[Taxacom] consensus and web classification

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Thu Nov 20 07:57:18 CST 2008


This is digging way back into past postings, but I happened to re-read the 2007 discussion below on conflicting classifications and the role of consensus in making a choice. I would suggest that 'consensus' may be illusory because consensus is only among those consulted. Various formulations of phylogeny are a consensus of only those pushing them, so one can still get suppression of alternatives. Such products may not represent a consensus of a discipline, but just whoever is in the majority or whoever is most influential. Such choices are political and ideological by their very nature. They are not science.

Once the new human-orangutan phylogeny is published I will approach major web based presentation of phylogeny and see if they dare not only tell the public that there are two major contradictory phylogenies for humans but also that there is an unresolved contradiction between molecular and morphological similarity. Or will they chose to promote the hegemony of the molecular theorists? I will post the results.

In relation to that, I am writing a chapter on primate classification for "21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook" which will include recognition that there are major incongruities for the relationships of tarsiers with respect to prosimians and anthropoids, cheirogaleids in relation to other Madagascan lemurs and non-Madagascan lorises, and of course humans in relation to chimpanzees and orangutans as exemplars of the unsettled nature of classification - at least in primates.

John Grehan

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of James L. Edwards
> Sent: Friday, May 11, 2007 8:17 AM
> To: jrc at anbg.gov.au
> Cc: 'Richard Zander'; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
> 
> Actually, the Encyclopedia of Life is going to take a similar approach.
> 
> Whenever possible we will use a consensus taxonomy, such as the ones
> promulgated by Species 2000 and ITIS. (Where there isn't a consensus, we
> will work with other groups to try to achieve a consensus.) The consensus
> view will be the one presented to the general public. But we also intend
> to include alternative classifications for those who wish to use them. We
> want the EOL to be a tool for working taxonomists, not just a resource for
> the general public.
> 
> Jim Edwards
> 
> 
> > Richard - you might want to keep your eye on the developing 'Australian
> > Plant Census', built on the Australian Plant Name Index.
> >
> > This is a collaborative project of the Australian botanical community,
> > working through the c. 20k vascular plant species one family at a time,
> > accounting for all names and synonyms, considering and documenting
> > alternative taxonomies, and extracting by consensus a taxonomy
> considered
> > most appropriate to be used at a national level.  The selected view is
> not
> > always the latest, and there is no compulsion on anyone to use this view
> -
> > it is just there as the 'assessed best guess' based on available
> > information, for those who wish to use it.
> >
> > So far, the project has been going very well, there has been very little
> > deadlocking and 'dying in the ditch' and it is possible that the first
> > pass
> > will be completed in a year or so.
> >
> > As a result of this exercise in collaboration we are achieving some
> > convergence of views and understanding across the country and we are a
> > getting a better handle on where the real taxonomic pinch points are
> which
> > will help focus future research.  It turns out that we are not on as
> many
> > different pages as we thought we were - and were we are on different
> pages
> > we are learning where and why we are.  We will soon be able to let you
> > know
> > how much of the taxonomy of the Australian vascular plant flora is
> > currently
> > in dispute - guesstimates have ranged between 5% and 20%.  This will not
> > tell us of course how much it is just plain wrong.  :)
> >
> > We are about to start a project mapping different taxonomic systems to
> > each
> > other.  We are hoping that when this is in place being on different
> pages
> > might not matter quite as much as we thought it did.
> >
> > What we are trying to achieve is 'a' view, rather than 'one' view.
> >
> > jim
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Zander
> > Sent: Friday, 11 May 2007 7:29 AM
> > To: Bjarte.Jordal at bio.uib.no; Frederick W. Schueler
> > Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life
> >
> > There's a major problem with a wiki natural history of Earth. Clearly
> > space should be made for conflicting opinions between specialists. For
> > instance MUST the most recent specialists always trump the older ones;
> > that is, is science ALWAYS built on the work of those who come before
> > and therefore be incrementally better and progressive, or is it
> > sometimes just wrong? How to judge?
> >
> > Or between groups at loggerheads, like Coders versus Phylocoders, like
> > those who follow APG and those who don't, or like you and everyone else?
> > : )
> >
> > At some point, it should be easy to make a choice within EofL of which
> > elements to follow, just as we select certain identification manuals to
> > consult and avoid others.
> >
> > To avoid monolithic structure, the EofL needs to be more than a wiki
> > kind of compilation since that assumes consensus or at least progress
> > toward one truth, while real-life science offers a series of parallel
> > judgments and often clear explanation of how those judgments differ, and
> > results in several models of "what is out there." Or am I being overly
> > postmodern here?
> >
> > ******************************
> > Richard H. Zander
> > Voice: 314-577-0276
> > Missouri Botanical Garden
> > PO Box 299
> > St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
> > richard.zander at mobot.org
> > Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/
> > and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
> > For FedEx and UPS use:
> > Missouri Botanical Garden
> > 4344 Shaw Blvd.
> > St. Louis, MO 63110
> > ******************************
> >> However, once data are in
> >> the
> >> databases and properly curated, these data will be there for
> > ethernity, or
> >> eventually until the specialist revise the species page
> >
> >> Bjarte Jordal (PhD)
> >> Department of Biology
> >> University of Bergen
> >>
> >
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> 
> 
>           - Jim
> 
> Dr. James L. Edwards
> Executive Secretary
> Global Biodiversity Information Facility
> Universitetsparken 15
> DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø
> DENMARK
> 
> Phone:  +45 3532 1470
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> 
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