[Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Don.Colless at csiro.au Don.Colless at csiro.au
Tue May 15 01:15:47 CDT 2007

An interesting view of a classification is that it certainly is an hypothesis, with the status of an "inference to the best explanation". This of course always leaves it open to amendment in the interest of utility, information content, etc. - or, as Peter Lipton might suggest, beauty! I don't often find myself in agreement with John, but I share his disquiet when hypotheses quietly morph into "facts".

-----Original Message-----
From:	taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of John Grehan
Sent:	Sun 5/13/2007 9:22 PM
To:	Thomas Lammers
Cc:	taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject:	Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Unfortunately the view of classifications as hypotheses is not widely
understood or recognized in the general science literature. Especially
with molecular similarity classifications become final facts (and there
are plenty of assertions about the 'fact' of our relationship with
chimpanzees). If one could get a true consensus (agreement by everyone)
that would be interesting, but I doubt consensus otherwise exists in
science. Consensus would require myself and supporters of the chimpanzee
theory to agree on what is more likely to be the true phylogeny. That
might be eons away yet.

John Grehan 

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Lammers [mailto:lammers at uwosh.edu] 
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2007 9:21 AM
To: John Grehan
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

----- Original Message -----
From: John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>

> Consensus is a political concept concerning the belief systems of the
> 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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