Citation: Sandvik, H. (2009) Anthropocentricisms in cladograms. Biology and Philosophy, 24, 425–440.
Key words: Anthropocentricism, anthropocentrism, cladogram, evolutionary tree, phylogeny, tree balance.
Abstract: Both written and graphic accounts of history can be biased by the perspective of the historian. O’Hara (1992, Biol. Philos. 7: 135) has demonstrated that this also applies to evolutionary history and its historians, and identified four narrative devices that introduce anthropocentricisms into accounts of phylogeny. In the current paper, I identify a fifth such narrative device, viz. the left–right ordering of the taxa at the tips of cladograms. I define two measures that make it possible to quantify the degree of anthropocentricism of cladograms, the human attention score and human rightness score. I then carry out an analysis of the presence of the different distorting mechanisms in phylogenetic textbooks. I deliberately chose two textbooks that adopted a cladistic perspective, since their authors can be assumed to be more conscious about the aim of avoiding anthropocentricisms. Three of the narrative devices are thus absent from cladistic works. However, there is a weak tendency that the resolution of cladogram branches is biased in favour of Homo sapiens. Furthermore, the human perspective is clear and highly significant in the positioning of taxa along the left–right axis of cladograms. I discuss the reasons for and implications of these biased presentations.
Full text: © 2008 Hanno Sandvik. If you accept (i) the conditions specified in the Springer Open Choice Licence, and (ii) that printouts have to be made on recycled paper, you may download the article here (pdf, 0.3 MB).
Related publications: The article referred to in the article as "H. Sandvik, unpublished manuscript", is now published.