[Taxacom] Organism concepts

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Fri Jun 19 19:22:25 CDT 2009


I don't think that's crazy at all, but it stands well to one side of what naturalists and biologists have been doing for - oh, maybe 5-10 000 years? Certainly ever since Aristotle and Pliny the goal of taxonomy has been to discover the underlying order of living things.

The current view is that there's an order imposed by past evolution and diversification. Traditional taxonomists are flat out documenting the units to be fitted into that evolutionarily ordered system, and the now-traditional systematists are flat out doing the fitting, mainly with molecular tools.

For this intellectual enterprise (read 'science'), the end users would be "mainly" (the quote marks indicate major qualification) biologists and the use-cases would "mainly" be scientific publications and IDs, e.g. putting names on labels or images.

The example of the imported pest use-case you give is a good one, since yes, it would in principle be more efficient to bypass the taxonomic establishment with all its intellectual baggage and just answer the key question. In principle philosophically, that is. For practical reasons, as a quarantine official I want to have an expert human I can ring up and ask "Got a weird-looking plant here stuck to an imported truck. Can you have a look at it for us?"

>From the viewpoint of the quarantine official, the science is irrelevant, but so what?

>From the viewpoint of the expert, this is a great chance to learn something. As an expert, I *enjoy* getting queries on centipedes and millipedes from quarantine officials!
-- 
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html




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