The role of theories in biological systematics

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (2):221-238 (2001)
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Abstract

The role of scientific theories in classifying plants and animals is traced from Hennig's phylogenetics and the evolutionary taxonomy of Simpson and Mayr, through numerical phenetics, to present-day cladistics. Hennig limited biological classification to sister groups so that this one relation can be expressed unambiguously in classifications. Simpson and Mayr were willing to sacrifice precision in representation in order to include additional features of evolution in the construction of classifications. In order to make classifications more objective, precise and quantitative, numerical pheneticists limited themselves to representing degrees of phenetic similarity. Finally, present-day cladists can be separated into phylogenetic cladists, who retain much of Hennig's theory of classification, and pattern cladists, who have stripped Hennig's system down to its bare essentials.

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