"On Wed, 27 Feb 2008 09:23:49 +0000, in article
@meden.invalid>, Ernest Major stated..."
>In message <r94xj.4949$Mh2....@nlpi069.nbdc.sbc.com>, John Harshman
>>Perplexed in Peoria wrote:
>>> "John Harshman" <jharshman.diespam...@pacbell.net> wrote
>>> (quoting Pitman):
>>>>> As far as I've been able to tell, your argument is basically that a
>>>>> nested hierarchical pattern implies common descent in all cases where
>>>>> it is found. This hypothesis does seem to hold true, as far as I can
>>>>> tell, for non-deliberate processes. It seems that non-deliberate
>>>>> processes cannot make a nested hierarchical pattern without the use of
>>>>> common descent. In fact, this particular hypothesis, is actually
>>>>> falsifiable. All one has to do to falsify this hypothesis is show a
>>>>> non-deliberate process producing a nested pattern without using common
>>>>> descent and this hypothesis would be falsified.
>>> Ok. I'll bite. Is alphabetical order a kind of nested heirarchy?
>>> to me that it is. Words beginning with the same letter are in the same
>>> phylum. Words beginning with the same pair of letters are in the
>>> same order. Etc.
>>> Now, if you accept that this is a nested heirarchy, then please
>>>notice that the heirarchy itself is in the mind of the systematizer,
>>> in the process which generates the words - whether deliberate or not.
>>So what you have there is a deliberate process imposing a nested
>>hierarchy on data that aren't inherently hierarchical. What was your
>>purpose in doing that? It doesn't seem to be arguing either for or
>>against anything Sean said.
>Sean's characterisation of "your argument" is sloppy to the point of
>being a strawman. PiP took it at face value.
>For many sets of objects you can define a nested hierarchy (a
>dichotomising or polychotomising key) but restricting your consideration
>to selected data (in PiP's example the spelling, ignoring part of
>speech, word length, syllable count, source language, semantic
>clustering, gender, etc.) Life, as you know, is different in the
>correlation of the hierarchies inferred from different data sets.
>Most people understand this distinction, and we would overlook the
>wording as the intent is clear in the context. When conversing with Sean
>it's probably wise to make the distinction explicit.
It seems to me that any given finite set of data can be
arranged in just about any pre-determined finite pattern.
The interesting thing is when there is an open-endedness
to the data.
Living things are open-ended in two ways: One, that there
are always more things to be considered and discovered
about them, and DNA is one major discovery that fell into
the same tree structure; The other, that there are always
new species being discovered (both living and fossil).
Another way of putting this might be to say that the
"nested hierarchy" of life makes predictions about what
will be discovered about life.
It makes me think of the discovery of the periodic table
of elements. What is interesting about the periodic table
is that it makes predictions of both kinds: About the
properties of the elements which were not used to
determine their position in the table; About elements
not-yet-discovered (as I recall, Mendeleev predicted the
element germanium to fill a gap in the table).
Without this open-ended, predictive power of the pattern,
the pattern seems no more interesting than a mnemonic
"As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand."
attributed to Josh Billings