Google for Internet Database of all life,and existing initiatives already doing this

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Tue Mar 21 15:29:19 CST 2006

Thanks, Doug,
for saying what needs to be said.

However, I should point out that things are not as bad as some would think.

For example, as Norm Platnick would point out some taxa / groups are universally recognized and have been for thousands of years. Try his favorite, the spiders, which has remain the same since Aristole. 

So, the real challenge is developing and promoting "pragmatic" classifications for our users and supporters, what they need, and, at the same time, having those classifications map directly to the more detailed and precise ones that the specialist want.

And I believe the best way to do this is to have simple classifications with fewer taxa / groups named for the public (users & supporters) and recognize more groups using intermediate ranks for specialists.

The problem is that scientists get ahead by publishing where the "IMPACT" is the greatest, etc. And journals with high impact factors want papers with splash, that is, "NEW" this or that. Who wants to read that Norm Platnick has verified spiders as a monophyletic and informative group.

So, we get papers on "new" insect orders, like the Mantophasmatodea, and no one seems to care whether it is just a new name for ancient fossil group that was forgotten, etc. Or whether there is over splitting among the orthopteran orders, etc.

Oh, well ... it isn't even Friday yet!

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution
MRC-0169 NHB
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at e-mail  web site

>>> Doug Yanega <dyanega at UCR.EDU> 03/21/06 02:45PM >>>
John Grehan wrote:

>In your reference to "sloppy" classification in Species 2000 are you
>characterizing classifications this way simply because you disagree with
>them, or because they have been empirically shown by specialists to lack
>phylogenetic validity?

I think Ken's comment here is indicative:

>It really needs to be organized from the top down by someone who
>knows what they are doing.

The obvious implication is that Ken knows, and others don't. However,
I point this out not to single out Ken, actually, but to highlight
the general issue using his specific example. That is, taxonomists
themselves will never express a UNANIMOUS agreement on any
classification. Our job, however, is to either supply the remainder
of the scientific and civilian communities with a single
classifiication or LOSE our jobs. The inability to give a clear
answer to any classificatory question we are asked is the major
reason for (1) sociopolitical pressure to relegate taxonomists to
obsolescence, and (2) splinter groups like the PhyloCode crowd.

As much as the "rugged individualists" like Ken might disparage the
idea, we do actually NEED to develop a single classification that
everyone OUTSIDE the taxonomic community can use, and that means a
consensus opinion, even if it isn't unanimous.

Some of us seriously hope to build such a classification, and I hope
many of the folks on this list will support and contribute to such an


Doug Yanega        /Dept. of Entomology         /Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0314
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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