[Taxacom] Fwd: Re Funding biodiversity?

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Fri Jan 28 16:07:13 CST 2011

One can change the perception that taxonomy is simply listing species by first convincing yourself that you are not simply listing species. 

You are doing science involving theory of process in nature. What you think of as intuitive pattern-recognition similar to finding your mamma in a crowd is actually heuristics using life-long hard-won genetic algorithms that you can, if you try, communicate to others as the rules-of-thumb you use to successfully recognize new taxa and group the rest. Similarity after all has a huge evolutionary charge, and with just a little discursive reasoning, many ancestor-descendant stem linkages can be theorized. Note I say theorized, which is science.

After alpha-taxonomic efforts, cladistics with morphology can help make a natural (explanatory) key. Then molecular systematics can help show genetic continuity (but not much else since any phenotypic taxon can split molecularly without speciation). And Dollo's Rule can help determine direction of evolution of taxa. I think this is a good framework that avoids mapping everything to a molecular tree. 

One might remember, as a rule of thumb in dealing with modern methods of systematics, that one should not "test" facts of sister-group similarity and the trivial assumption that such is due to unnamed shared ancestors, against theories of descent with modification involving progenitor-descendant relationships. Facts always trump theories when you don't see the gimmick that there is no comparison. But what theories can you make of the facts? Alpha taxonomists can advance theories, and good theories always subsume facts. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * 
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: Sergio Vargas [mailto:sevragorgia at gmail.com] 
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2011 3:08 PM
To: Richard Zander
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Fwd: Re Funding biodiversity?


how can we change the perception that the "Linnean project" simply 
consist of listing species?


On 1/28/11 10:02 PM, Richard Zander wrote:
> The Linnaean project is hypothesis-driven and we have been participants for 250 years.

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