[Taxacom] Classification of ALL life forms (weblink)

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Thu Apr 22 20:52:05 CDT 2010


Hi Fred,
      Yes, cluttering classifications with highly artificial (created in
the laboratory) organisms could become increasingly problematic.  But to
their credit, NCBI has tended to lump such sequences into a very broad
and totally polyphyletic category called "other" at the Domain level
without pretending that it is a natural grouping in any way.  I think
that is a good approach.  Separate them from the real organisms in a
clearly polyphyletic catch-all grouping.   
       On the other hand, Peter Ward's proposal to raise an artificial
such group (cellular RNA life forms) at the extremely broad Domain level
is not only highly premature, but I predict it will be shown that no
such organisms ever existed in the early history of life, making them
even more artificial and mere humanly-constructed laboratory freaks that
could be not only unuseful, but potentially dangerous.  Remember what
was said in the movie Jurassic Park One---just because we CAN produce
such organisms doesn't mean that we SHOULD.  I can understand the
thinking behind Peter Ward's proposal, but it is probably so artificial
that it will create far more problems than it solves.  Got to look at
the big picture in such cases.     
       Frankly, NASA is under enough funding restrictions these days
without risking any money creating genetic freaks in the name of
science.  Not that there aren't far more wasteful ways to spend U.S.
governmental funds (which it is borrowing from future generations), but
it is better to cut back on that kind of thing than other biological
programs (conservation of living species in particular).  But then
again, neither approaches pouring money down the rat holes of Wall
Street excess and pure greed, but maybe we are finally ready to address
that problem in a meaningful way.  Savings on that front might
eventually result in significant increases in science funding across the
board sometime in the future.  Maybe taxonomic funding can make a
comeback once governments crack down on "corporate welfare" in its many
forms.    
              --------Ken Kinman
---------------------------------------------------------
Frederick W. Schueler wrote:
Kenneth Kinman wrote: 
> Dear All, 
>        Last night I forgot to include a weblink to Peter >Ward's
proposal 
> (it apparently also appears in his 2005 book).     Also, >note that 
> instead of "into the obcells", I meant to type "into the >folded-up 
> obcells".   Anyway, here's the weblink to Ward's proposal:   
> http://abscicon2006.arc.nasa.gov/abstract/id/159.doc 
> >----------------------------------------------------------->- 
* that's very interesting, but I think a more fundamental problem, which
Ward glosses over, is whether Linnean names can apply to wholly
artificial life forms, which result from human a priori cleverness
rather than from historic descent with modification. Do we give a genus
and species name to the watch that we find ticking on the heath? 
fred. 
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