[Taxacom] Clade age
rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Mon Nov 14 14:35:13 CST 2011
> I only used science as an example, but you are, of course, right: it
> is a human construct and requires a definition.
> I disagree with the idea that species names are merely diagnoses.
> Species names are connotative, just as Linnaeus suggested. And, as I
> argued in my paper in Cladistics, species names are not proper names,
> as the latter are commonly defined. Species are natural constructs
> and can be defined by possession of certain properties, whether these
> be phenotypic traits or evolutionary origins. Just as "triangle" is a
> shorthand expression for a two-dimensional construct defined by a
> given set of attributes, "Homo sapiens" is a shorthand expression for
> a natural entity defined by a given set of attributes.
> On 11/14/2011 1:03 PM, Curtis Clark wrote:
>> On 11/14/2011 8:40 AM, Richard Jensen wrote:
>>> Unfortunately, the one thing you and John agree on is a mistake.
>>> Definitions do matter. They are essential for understandable
>>> communication. If you are allowed to define "science" by your
>>> and I am allowed to define it by a different set of properties, then
>>> can we ever communicate effectively?
>> Science is a human construct, and of course needs to be defined for
>> effective discourse.
>> Many of us consider "carbon" to be a natural entity that exists
>> independent of human perception. We could define it as all atoms with
>> six protons, and as a "working definition", that's fine, but it's
>> really a diagnosis, a summarization of a consistent observation.
>> Many of us consider "species" to be natural groupings of organisms
>> that exist independent of human perception. It has been a while since
>> scientists tried to define individual species (Linnaeus was one of
>> the last famous examples), but people still try to define the
>> "species concept". It seems to me a diagnosis is again the best
>> approach: what are the commonalities of the entities we call species?
>> Any single species "definition" will invariably leave out an entity
>> that some group of competent biologists calls a species. And by
>> defining "species", we end up knowing only what we know about it,
>> without an easy route to learning more.
>>> John has made this argument before and it appears to be part of the
>>> problem in communicating with him. His definitions often are quite
>>> different from those that many (most!) of us use and that only
>>> serves to
>>> create confusion and a lot of unnecessary exchanges on Taxacom.
>> John plays fast and loose with definitions of human constructs. I
>> agree that this impedes communication, and I have called him out on
>> it. But to me this is quite different from defining or refusing to
>> define observed entities in nature.
Curtis Clark http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Professor, Biological Sciences +1 909 979 6371
Richard J. Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556
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