Are species real?

Pekka T. Lehtinen pekleh at UTU.FI
Fri Apr 14 18:01:34 CDT 2006

Richard Pyle wrote:

>I understand the relevance of Systems Theory to biology and biological
>systematics.  But I don't see how the application of such will help us
>address the question of "reality" of taxa (at least in the context of how I
>perceive the "reality of taxa" debate). Could you explain how you think it
>(a Systems Theory approach) would help us discern whether species (and other
>taxa) are "real" (=natural) entities, as opposed to human-defined
>If you're thinking in terms of understanding the dynamics of gene flow
>within and among populations over time, I wonder how practical that approach
>would be for the vast majority of biodiversity.
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On
>>Behalf Of Jan Metlevski
>>Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 7:53 AM
>>Subject: Re: Are species real?
>>People, the General Systems Theory could help to understand about
>>reality of
>>species as well as taxa of any other level.  It is just amazing
>>that many biologists,
>>and systematist as well, still even don't know what the Systems
>>Theory is about.
Dear all,
       I have been following the long debate about the "reality" of
species and other taxonomic
concepts. Now I was discussing this problem with my son, who happens to
He advised me to give everybody  the following information:
- The book: Suppe, Frederick (1989): "The semantic conception of
theories and scientific realism." Urbana, Ill., University of Illinois
Press, is recommended to everyone interested in this kind of
philosophic problems in biology.
- Dr. Michael Devitt <mdevitt at> is at the moment visiting the
Department of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, where my son is
working and where Dr. Devitt  is presenting  a lecture "Resurrecting
biological essentialism".
    Anyone interested to discuss this problem  ("are species real ?") is
advised to contact him directly to get a philosopher´s opinion about
this obviously difficult problem.

    Pekka T. Lehtinen, a taxonomist, but also interested about
limitations of the concept of species

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