does every individual belong to a species?

barbara ertter ertter at UCJEPS.HERB.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Mar 19 10:34:05 CST 1995

Might as well throw my two-bits into the discussion on binomials:

1) In addition to other problems with uninomials, as eloquently discussed
by others, is the assumption that all individuals can unequivocally  be
matched with a species name, uninomial or binomial.  This is probably
heresy, but, as a specialist on plants that appear to give only lip service
to species concepts, I've become comfortable with the idea that this ain't
necessarily so.  A rose can be a rose can be a rose without necessarily
being a particular species of rose (I've certainly given up on most of the
ones in my garden, anyhow!)  As is, I can still call it Rosa, but what
uninomial would I refer to it by?  Would insisting that it be given one be
elucidation or obfuscation, given the probable reticulate nature of its
ancestry?  Furthermore, is this situation the exception, or more the rule
than our current mindset lets us perceive?

2) Also well established, brains deal best with words, computers with
numbers.  Which should be the tail, which the dog?  My proposal is that we
stick with Linnaean binomial nomenclature, which has overall withstood the
selection pressures of the test of time, with some of the refinements
suggested, for most of our human communicative purposes.  This does not
preclude, however, a new computer coding created that would reside
transparently behind the names in the computer domain, cross-referenced to
and linking together all the nomenclatural (and taxonomic?) synonyms that,
independent of where we go from here, will reamin forever in the pre-2000

3)  Suggested reading:
1. Any book on fuzzy logic

2. "She Unnames Them" , 3 pp. short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, published
in "Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences", which begins "Most of them
accepted namelessness with the perfect indifference with which they had so
long accepted and ignored their names".  Helps keep your sense of
perspective ...

Barbara Ertter
University and Jepson Herbaria
ertter at

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