Real Species

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Apr 13 22:11:26 CDT 2004

Having been without any email for several days (our server was down), my
masochistic tendencies are urging me to both change the subject, and seek
clarification on a topic that is near & dear to me (i.e., here we go

Curtis Clark wrote:

> He was taking my speciation course, and because his major professor at the
> time believed that species were artificial, he believed that, too. I
> pointed out in class that the  course title, "Mechanisms of Speciation",
> implied that species were real, since it was a biology department, not a
> fantasy-writing department. Thus, by teaching the course, I was being
> up-front about where I fell on the argument. I presented what I
> saw as both sides of the evidence.

Could I impose on you to make the case for me that species are "real"?  It
would be helpful if you could begin by defining the words "real" and
"artificial" in this case -- perhaps you could give a synopsis of both sides
of the evidence (alluded to above).

Obviously, organisms are "real" to the extent that anything can be thought
of as "real" -- but harking back to our earlier debate on this list (RE:
"discrete"), I'd like to make sure I understand what you (and others) mean
when you distinguish species as "real" entities, as opposed to "artificial"
ones. The more specific question that I'm interested in is whether
boundaries between species actually exist in nature (independent of our
ability to observe them) and it is our job to discover them; or such
boundaries are (artificially) defined by us as a means to allow more
effective communication.

Bracing myself....


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at

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