Three competing ‘methods’ have been endorsed for inferring phylogenetic hypotheses: parsimony, likelihood, and Bayesianism. The latter two have been claimed superior because they take into account rates of sequence substitution. Can rates of substitution be justified on its own accord in inferences of explanatory hypotheses? Answering this question requires addressing four issues: (1) the aim of scientific inquiry, (2) the nature of why-questions, (3) explanatory hypotheses as answers to why-questions, and (4) acknowledging that neither parsimony, likelihood, nor Bayesianism are inferential actions leading to explanatory hypotheses. The aim of scientific inquiry is to acquire causal understanding of effects. Observation statements of organismal characters lead to implicit or explicit why-questions. Those questions, conveyed in data matrices, assume the truth of observation statements, which is contrary to subsequently invoking substitution rates within inferences to phylogenetic hypotheses. Inferences of explanatory hypotheses are abductive in form, such that some version of an evolutionary theory(ies) is/are included or implied. If rates of sequence evolution are to be considered, it must be done prior to, rather than within abduction, which requires renaming those putatively-shared nucleotides subject to substitution rates. There are, however, no epistemic grounds for renaming characters to accommodate rates, calling into question the legitimacy of causally accounting for sequence data.
Acta Biotheoretica – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 1, 2021
Keywords: Abductive reasoning; Likelihood; Bayesianism; Phylogenetic inference; Systematics
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