[Taxacom] Reproducibility of descriptive data
s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Sep 9 17:09:54 CDT 2009
>There are three things: a species entity, a species concept and species name
Absolutely! Couldn't agree more! Yes!
>The type does not define the species (which are in nearly every case variable). It is an exemplar (not always 'typical' in the English sense) which anchors the name
Agree wholeheartedly about species being variable and types often at the thin end of the variation curve. But, I think you have just contradicted yourself, because "anchors the name" = "defines the species"!
>And we give a name to this human concept
No, we don't name the species concept! We name the species entity! Examplus primus names a species entity, not a species concept!
What is the definition of definition? And I'm not trying to be a smart ass here!
Definitions are stipulative, i.e., they are "true by definition", e.g. the type of Examplus primus belongs to the species Examplus primus by definition!
Species concepts/descriptions are not definitions, but hypothesised circumscriptions of the variation within a species, i.e, hypothesised circumscriptions of the species boundaries
It is different for genera, because you do just set generic boundaries, and there is no fact of the matter
If Linnaeus had of defined the genus Homo to include chimps (and better throw in Gorilla and Pongo just to ensure monophyly), this would have been a perfectly fine alternative concept. But if ol' Carolus had included the chimps as the same species as good ol' H. sapiens, he would have made a big mistake! But if species concepts define species, then he would simply have been correct according to his species concept, which would differ from the concept we have of H. sapiens, but it would be a purely subjective disagreement!
Species are like Australia, genera are like U.S.A. ...
From: Jim Croft [jim.croft at gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, 10 September 2009 9:46 a.m.
To: Stephen Thorpe
Cc: Mike Dallwitz; TAXACOM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Reproducibility of descriptive data
Don't buy this. At all. And I do not think the codes do either. Nor
many/most taxonomists. The type does not define the species (which
are in nearly every case variable). It is an exemplar (not always
'typical' in the English sense) which anchors the name. The extreme
example of this are species that have multiple synonymic types. In a
type-defined species, concepts of lumping and splitting have no
meaning - yet we all do it.
Have a chat to Pete deVries. He would argue that a species knows what
a species is and does not care what we call it or think it is. Humans
develop a concept of what we think it is, sometimes (maybe even often)
a reasonably good approximation of what a species knows it is. And we
give a name to this human concept a name.
There are three things: a species entity, a species concept and
species name. The first is defined by biology and evolution, the
second by humans, and the third is defined by the code and selected by
The problem we have, and why taxacom exists at all, is someone utters
the third, a listener assumes the first, without considering the
second, of which there are often several alternatives.
On Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 7:03 AM, Stephen Thorpe<s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz> wrote:
> [Mike Dallwitz wrote] _Whatever_ we want to say about a taxon (e.g. what its boundaries, distribution, abundance, or uses are), we need to define the
> taxon that we want to talk about. And the only way to do that is to describe it in a reproducible way, so that people can identify individuals as belonging or not belonging to the taxon
> [reply] Species are defined by their name-bearing types (holotypes or lectotypes or neotypes or syntypes). A description of a species is a circumscription of its boundaries, according to the describer. So, we don't describe a taxon in order to define it so that we can then talk about boundaries. Rather, by describing it, we ARE talking about its boundaries, but the species is defined by its type.
>>describe it in a reproducible way, so that people can identify individuals as belonging or not belonging to the taxon
> No, describing it in a reproducible way only allows people to identify individuals as being within or else outside the boundaries of the species as circumscribed in the description. These boundaries could be wrong, so the description is certainly not a DEFINITION of the species (definitions are true by definition and cannot be wrong!)
> What you say applies more to genera and other "subjective" taxa, but not to species, which are objectively defined once a type is designated...
Jim Croft ~ jim.croft at gmail.com ~ +61-2-62509499 ~
... in pursuit of the meaning of leaf ...
... 'All is leaf' ('Alles ist Blatt') - Goethe
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