[Taxacom] [tdwg] Semantic Web: What is a species?

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Jan 26 09:24:19 CST 2009

This is a good balance between scientific realism and total
subjectivity, but then what is the difference between treating something
as real for pragmatic purposes though harboring reservations, and
thinking it is real with no reservations? Feedback from the great Out
There when you are wrong?

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

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 6:55 PM
To: tdwg at lists.tdwg.org; Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] [tdwg] Semantic Web: What is a species?

> How do others think of species?

I do not think that species are any more "real" than subspecies, genera,
families. I believe all of these things are abstract notions
aggregate sets of individual organisms, defined and labelled by humans
in a
way that allows us to communicate with each other with some degree of
efficiency (though certainly not perfect efficiency).

Having said that, I think it is highly practical in many cases to treat
units of "species" as though they were cohesive, singular, "real"
that exist in nature (within a given slice of geologic time)
of human interpretations, because doing so also facilitates
This is particularly true in cases characterized by realtively broad
periods/populations of phenetic and/or genetic stasis, homogeneity and
consistency, punctuated by relatively small periods/populations of
and/or genetic divergence, heterogeneity and spectral forms. I think the
dangers and problems (nomenclatural instability, poorly supported
hypotheses, confusing and conflicting lines of evidence) are most
when people attempt to apply assumptions based on the "reality" of
to cases that are not so characterized. 

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