: Real species and ideology

Ron at Ron at
Wed Apr 21 02:48:19 CDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: Ken Kinman

Subject: Re: Real species and ideology

Barry Roth wrote:
  I agree with proponents of phylogenetic species concepts (e.g., Mishler &
Theriot, 2000; Wheeler & Platnick, 2000) that the least inclusive taxon in
formal taxonomy should be the species, and that where they exist,
well-defined, diagnosable "subspecies" should simply be called species.
To which I repspond:
      I think phylogenetic species concepts are ill-advised.  Calling a
well-defined "subspecies" a species seems somewhat deceptive and less than


I have been blissfully gone for two days in the field and am just opening up
the emails... So I am behind the curve.  While amid the creatures and
vegetation - resisting the urge to get nude and roll in the grass :-) - my
peace was interrupted by my left brain bringing up the term TAXON.   Is a
taxon real?

Re ideology
Nice question as every man made taxonomic rank , one by one, is each a
taxon.   So who has the right to _declare_ one groups of taxa (say
sub-genera) are not "real" and require the rest of us to get in
mental-lock-step?   And by what brilliant logic are, sub-orders,
sub-families, and sub-genera all valid but not sub-species?   IF there are
subs  (plateaus) within one rank (plateau) - there are subs at all ranks -
evolutional plateaus (big and small).  Further, from an evolutional
paradigm, life starts with small (primitive) and works (evolves) its way
out, or up, (to more complex).   In creationism, life starts as big units -
no subs.  So accepting evolution, we are forced to accept perpetual
incrementalism - are we not?   And the increments (plateaus) begin with
primitive units and evolve to more complex group assemblages, regional
populations, and temporal and spatial historical TAXA - sub, upon sub, upon
sub (inc. other possible ranks as super-species, super-family).   "Less than
scientific" indeed.   Aus wus gus is A taxon.  Aus wus wus is A taxon.  Aus
(Bus) wus gus is A taxon.  Ausinae and Ausini - each A taxon.   Of all the
sets that can be called a taxon, the most tangibleone is that which is
closest to the individual one can hold in ones hand at any give place on
earth.  In sexually reproductive organisms, it logically follows that the
regional homogeneous populations are the most "tangible" [=real] entities in
the NOW - and working backwards in time - we recognize the larger
evolutional groups = "higher" taxonomic ranks.

mtDNA as a tool is minimally useful for sub-specific assessment as that
taxon is evolved either too recently or short a distance to "show up".   In
fact, it is a unilaterally worthless tool for even many species.  It is
suited for detecting that evolution that was long long ago - (higher/broader
ranks = old taxa) not current (lower ranks). Some other parts of the genome
may eventually be found useful.  In my view, the unsuitedness of DNA for
detection and thus analysis of most recent evolution (subspeciation) is the
reason why so many today want to get rid of subspecies and come up with so
many "species concepts".   There are more subspecies (and varieties,
strains) in this world than species - thus the clash of living TAXA with the
inability of the DNA tool to detect and phylogenetically plot subspecies.
This is most easily dealt with by just eliminating subspecies - pretending
they are not "real". LUMPING, is the historical word.   I like "dumbing
down" better = oversimplification of, or even elimination of, scientific

Ron Gatrelle

PS   By the way, once someone acknowledges the existence of "such-n-such is
a good subspecies", their argument against "subspecies" is intellectually
dead.   Any admission of any at all - reduces the argument to pure
subjectivity - not science.   Don't bother trying to argue subspecies are
not real and then turn around and recognize even just one - because the
exception proves the rank.  Same goes for species.   If any of us
acknowledge _anything_ as a species, then they are real - by what ever
definition it was accepted.   I conclude then that the argument is not over
"real" but subjective IDEOLOGY. Is so, is not, is so, is not.  I'm right.
No, I am.

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