Real taxa => Ranking

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Wed Sep 29 13:35:13 CDT 2004

> Well, isn't the word "objective" a major problem itself? How about
> substituting the word "useful"? I think Don Colless touched on
> this a moment ago.

"Useful" is the criterion by which traditional taxonomists draw lines
between taxa (and, in my opinion, the way the Linnaean nomenclatural system
should continue to be used).  It is a term that not only accomodates human
subjectivity, but is inherently *defined* in terms of human subjectivity.

"Objective" is a term that is perceived as being more "scientific", and is
what seems to be behind the motivations of modern systematists who enshrine
concepts such as "monophyly" as all-important (stability and subjective
"usefulness" of nomenclature be damned), or who see techniques such as DNA
barcoding as more than just an excellent tool for identification of known
species (which I think it is), but also as an "objective" metric by which
lines between named taxa should be drawn.

It should be evident from the tone of my writing above (not to mention the
volumes of text I have burdened this list with in the past) which
philosophical camp I am in.


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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