Reclassifying Viruses as Living?
deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Mar 16 08:12:50 CST 2006
Dick beat me to the punch. I'm not sure if I would be better placed in the
"systematist" box or the "taxonomist" box, but whichever I am, I don't think
in terms of natural vs. artificial taxa. Ultimately, they are all
artificial, because they are all boxes. And I believe that all boxes are
ultimately artificial (except, perhaps, at sub-atomic scales). Of course,
there is variation among boxes as to the "fuzziness" of their walls --
meaning the extent to which certain properties consistently apply in most of
the cases, most of the time.
But that doesn't mean that creating artificial boxes is a bad thing. The
point of my original respose to Gordon is that we need these boxes to
effectively communicate with each other. It's why Linnaeus' system of
nomenclature beat out the prior system of describing groups of organisms
with a long series of adjectives. Language is pretty severely crippled as a
tool without nouns. The danger, I think, comes when we fall into the trap
of seeing these boxes as "real" ("natural") -- which I believe was Gordon's
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On
> Behalf Of John Grehan
> Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 4:43 AM
> To: TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU
> Subject: Re: Reclassifying Viruses as Living?
> And I will duck. I have no universal recipe for natural vs non natural.
> But systematists don't let that stop them from arguing natural vs
> artificial taxa. In biogeography it is popular to draw geographic areas
> and call them natural. In once sense they are, since they exist with
> respect to whatever criterion one uses, but in another they are
> artifacts of current patterns rather than any uniquely shared origin.
> Others might argue otherwise I expect.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU] On
> > Behalf Of Richard Jensen
> > Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 9:26 AM
> > To: TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU
> > Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] Reclassifying Viruses as Living?
> > OK, I'll bite - how do we determine whether a box is natural as
> opposed to
> > artificial?
> > Dick J
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: John Grehan <jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG>
> > Date: Thursday, March 16, 2006 8:14 am
> > Subject: Re: Reclassifying Viruses as Living?
> > > > But....if we didn't classify things into boxes to which we apply
> > > labels,
> > > > what would we talk about?
> > > >
> > > > Aloha,
> > > > Rich
> > >
> > > Maybe we would talk about non-boxes. Biogeography, for example, is
> > > rifewith schemes to put geographic boxes around life. Croizat
> > > showed that it
> > > was possible to do biogeography without the boxes, and that approach
> > > sure generated a lot of talk (or non-talk for those who chose
> > > suppression). Perhaps it is a matter of whether the boxes or
> > > boundariesare "natural" or artificial.
> > >
> > > John
> > >
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