No subject

Les Kaufman lesk at BIO.BU.EDU
Fri Jan 29 11:36:36 CST 1999

The tone of this thread about the world not wanting taxonomists, is
disturbing.  There is ample empirical evidence that taxonomy is not
currently valued as highly as jobs, windfall profits, sexual partners,
spectator sports, or life-saving medicines.  So, let's get over that part.
The world apparently isn't crazy about visionary leaders, saints, or
miracle workers either, at least until they're dead, judging from the track
record.  Within the scientific establishment, funding for taxonomic work is
wholly inadequate, that's also true.  But look at the bright side.  It IS
being paid lip service.  That's a start.  Elements of taxonomy ARE being
taught widely- albeit without leaving many students capable of actually
identifying or describing anything if it doesn't come out of a sequencer.
But that too, is progress.  Shouldn't we make something of the situation
instead of just wringing our hands all the time?
This is not intended to diminish the therapeutic value of this listserve as
a place to vent deep-seated ire that might otherwise be directed in more
destructive ways.

In the meanwhile, don't we need to be documenting earth's living diversity
whether the resources to do this are adequate or not?  If we avoid the
challenge because the money isn't there, then don't we join our adversaries
in foolishness and guilt?  If suddenly placed on an alien world rife with
extaordinary life forms but innocent of NSF, NIH, EPA, or other
funds-disbursing acronyms, what would you do?  Anbody on this list worth
his or her salt would set up camp, see to survival, and commence studies

This from an ecologist-turning taxonomist (of desire as well as necessity),
probably the most discriminated-against of all possible positions to be in
in this debacle.

Les Kaufman
Boston University Marine Program
Department of Biology
Boston University
5 Cummington Street
Boston, MA 02215

e-mail: lesk at
phone: 617-353-5560
fax:   617-353-6340

 Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.
"There is always something new out of Africa."
 - Pliny the Elder

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