[Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Dick Jensen rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Sun May 13 08:25:27 CDT 2007

Peter Stevens and Tom Lammers make good points.  In fact, aren't even our best theories, as well as our best working hypotheses, based on consensus?  John Grehan's argument for a Pongo + Homo classification is based on the view that there is a consensus of key characters that support this linkage.  Consensus does play an important role in science.

Dick J

Richard Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

tel: 574-284-4674

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Stevens <peter.stevens at mobot.org>
To: Thomas Lammers <lammers at uwosh.edu>
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Sat, 12 May 2007 11:24:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

There is another aspect of classifications and consensus - which is  
as much social in the broad sense, rather than simply political, OK,  
all phylogenies are hypotheses, and some are better supported than  
others.  However, given extremely strong support for a particular  
phylogeny, perhaps Pongo as sister to Homo as Grehan would like, such  
that we could ALL link arms and walk off into the sunset in mutual  
agreement and admiration, we still have to reach consensus about the  
classification based on the phylogeny, or, with the phylocode, the  
names  that are in general use .  If we don't have this consensus, we  
have Babel. There might be nothing stopping the combination Pongo  

For a consensus f the kind about which I am talking, it isn't about  
science, it is about aspects of the communication of science. I  
realise there are different philosophies of classification, but this  
issue transcends particular philosophies

On May 12, 2007, at 8:20 AM, Thomas Lammers wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
>> Consensus is a political concept concerning the belief systems of  
>> the participants.
>> Sometimes consensus is used in place of "majority". These become very
>> troubling standards to introduce into taxonomy, especially when
>> creationists are regularly accused of being non-scientific. When  
>> there
>> is no single standardized taxonomy the issue of politics is less
>> acute,although it has already emerged with the tree of life.
> Those are indeed valid concerns.
> At the same time, I think it is axiomatic that "classifications are  
> hypotheses."  They are not final answers, they all stand pro  
> tempore.  As such, a hypothesis arrived at via concensus is as  
> useful, pro tem, as any other.  The important thing is to be honest  
> about status.
> Tom Lammers
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