[Marxism] Scopes redux

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Tue Dec 28 09:44:38 MST 2004

While Linnaean classification is useful to pigeonhole organisms, it is not 
useful to assess evolutionary relationships, because it simply doesn't 
reflect the patterns of ancestry and descent present among living things. 
It groups by similarity. We use phylogenetics for that. Shared, *derived* 
characters (aka homologies or synapomorphies) are used to assess 
phylogenetic relationships, to group organisms according to evolutionary 
relationship. I emphasize derived, because what's important in grouping 
organisms isn't only what's shared, but that the organisms with the trait 
share it with a most recent common ancestor; i.e., what's unique to that 
grouping. So, yes, we are great apes. But we are also mammals due to our 
pelage, mammary glands, etc. We are also vertebrates, due to our vertebral 
column, etc. With respect to the great apes, we group as follows: 
orangutan(gorilla(chimp(Ardipithecus(Australopithecus+Homo)))). (You can 
draw the phylogenetic tree from the preceding, or check out 
http://tolweb.org/tree?group=Hominidae&contgroup=Catarrhini). While it is 
incorrect to deny that we are apes, it is also incorrect to assert, as some 
do (not you), that we are descended from gorillas. And it is equally 
important to indicate our more recent common ancestry with the 
Australopithecines, for example, which sets us apart from the great apes, 
or even those unique characters (autapomorphies, in our jargon) that set 
apart our lineage. MDS was wrong, for the same reason that the Linnaean 
grouping "Reptilia" no longer exists, except in high school biology 
classes. If we recognize groupings based on evolutionary history, then 
"organic" groupings must include the common ancestor and all of its 
descendants. In that case, Reptilia should also include the Linnaean class 
Aves (birds), which in popular usage, it doesn't. MDS creates a fictitious 
grouping of great apes by subtracting Homo from it.


  At 04:25 AM 12/28/2004, you wrote:
>We are all part of the Family
>Hominidae (Homnids), with the Orangutans representing the Ponginae
>sub-family, and the rest including ourselves in the Hominidae family. In
>other words, We are Hominidae Homo sapiens and, say, chimps are Hominidae
>Pan troglodytes.

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