[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Jun 22 09:14:40 CDT 2009

Philosophy can indeed be diverting or sidetracking. I shot a duck from
the air with my bow and arrow. At table, we then discuss what we mean by
duck as we eat the duck. Is the problem of what do we mean by duck
solved by eating it? Probably not. There are doubtless other actual
solutions to what we mean by duck. On the other hand, what we do with
species in our work and what others do with the work is a pretty good
solution to what we mean by species. Immediate-local versus global-long

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
Non-post deliveries to:
Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110

-----Original Message-----
From: Don.Colless at csiro.au [mailto:Don.Colless at csiro.au] 
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 12:02 AM
To: Richard Zander
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

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
"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
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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