standardized databases

Peter Rauch anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Sep 4 09:32:09 CDT 1998

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?

On Fri, 4 Sep 1998, JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE wrote:
> .. 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.

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