standardized databases

JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE josephl at AZTEC.ASU.EDU
Fri Sep 4 08:25:42 CDT 1998


> I'd suggest that they [Practicing
> conservationists]   be given the _best_ sort of information possible --the information
>that is going to permit them to make the most informed decisions about
>their task at hand. Where can one reliably obtain that kind of
>information?

Granted. I never suggested they should consult ouiji boards or tarot cards to determine
relationships. I said just the opposite, that they should base their taxonomy on the best
scientific information available, and that beaurocracy should bow to science. All I said was
that they do need a system.

>> [from Joe L] Given the environmental nightmare happening on
>> this planet at the present moment, they cannot afford to sit and
>> wait several decades until this "exciting time in taxomomy" is over
>> and formal biological classification calms down and stabilizes again.

>[Peter Rauch again] I don't think waiting is what anyone is suggesting --neither the ITIS
>folks nor others who may want to take an alternative approach to
providing "names".  The issue is simply --do we want to assure that
>"full disclosure", to the extent needed to make "right decisions", is
>supported in our name/relations-dealing (names/classifications servers?)
>infrastructure? Or, if the infrastructure is fallible, then do we want
>to understand fully where and when and to what degree it can be
>fallible?

Sorry, but I read the above paragraph four times and still don't understand it. My
point is this: Statements I've heard from some cladists to the effect that we should abolish
the concept of species or abolish the concept of family would confuse  non-systematists to
no end.  To them, the statement "Pandas are bears" is fine. The statement "Pandas are in the
raccoon family" is fine. The statement "Pandas are in the raccoon family but with some
similarity to bears" is fine. The statement that "According to our bootstrap analysis, pandas
have a 60% possibility of being in the raccoon clade if morphological characters are used,
but only a 40% likelihood if DNA characters are used" will confuse the bejesus out of
them. They need to pick one family and they need to do it now. If evidence shows five years
from now that the choice was wrong, then the WWF can move the panda info out of the
raccoon portion of the database into the bear portion, and museum curators can lug the
panda specimens out of the raccoon portion of the museum and move them down the hall to
the bear department. But they cannot leave the panda data dangling in space without
picking a folder to put it in or leave the specimens sitting in the hallway.

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




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