standardized taxonomy

JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE josephl at AZTEC.ASU.EDU
Sat Sep 5 05:50:52 CDT 1998


>From:    Peter Rauch <anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU>

>Joe,
>Without getting into what cladists believe (about abolishing things),
>nor about the truth about what are Pandas, wouldn't it be more
>intellectually honest, as well as practical, to just tell those
>concerned with the Panda's welfare (the wildlife manager, the curator,
>the systematist, the gall bladder salesman, etc) that there is some
>serious ambiguity/doubt/question about where the Panda sits, to provide
>those end users with the array of (weighted) alternative theories, and
>allow the end users to be more cautious and informed about how _they_
>decide to use this systematic/taxonomic information to "manage" their
>particular Panda? If _they_ then are confused by this ambiguity, they
>can ask for further help in interpreting the information. That, I think,
>is preferable to the less informative "pick one family and do it now"
>approach. If we believe we do not know for sure where the Panda fits,
>why would we tell the public (the users) anything else?

First, I was using the panda thing just as a semi-hypothetical example,
 and I have heard some cladists proposing the things I suggested,
albeit certainly not all cladists.
  Second, you are completely missing a perfectly simple point. Even
after you have explained that ambiguities exists, and even after you
have given conservationists or laypeople a lengthy explanation of
modern systematic techinques, you are still left with the question
of what room to put the specimen in during the interim until
researchers can resolve the ambiguity. Of course, one can resolve
that problem simply by creating a panda family.
   One must remember that taxonomic hierarchy does not exist in
nature. It is a human construct for human convenience. The decision
was made in the late 19th Century to make taxonomic categories
reflect evolutionary history. I have no quarrel with that at all.
But it remains a human invention to fit human needs.

--
Dr. Joseph E. Laferriere
"Computito ergo sum ...  I link therefore I am."




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