calmly saying, ‘I hear what you’re saying or asking, but here are the facts’. Ridicule and name calling and condescension is not the way. When I was in college, I saw it all the time with Imperial professors who tolerated no questioning of macro-evolution. The funny thing was that when some one questioned this theory, the professors never answered the questions, they just ridiculed. I just kept my mouth shut. And it just wasn’t in science, it was other subjects like economics, history, art, political science, sociology, and psychology. What’s funny is some of what these noted men and women of academia taught turned out to be completely false. I’m not keeping my mouth shut any more. If I see a problem with the theory, I want answers, not, ‘you idiot, just shut up and submit to your betters.’ I’m not in academia so I can’t be fired for saying, ‘there are some big ole fat holes in macro-evolution.’ I’m not saying ID is right either. But I sure would like to see the facts come out and everyone that’s in this field just shut up and do the science and let the chips fall where they may…

          1. Getting serious, some good points, Sam.

            From my point of view, the most important thing to keep in mind for background is that the amount we humans don’t know vastly exceeds the amount we do know. The second is that expedience is the enemy of rigor.

            It is pretty rare for taxonomists to actually perform valid sampling or use adequate sample size to advise their statistical conclusions but it does happen – although nothing comes to mind. Good stats is very hard & expensive to do, so generally only PhD candidates do it (that’s a half-joke).

            We bumble along and generally do our best in any case.

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