"Fuzziness" (Continuity and classification)

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Jul 26 13:12:43 CDT 2001

> Tell me again how it is that individual humans are less "fuzzy"
> than species.

Well, I suppose that if you regard the definition of an "individual human"
as the "population" of individual cells (or genes) that might at some point
contribute to the material being of that human at any point during its life,
then your points have merit.

On the other hand, these days we have something over 6 billion individual
humans on the planet at any particular given moment.  We have something on
the order of 1.75 million (+/-) named species on the planet. Despite the
more than 3,000-fold (300,000%) larger number of humans than species, I'd
wager you'll find fewer cases of ambiguities about which individual "humans"
are distinct enough from all other humans on the planet to deserve their own
distinct name (conjoined twins being the primary exceptions), than you would
find cases of ambiguities about which populations of organisms are distinct
enough from all other populations of organisms on the planet to deserve
their own distinct species epithet (the genesis of this conversation was,
after all, in the realm nomenclature).

In that sense, I think that my point that boundaries between individual
humans will always be less ambiguous (="fuzzy") than the boundaries between
what we define to be "species" is valid.


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
"The views expressed are the author's, and not necessarily those of Bishop

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