The series, the network, and the tree: changing metaphors of order in nature

Biology and Philosophy 25 (4):475-496 (2010)
Abstract
The history of biological systematics documents a continuing tension between classifications in terms of nested hierarchies congruent with branching diagrams (the ‘Tree of Life’) versus reticulated relations. The recognition of conflicting character distribution led to the dissolution of the scala naturae into reticulated systems, which were then transformed into phylogenetic trees by the addition of a vertical axis. The cladistic revolution in systematics resulted in a representation of phylogeny as a strictly bifurcating pattern (cladogram). Due to the ubiquity of character conflict—at the genetic or morphological level, or at any level in between—some characters will necessarily have to be discarded ( qua noise) in favor of others in support of a strictly bifurcating phylogenetic tree. Pattern analysts will seek maximal congruence in the distribution of characters (ultimately of any kind) relative to a branching tree-topology; process explainers will call such tree-topologies into question by reference to incompatible evolutionary processes. Pattern analysts will argue that process explanations must not be brought to bear on pattern reconstruction; process explainers will insist that the reconstructed pattern requires a process explanation to become scientifically relevant, i.e., relevant to evolutionary theory. The core question driving the current debate about the adequacy of the ‘Tree of Life’ metaphor seems to be whether the systematic dichotomization of the living world is an adequate representation of the complex evolutionary history of global biodiversity. In ‘Questioning the Tree of Life’, it seems beneficial to draw at least four conceptual distinctions: pattern reconstruction versus process explanation as different epistemological approaches to the study of phylogeny; open versus closed systems as expressions of different kinds of population (species) structures; phylogenetic trees versus cladograms as representations of evolutionary processes versus patterns of relationships; and genes versus species as expressions of different levels of causal integration and evolutionary transformation.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,768
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
D. M. Armstrong (1993). A World of States of Affairs. Philosophical Perspectives 7:429-440.

View all 29 references

Citations of this work BETA
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2012). Interweaving Categories: Styles, Paradigms, and Models. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 43 (4):628-639.
Erica Torrens (2013). Visualizing the Order of Nature. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (1):110-113.

View all 6 citations

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2010-05-07

Total downloads

38 ( #44,244 of 1,098,979 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #175,054 of 1,098,979 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.