taxonomy's future

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 2 10:23:25 CDT 1998

     Although I understand some of the reservations being expressed, I
think taxonomic standards are both feasible and desirable.  As a
co-editor of the 1982 reference book, Mammals Species of the World, I
believe what is being proposed (if thoughtfully done) would be as
beneficial to general taxonomy as I believe our book was for mammalian
     As for "decoupling" nomenclature and taxonomy, I proposed a partial
decoupling of this sort in my 1994 reference book, "The Kinman System:
Toward A Stable Cladisto-Eclectic Classification of Organisms (Living
and Extinct; 48 Phyla, 269 Classes, 1,719 Orders)".  However, this
decoupling is maintained in a single classification system, and it is
done in a way that stabilizes taxa (of the mandatory Linnaean catgories
of Phylum, Class, etc.) at the same time that it allows a fluidity in
how these taxa are shown to be interrelated.  Until such a system is
widely adopted, the 30-year-war between the strict cladists and the
eclecticists will continue to generate confusion and instability.
     A taxonomy standard will be very helpful if done well.  I just hope
the higher classification will be a conservative 5-Kingdom
classification of organisms.  The temptation to jump on Carl Woese's
bandwagon and switch to Three Domains (which are basically a warmed-over
version of his discredited Three Urkingdoms) should be resisted.
Classification provides a framework for our taxonomic thinking (and the
three domain system has severely distorted eubacterial phylogenies in
particular).  There are clearly three "domains" of rRNA, but a three
domain classification of life was a terrible mistake.  A three domain
framework for Cosmogenre Geobiota (life on earth) has thrown
bacteriology into confusion that is only now beginning to manifest
      Ernst Mayr's just-published article, "Two empires or three?" in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (75:9720-9723) is a
must-read for anyone interested in this problem.  However, although he
incorporated some of my suggestions into his manuscript, it is a fairly
mild treatment of the subject,  and if you want to know more about the
real nitty gritty of the problem, see my homepage at:
                                 Sincerely, Kenneth E. Kinman

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