The future of systematics: Tree thinking without the tree

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Abstract

Phylogenetic trees are meant to represent the genealogical history of life and apparently derive their justification from the existence of the tree of life and the fact that evolutionary processes are treelike. However, there are a number of problems for these assumptions. Here it is argued that once we understand the important role that phylogenetic trees play as models that contain idealizations, we can accept these criticisms and deny the reality of the tree while justifying the continued use of trees in phylogenetic theory and preserving nearly all of what defenders of trees have called the "importance of tree thinking."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-636
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Volume79
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2012

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