[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Don.Colless at csiro.au Don.Colless at csiro.au
Mon Jun 22 00:01:38 CDT 2009

There is a problem with hypotheses a la Popper; they can't be proved correct, but neither can they be utterly falsified! See any recent philosophy of science treatment of the matter. One difficulty lies in "defining" the term "species". I advise taxonomists not to attempt philosophical technicalities in defense of our art.

Donald H. Colless
CSIRO Div of Entomology
GPO Box 1700
Canberra 2601
don.colless at csiro.au
tuz li munz est miens envirun

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Zander [Richard.Zander at mobot.org]
Sent: 18 June 2009 08:13
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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