[Taxacom] Wikipedia classification

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue Jul 7 02:57:47 CDT 2009

Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Roderic Page
Verzonden: di 7-7-2009 9:08

>In my view, the concept Wikipedia is using is its own. Any major
>classification is providing a set of "concepts" (e.g., ITIS, Catalogue 
>of Life, NCBI, etc.). Certainly if you view taxon concepts as defined
>by extension (taxon "a" includes these 10 taxa) this will almost
>always be true (given that no one classification lists all taxa).

Indeed, any major classification is providing a coherent set of 
"concepts", which will be clear by context, if by nothing else. 
Data aggregators will probably not do so, and anyway ITIS, Catalogue  
of Life, NCBI, etc. are following other people's classifications, 
sort of, not their own. Hopefully these are not contradictory within
the dataset. There is some truth in saying that "the concept [the English]
Wikipedia is using is its own", even uniquely so. However, that is 
an overstatement, in that there is no coherency; individual pages use 
the concept of whoever "won", for that particular page. Often it is 
not made explicit what (winning) concept is used and the reader just
has to guess what the contents of the page apply to.
* * *

>I view the goal of documenting all concepts and their 
>interrelationships as a fool's errand. Ultimately, who cares? 
>Most taxonomic concepts are out of date, if not uninterpretable 
>(new taxa are discovered, how do these fit in to an old concept?).

Perhaps, although the more I look at it the more I am struck by 
how limited the variation is and how much continuity there is, at
least for Spermatophytes. Mapping out concepts (not all, but the
major ones) certainly looks very helpful to me.
* * *

>In the modern age I suggest that we should care about synonyms,
>especially at the species level, not because species are biologically 
>"special", but because the binomial system causes large numbers of
>these, resulting in a serious information retrieval problem.

This looks like a complete red herring to me. Synonymy is meaningless, 
unless one is aware of the underlying taxon concepts. Only objective /
nomenclatural synonyms have a firm basis, but even then care is needed
in applying them. A list giving just synonymy is just a guessing game.


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