[Taxacom] Intuition in taxonomy

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Mar 2 12:30:14 CST 2009

Maybe we need to distinguish between guidance from theory and a priori guidelines. Guidance from theory means that there is a best grouping, one that maximizes what we know or infer about a taxon's evolution, relation with a habitat, biogeography over time, etc. IMO, anyway. 

A priori, on the other hand, can mean or imply set ideas, essentialism, typology, which I agree are non-rigorous and should be identified and something better substituted if possible. But "something better" is not necessarily a solution provided by a method that provides more detail at least in part through empty accuracy. Although parsimony is a wonderful non-ultrametric clustering method incorporating a simple model of evolution, and the results often match in general with molecular analyses, linkage in evolutionary selection between 2 or more traits means that details of parsimony analysis are far from assured.

Richard H. Zander 
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-----Original Message-----
From: SKÁLA Zdeněk [mailto:skala at incoma.cz] 
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009 10:09 AM
To: Richard Zander; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Intuition in taxonomy

Well, your colleague perhaps had in mind that any grouping of "individuals" into "sets" involve a level of voluntary decision. This is due to the obvious truth that any universe of individual things can be internally grouped by (many) different ways and that there is no a-priori rule that would make one grouping superior to others. In this sense, "classification" is not fully scientific task. This is coming more subtle when coming to species-concept issues but the everyday experience is that there are still different species concepts leading to different taxonomies (without any convincing trend to agreement, IMHO, at least in some fields).


Zdenek Skala

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