Peter Stevens peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG
Fri Mar 24 10:46:55 CST 2006

I wanted to send these a couple of days ago, but pressed the wrong
button - they still seem to be relevant.  And I have added a
paragraph from a Yanega/Delaporte excahnge which  is relevant.


>Hi Karen,
>       Perhaps an independent effort by Google would actually be
>helpful, not only in speeding up the process, but perhaps provide a
>superior product that might force other projects to improve their
>own efforts.
      I would only hope they would take a top-down approach to
classification, something for which many other projects (including
Species 2000) have done a pretty sloppy job. (from Ken)

I don't pretend to know much about things other then seed plants, and
not too much even there, but I would remind you that there are a
number of us in the botanical community who are trying to develop a
consensus classification - phylogeny based, in this case (the
Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification - e.g. see , etc. Textbooks, and now
botanic gardens and herbaria, are adopting it - and if we have a
consensus classification, it will allow us to spend time on things
that really matter, like understanding evolution, producing
phylogenies in areas where we have none, working on species limits,

There are are almost imnnumerable possible classifications whether
phylogeny based or not, and so to spend time arguing which is "best"
is simply a waste of time, so long as you agree about the underlying
principles (Ken, could you please pass on this opportunity to tell us
for the umpteenth time why the Kinman system is best?).  Any
classification/naming system that is in general use will have to be
some sort of consensus system.

At 12:05 PM -0600 3/22/06, pierre deleporte wrote:
>  11:45 21/03/2006 -0800, Doug Yanega wrote :
>>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
>>classification 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.
>Maybe there is a deeper, philosophical reason: no unique, universal
>classification fitting all possible purposes is conceivable.
>Any classification is a convenient human construct, hopefully of
>some use, and of optimal use in the best of cases. The myth of a
>unique-optimal (or worse: self-evident) classification (be it called
>"natural" by any imaginable criterion) is obsolete .

Pierre is of course dead right.  But is consensus impossible?

On another matter, I was corresponding with a colleague in Holland
who takes students on field trips, and he noted that students no
longer wanted to learn common names - they got more info about the
plant in web searches by using the latin name.  Think what you would
uncover if you searched for "Ladies tresses" (Spiranthes), etc., etc.
Of course, there are still interesting possibilities when using the
latin name, as Rod Page mentioned when he introduced his, and I have indeed found  some of these...


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