Fish People

Since the opportunities for XS to agree (in advance) with PZ Myers don’t come along too regularly, it’s worth seizing upon those that do. For anyone who thinks cladistics are important, this point is worth strongly defending:

There are multiple meanings of “fish”. We can use it to refer to specific species or an extant category of animals: salmon are fish, halibut are fish, herring are fish. No one objects to that, and they all understand that if I said “humans are still salmon”, that would be wrong. […] But another way the term is used is as a descriptor for a clade. A taxonomic clade is a “grouping that includes a common ancestor and all the descendants (living and extinct) of that ancestor”. […] So, for instance, humans belong to the mammalian clade, which includes mice and cats and cows. If we have transhuman, part-cyborg descendants, they will still be mammals, because, note, by definition a clade must include all the descendants of an ancestor. We’re trapped! There’s no way our progeny can exit the clade!

In fact, it’s such a sound point, it’s worth generalizing.

July 6, 2016admin 17 Comments »


17 Responses to this entry

  • Brett Stevens Says:

    A taxonomic clade is a “grouping that includes a common ancestor and all the descendants (living and extinct) of that ancestor”.

    Almost as if it were an organism, or organism-like, in itself.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 3:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • S.C. Hickman Says:

    Descendants of Dagon arise:


    S.C. Hickman Reply:

    Also a SF novel, Clade:

    In Clade, where civilization recovers from a eco-disaster at the expense of their previous freedoms. “Polycorps” develop from governments and corporations. The wonders of biotech introduce a new class system where human beings have been socially engineered at the molecular level through a process called “clading.” This “clading” process places entire socioeconomic or ethnic groups made to be biologically predisposed to live in particular communities. If a person enters a community that they have not been claded to, the consequences could be devastating, resulting in sickness or death.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 4:05 pm Reply | Quote
  • S.C. Hickman Says:

    Then suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to the surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds. I think I went mad then.

    Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist, and amused him with peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine legend of Dagon, the Fish-God; but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly conventional, I did not press my inquiries.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 4:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    I like to say a human is a spectacularly bad copy of a prokaryote.

    That said, definitions.

    Sure you can define a clade like that if you want. But is it useful? Does calling trans-humans mammals actually tell you anything about transhumans, or does it empty the term ‘mammal’ of meaning?

    It’s better to define in reverse. If I want to talk about a particular meaning of ‘clade’ then I define ‘clade’ to have that meaning. However, I then must investigate whether transhumans are still in the human clade, because I decide actions, not their consequences, so it’s not up to me.

    I want clades to be useful, therefore every member of a clade must share some trait. This works out with hierarchy. Humans are not fish. Humans are archeo-fish, and fish are also archeo-fish. As time passes archeo-fish share fewer and fewer traits, but necessarily new clades, with relevant information, are born. Total description is conserved, at least relative to the amount to describe.

    However, clades tell you nothing about horizontal transmission. Mechanical implants are horizontal, and should be orthogonal to the clade system. As for genetic engineering, our genes will decide how we tinker with our genes, but ‘humans’ and ‘transhumans’ will be related like archeo-fish to fish.


    wu-wei Reply:

    It’s better to define in reverse. If I want to talk about a particular meaning of ‘clade’ then I define ‘clade’ to have that meaning.
    I want clades to be useful, therefore every member of a clade must share some trait.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, this ultimately reduces the concept of cladal analysis to that of taxidermy, no?

    >However, clades tell you nothing about horizontal transmission.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say nothing, but I see your reasoning, and the point you are making rings true. Clades are ultimately meaningful because they provide a (very) reasonable approximation for what one would expect to find from a Fixation Index through comparing alleles. Of course, as non-genetic transumanism (mechanical implants, cybernetics, etc.) becomes more prevalent in the future, the utility of the entire concept will become increasingly questionable.

    Along that line of reasoning, using the cladal metaphor within the context of human culture, perhaps we need some sort of Fixation Index which can be applied to those cultural differences. I have no idea what such a non-allele derived Fixation Index would possibly operate on, but perhaps using language structures would be a good start? Or maybe I just have rocks in my head for considering such things.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 5:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Fish Folkes – NEU ROMAN X Says:

    […] Posted on July 6, 2016 by geirón reproduced here en whole, «Fish People»: […]

    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 6:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Apatheos Says:

    Cladistics seems useful for understanding space-time cognition, particularly in modeling animals. Phylogenetic inferences seem to depend on sets of clades, for more complete comparative analyses.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 8:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Apatheos Says:


    Apatheos Reply:

    Link to study of shared, variable traits. Says great ape clade prefers allocentric to egocentric spatial relationship processing. Inheritance isn’t invariant… but there’s causal invariance and then there’s computational invariance.


    Posted on July 6th, 2016 at 8:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • michael Says:

    like I said its monkey business all the way up to your octopus faced AIs


    Gothic Axial Acceleration Reply:


    as it says in The Thirty-Six Lessons:

    ‘All language is based on meat. Do not let the sophists fool you.’


    Posted on July 7th, 2016 at 4:54 am Reply | Quote
  • Chuck Says:

    Try again. Clades are monophyletic groups by definition — one ancestral group and all its descendants. A taxon of polyphyletic origin would be something else.


    Chuck Reply:

    …so if you procreate with a cylon your descendants will fall outside of cladistic nomenclature — they’ll be weird, phylogenetically. Synthetic biology would offer a parallel exit. And while they don’t escape their clade, progeny within a species, falling in the tokogenic sphere, nonetheless, elude cladistic analysis. Of course, ideas — presumably the topic of discussion — allow for extensive reticulation and hybridization — syncretism. They fit pedigrees better than cladograms — which are at odds with reticulation. To the extent some meme-lineages can be analyzed cladistically, they will look rather cloudy, more like networks than branching-trees.

    I don’t think that ‘no exit ‘ is the problem for NRx — were it, entryism would not be a concern.


    Posted on July 7th, 2016 at 5:15 am Reply | Quote
  • Rogue Planet Says:

    Taxonomic classifications derived from and conceptually dependent upon human perceptions and cognitions deployed as a scheme generalized to the inhuman? It’s just crazy enough to work. Or at least inflame the timid, and isn’t that really the same thing at this point?


    Posted on July 7th, 2016 at 7:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Quint Essential Says:

    Cladistically, humans are tailed things.

    Vestigial nubs notwithstanding.

    That being said, the joke does show cladistic classification’s usefulness. Often the differences between the ancestor and descendant are as interesting as the similarities.


    Posted on July 7th, 2016 at 10:19 am Reply | Quote
  • Henk Says:

    1/10th-scale version of a ray fish with a microfabricated gold skeleton and a rubber body powered by rat heart muscle cells


    Posted on July 8th, 2016 at 8:03 am Reply | Quote

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