generic oversplitting (heart of the problem)

Thu Jul 19 09:32:38 CDT 2001

>>>>From: Robin Leech [mailto:releech at TELUSPLANET.NET]  As for
communication, the communication improves after we have a name for an
organism or cluster or organisms.  Without a name, we can describe organisms
so that others understand what organisms we are talking about, but it takes
time.  A name is a shortcut.<<<<

Hear, hear!  Yes, names (Latin, English, Czech, whatever) have serious
limitations, but we cannot communicate as effectively without them.  Whether
or not there's something intrinsic in the name that reflects its phylogeny,
it is still the "file folder" into which we can file such information for
easy retrieval.  I know the Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) and American
Robin (T. migratorius) are more closely related than they are to the
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) or European Robin (Erithacus
rubecula); know what each looks like; I know an assortment of other things
about them, too.  The names work.

And that's why a numeric sequence (to reflect the phylogenetic "pathway" to
that taxon, as has been suggested by some) cannot adequately replace word
names.  Words have meaning to humans beyond numerical strings--we are able
to understand and remember them far better than a long sequence of 0s and

Robin K Panza                         panzar at
Collection Manager, Section of Birds          ph:  412-622-3255
Carnegie Museum of Natural History       fax: 412-622-8837
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh  PA  15213-4008  USA

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