The Imperial mints of Philip the Arab

This paper is a by-product of research aiming at finding out, whether the methodology of phylogenetic systematics requires an underlying hypothesis of evolution in order to be successful. Many, if not most, systematists believe that cladistic analyses require a general hypothesis of an evolutionary process (e.g. Farris, 1983, Kluge, 2001), but others claim that hierarchical character distributions suffice (e.g. Brower, 2000). These arguments are based on theoretical premises, as they should. The question could be approached from a practical point of view as well, however. Not only living things, but also any set of hierarchically organized items defined by characters could be analysed. Such a study might indicate, whether or not the method used in phylogenetic systematics operates in the proven absence of real ancestor-descendant relationships.

The true phylogenies of living organisms cannot be known as they are always inferred from data, but minting sequences of coins can be known. The results of the coin analyses can be compared with external historical information, which either corroborates or contradicts the outcome. This situation never holds in biology.

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