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i am trying to respond to this 16. Describe maximum parsimony. As per usual I will start with breaking down the word, so we have some information...

i am trying to respond to this 16. Describe maximum parsimony.

As per usual I will start with breaking down the word, so we have some information about what we are looking at. Using the dictionary definition of Parsimony (n. extreme unwillingness to spend money or use resources) it can be a little confusing at first to see how this can be used in a science field such as biology. Then we apply the first part of the statement "maximum" and we can see that is an extreme resource/money saver. As we analyze it we can see that the goal of Maximum Parsimony, by definition, is use the absolute lowest amount of resources to figure out a problem. In the context of biology, we use Maximum Parsimony in classifying organisms in the most efficient, least number of steps possible by using the Phylogenetic Tree.

The Phylogenetic tree breaks down organisms by the different levels of classification (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and eventually speicies) by using physical charecteristics of organisms. There is a fantastic verision of this tree called the "Discovery Tree" at http://pick18.pick.uga.edu/mp/20m?tree=Life I would recommend checking out if you get the chance.

But why would scientist want to use a more efficient/simplified way, instead or being more accurate?

There is an idea in science/mathematics/economics/literature and many other fields known as Occam's Razor, coined by Fransican friar William of Ockham, which states "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same prediction, the simpler one is the better." (Hiroshi, 1996). We use this thinking when we are observing how organisms are related in a process known as Phylogeny. Phylogeny is a process where you take two current similar organisms and trace their genetics back until you find a common ancestor (Becker, n.d.). It is then important to apply Parsimony in this process because looking back into genetic records can be quite demanding. So, we use physical characteristics and other means in order to infer if species are more likely to be related, so we are not blindly guessing and tracing back genetics (Becker, n.d.). Not only is this more efficient, it will also have a higher success rate.


Becker, A. (n.d.). What Is the Principle of Parsimony in Biology? Retrieved from Seattle Pi: http://education.seattlepi.com/principle-parsimony-biology-3856.html

Hiroshi, S. (1996). What is Occam's Razor. Retrieved from UCR Mathematics: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/occam.html

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