[Taxacom] Mona Lisa Smile

Mary Barkworth Mary at biology.usu.edu
Wed Jul 26 08:22:53 CDT 2006

My message to students is somewhat different from Tom's: Classifications
are for humans (I sometimes add computers). Humans like neat boxes. They
aid us in communication and summarizing our ideas. Plants do what plants
do.  [I am a botanist].  Sometimes what they do frustrates the goals of
humans. That is life.  Yes, I do talk also about principles of
classification and the like, so we get into testing predictions of a
classification, but the bottom line is that classification is by humans
for humans. Sometimes it will be frustrated by biological reality. 


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Thomas G. Lammers
Sent: Wed 7/26/2006 7:07 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Mona Lisa Smile

At 06:13 AM 7/26/2006, pierre deleporte wrote:
>I my view, the worst "divorce from reality" (I would rather say:
>from realism") could well be the lasting belief in the Holy Grail of a
>unique, universal, optimal-for-all-purposes classification.

Of course not, for the simple reason that (as I constantly remind my
students) A Classification Is A Hypothesis.  As such, classifications
constantly being tested, a process that either supports them or fails to
support them.  That's why taxonomy IS science.

That does not mean that we cannot arrive at a classification that
repeated testing and so achieve a modicum of long-term stability and
utility, perhaps to the point where we would call it a "theory."

Tom Lammers
Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at uwosh.edu
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
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