BSC, PSC, etc

Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU
Wed Nov 12 21:21:00 CST 2003

Thomas Lammers wrote:"It has always been my opinion that a big stumbling block in discussions of species concepts is a lack of clarity on what exactly is meant by "definition."

This is a problem area (the definition of "definition"!). E.g., Michael Ghiselin once wrote that "the definition of a name has nothing whatsoever to do with the means for identifying its instances" (or something like that). This extreme view means that your definition may be quite useless and who cares? The so-called "operational" view insists that a definition just clearly provide those very criteria for identifing instances of the term. It seems clear enough that what is needed is a careful double-barreled statement of how we propose to use the term (its "meaning"!)in theory (which is, admittedly, a kind of practice) AND everyday "practical" practice.

Contrary to Thomas, I would say that the criteria for identification are NOT the precise ones we should use in, say, separating two species of maple, but GENERAL ones, which we must then interpret in our practice - and be judged by our peers as to our skill in doing so! 

I might add that I find it puzzling that folk insist on just one kind of species when they don't do that, for instance, for elementary particles.

Don Colless,
Div of Entomology, CSIRO,
GPO Box 1700,
Canberra. 2601.
Email: don.colless at
Tuz li munz est miens envirun 

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