[Taxacom] Multiple views, singular views, and hopelessness

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Sat Aug 31 06:39:29 CDT 2013

At some level everything is complicated and contested, but to function we have to treat a significant part of the world as uncomplicated and straightforward so that we can deal with just that complexity that interests us. So, part of this discussion seems to be about what "users" need from taxonomy in order to do what they need to do. I suspect (but have no data) that most simply won't care about multiple hypotheses (in the same way I want a weather service to tell me if it will rain, not give me three alternative models and their predictions).

I was struck by Paul's comment "The person who wants a classification of everything, all at once, is actually pretty rare and certainly he won't actually need it: he will only want it (and perhaps only because he cannot have it)."

In one sense I agree. I use maps a lot, for the most part I don't care about a map of the world ("everything"), I just need a local map ("where is that place I want to have lunch at?"). But the infrastructure that enables me to have a local map is itself global: huge amounts of data have been collected, cleaned, munged together, reconciled, aligned with a common coordinate system, and made available, of which I see a tiny fraction of that on my iPhone. The question is local, the tool that gives me the answer is global.



Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

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