[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Maarten Christenhusz m.christenhusz at nhm.ac.uk
Wed Jun 17 18:52:54 CDT 2009

Dear Peter,

Of course all species descriptions are a hypothesis. And the names are based on a type specimen, which is what the author meant by that name. This is pure nomenclature and is a tool that is used, just like I present these primers to amplify this piece of DNA (and these are always properly cited). This is the nomenclature part of taxonomy and is the link of biology between law and literature.

Taxonomy is of course pear reviewed. floras are based on specimens which are always cited and the description is a hypothesis, and is constantly tested by everyone that uses the flora of fauna. All publications are peer reviewed, because the specimens are cited and description can be checked with these if the are correct. This is testing of the hypothesis!

You clearly have to inform yourself better about what taxonomy does.

Hope you understand my point and I think the problem is that there is too little communication between taxonomists and other biological sciences (even though all biological sciences directly use taxonomy to base their hypotheses on!) So they take an hypothesis from taxonomy for granted. Quite interesting don't you think?
Lets open the dialogue.

Best wishes,

Dr Maarten Christenhusz
Flora Mesoamericana project

Department of Botany
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD
United Kingdom

tel: [44] (0) 207 942 5108

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Zander [mailto:Richard.Zander at mobot.org]
Sent: Wed 6/17/2009 23:13
To: Peter DeVries; Maarten Christenhusz
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy
Interesting point, Peter. Right now description of a new species is more like:
"Here is a description of a new species which is REALLY OBVIOUSLY something different if you were me, studying this group for years."
The observation "they all look alike to me" is familiar and sort of true when you view someone else's group of expertise, but not for your own. The idea that there are more than a hundred different beetles, for instance, is ridiculous.
I think hypotheses of species needn't be proved (nothing is proved in science) but can be supported and the alternative falsified and so on. The key feature is that the hypothesis is useful to mankind (I mean personkind) and can be demonstrated so. 
Also, we are engaged in a 250-year research project started by Linnaeus to describe, name and catalogue the world's biota. Maybe one does not have to demonstrate the validity of one's new species immediately, but leave that for revisionists and the like. Taxononmy is, like MSWindows and Office, all one program.
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Peter DeVries
Sent: Wed 6/17/2009 4:01 PM
To: Maarten Christenhusz
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Here are two issues that relate to your note:
1) Many believe science is about making a hypothesis and testing it. It
might help if species descriptions address this.

   Something like:

 "I hypothesize that there is a separate species represented by these
specimens and having these characteristics"

-- then support this hypothesis with data

   Proving something is a species might be a little difficult, but you get
the idea

2) Under the current way of doing things, it seems almost impossible that a
species description or revision can be adequately peer reviewed or

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