Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Generic hostility, Part 3

...which prompted me to fire this off (verb chosen deliberately).

In my unholy wrath, I forgot to include a subject line, and I was mistaken about MALDI-MS; as the first Nielsen et al. paper was published in 2002, it was definitely not invented last year. Neither of those errors affect my arguments.

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Subject:

[blasphemy deleted]

What "grand claims" are you referring to? I said _appear_ to be genus specific. No, it hasn't been tested in every genus of everything that ever lived. The method was just invented last year. And in case you missed it, the blog post that brought it to my attention (Darren's) was all about how our current taxonomies probably need to be overhauled anyway.

And don't even get me started on the "it doesn't apply to everything that's every lived, so it's worthless" argument that you vomit up at the end of your message. As if it weren't implicit in everything that everyone ever says about anything, YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. If it doesn't apply to moss, then don't fucking apply it to moss. But if it works for vertebrates, if it gives us something beyond morphology to help figure out how fossil taxa are related, then I say it's a good thing. How could it possibly be any worse than our current ideas of what constitutes a genus, which are based on..uh..er..ub..that's right, NOTHING. So even if your doomsday scenario comes to pass, wherein all vertebrate zoologists start revising genera to match the results of the MALDI-MS, then at least we vertebrate zoologists will have a genus concept that's based on objective reality.* Yes, everyone else will still be fucked. Exactly as fucked as we are right now.

* Which is not what I was even advocating. I'm just pumped that we have something besides morphology that might possibly indicate relationships in fossils, since morphology hasn't exactly done a great job of sorting out extant species OR genera, as we're learning daily.

I guess I could have anticipated all of your objections in advance, and instead of writing

Certain bone proteins appear to be genus-specific.

I could have written

Certain bone proteins, which are only present in vertebrates with bones and therefore hardly worth looking into, appear to correlate with the imaginary entities called genera that we've been using for 250 years with no objective basis whatsoever, in the handful of taxa that have been tested in the handful of months since the method was invented. Please don't get the least bit excited about this because it hasn't been vetted for ~30-100 million extant species, let alone the billions of extinct species, and even if had been, it still wouldn't apply to non-vertebrates, and genera are imaginary anyway, so describing anything as "genus-specific" is just a fancy way of airing your abject stupidity.

But I assumed that I could deliver roughly the same information more succinctly without having some pedant point out how the sweeping statements that I didn't make weren't actually universally true.

Piss off,

Matt

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