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Biological SystematicsPrinciples and Applications$
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Andrew V. Z. Brower and Randall T. Schuh

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752773

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752773.001.0001

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Parsimony and the Future of Systematics

(p.354) Postscript
Biological Systematics

Andrew V. Z. Brower

Randall T. Schuh

Cornell University Press

This postscript reflects on the role of parsimony in the future of systematics. Under the view of systematics advocated in this book, the exuberantly messy data of biological diversity are organized into a clear and coherent explanatory framework through the application of the principle of parsimony. The principle of common cause, the principle of cause and effect, and the principle of uniformitarianism are all applications of the principle of parsimony to the explanation of events unfolding in time. Thus, parsimony is not merely an old-fashioned phylogenetic method that has been superceded by purportedly more powerful and sophisticated statistical tools: it is the epistemological key to evaluating empirical evidence and discovering orderly patterns in the world to the extent that our perceptions allow. Ultimately, the success of every scientific inference and prediction relating to empirical phenomena in the world hinges upon parsimony.

Keywords:   parsimony, systematics, biological diversity, phylogenetic method, statistical tools, empirical evidence, orderly patterns, scientific inference, scientific prediction, empirical phenomena

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