DEST – Taxonomy Training on Philosophy of Biological Systematics

September 8, 2014

Approaching the subject from the perspective of the philosophical foundations of scientific inquiry, this course offers critical examinations of the principles required to judge the scientific merits of systematic/taxonomic procedures by way of the following topics:

• The goal of science
• The goal of biological systematics
• Causal relationships in systematics
• The nature of why-questions
• Three forms of reasoning: deduction, induction, abduction
• The uses of deduction, induction, and abduction in science
• Evidence and reasoning
• Fact, theory & hypothesis
• Theory & hypothesis testing
• Systematics involves abductive reasoning
• Inferences of systematics hypotheses, i.e. taxa
• Implications for ‘phylogenetic’ methods
• Causal explanations, not ‘trees’ or cladograms
• Parsimony, likelihood, Bayesianism: are they relevant to abductive reasoning, thus phylogenetic inference?
• The requirement of total evidence
• The errors of cladogram comparisons & character mapping
• Homology, homogeny & homoplasy
• Character coding
• Mechanics of hypothesis testing: implications for cladograms
• Character data cannot test phylogenetic hypotheses
• The nature evidential support
• The proper testing of phylogenetic hypotheses
• The myths of bootstrap, jack-knife & Bremer ‘support’
• Implications for nomenclature
• Defining biodiversity and conservation

Participants will be provided reprints covering the topics in the course, as well as a PDF file with all course slides (>800) and associated notes.


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