Parsimony is popular among geneticists, unpopular among paleoanthropologists


Allan Krill
 

The parsimony principle is basic to all science and tells us to choose the simplest scientific explanation that fits the evidence. In terms of tree-building, that means that, all other things being equal, the best hypothesis is the one that requires the fewest evolutionary changes.

https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/phylogenetics_08

It seems to me that paleoanthropologists do not prioritize parsimony, because complicated models help them to publish more scientific papers based on their paltry fossil evidence. They are trying to make complicated stories from minimal evidence. Their evidence is irreproducible and untestable by impartial scientists. Geneticists are looking for parsimony, because their evidence is so vast. They are trying to make simple stories, from a huge amount of evidence. Their models are mathematical and can be recalculated. If their models are not parsimonious, competitors will produce better, more parsimonious models. 

Here is a paper from 2013 that I just came across a few days ago, by Prado-Martinez et al. Great ape genetic diversity and population history https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12228

A parsimonious explanation is that orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees evolved and speciated just where we find them today (my additions to the chart in red). A parsimonious model is that humans are simply another species of Pan, that evolved within the same range as the modern chimpanzees, before humans began to make tools, weapons, clothes, and shoes, and wander into other ranges and habitats. As humans wandered beyond their site of speciation, they left some fossils in various places, but those fossils do not indicate where they actually evolved. 

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