[Taxacom] Are species real? Doesn't matter.

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Thu May 31 09:50:21 CDT 2007


I think it was R. Pyle who recently posted a note discussing the
possibility that species may not be real things, but are concepts in
taxonomists' minds. I kind of agree with that take, but then I'm an
alpha taxonomist too.
 
Recently I read (Benford in Cosm) that theoretical physicists are
Platonists, working with what they think are real things, while
experimental physicists are Cartesians, worrying that what they see and
infer from measuring devices are actually what physicists think they are
or maybe something else entirely, or maybe two things in a similar
guise, or maybe just an experimental error.
 
I think we have the nominalism/realism divide here in taxonomy, with
alpha taxonomists worrying and arguing over their interpretations,
preferring to always cite alternative concepts, while databasers (e.g.
EoL) deal with what they prefer to consider real things, one of each.
Oh, sure, we are all scientific realists of a sort, but differ in what
we worry about.
 
That's okay. Apparently science in both physics and taxonomy moves on in
spite of different apprehensions on what is really, really out there.
 
 
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