[Taxacom] Serious questions about taxonomy/ontology

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sun Sep 12 12:50:52 CDT 2010


Bob and Stephen:

Pattern recognition as fundamental to classical systematics is okay
among friends, but doesn't quite cut it since it does not have super
powers. By that I mean, suppose you and a phylogeneticist go up to a
Dean or Big Funder, and request funding (or honor, students, or corner
office).

The phylogeneticist presents herself as expert in hidden Markov chain
waddawadda, rbcL and COI evo-devo-cadabra, and causally incrassated
Dirichlet priors, which is commonly funded big-time. 

You explain that you recognize patterns in a skillful manner. Hmmmm . .
. who gets the kudos (or corner office)?

Wouldn't you rather say you use the Shannon information criterion
(information = -log probability) to identify unexpected
feature-combinations as information-rich data? How about using the
geometric mean in dimension analysis as guidance for identifying
outliers that identify possible unique biodiversity? We all do these
things informally, so I am finding out in recent work, but we avoid
examining the actually quite sophisticated bases for what we do so
naturally.

Long ago cladists suggested that classical taxonomists reexamine their
methods. I think that, after 30 years of alpha taxonomic omphaloskepsis,
we are finally examining cladistics and finding its limits, but should
also examine classical systematics and detail its strengths.


* * * * * * * * * * * * 
Richard H. Zander 
Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA 
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:
http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/21EvSy.htm



-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au] 
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2010 6:29 PM
To: Richard Zander
Cc: Stephen Thorpe; TAXACOM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Serious questions about taxonomy/ontology

Hi, Richard.

My wife begs to differ, and as a dutiful husband I (of course) agree.
She says that pattern recognition is a fundamental human skill and is
used and honed in many different trades and professions, not just
taxonomy. I don't myself see how externalising this process and
analysing its rules will make us better taxonomists.

Cheers,
Bob
-- 
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
03 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570




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