[Taxacom] double-peaked mountains

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Dec 1 00:56:24 CST 2013

What a peculiar rant! :)
I think you will find that science isn't about "scrutiny" as such, and taxonomy can cope fine and dandy with a vague notion of "individual", or else taxonomists would also have to be quantum physicists!
Granted the notion of "individual" is better defined for animals than for plants, but I don't see any problem, but then, one can't see problems!! :)

From: Curtis Clark <lists at curtisclark.org>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Sunday, 1 December 2013 7:36 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] double-peaked mountains

On 2013-11-30 5:40 PM, Richard Pyle wrote:
> Photons (or light waves, if you prefer) reflect off matter and strike my retina.  I "see" an organism because an organism exists as matter that reflects light.  Of course that organism changes over the course of its life (I have made this same point many times whenever this same old issue comes up again). But when I saw it, I saw it as the collection of atoms that it was when the light hit my retina.
> I don't understand how anyone can make the same case for taxa -- at any rank.

Responding to both Stephen (who should know better, having a background 
in metaphysics if not indeed in shipbuilding) and Rich.

As part of a famous quote, Darwin used the phrase "...which, from its 
familiarity, does not always sufficiently strike us...". In his specific 
case, he was referring to the taxonomic hierarchy, but I find the 
statement generally useful in the study of biology--we often falsely 
assume that familiarity equals understanding.

Senses can lie. Preconceptions can mislead. I can see a mountain, and 
even attempt or succeed to climb it. I can't see the clone for the 
trees. I've never seen a virus. I knew a blind man who never saw an 
elephant. I've never seen a photon, nor an atom, but I have seen a 
retina. I take pleasure in looking at optical illusions. I've seen a mirage.

All of this is immaterial. One either applies the same level of 
scientific scrutiny to "individual" as one applies to "mountain" or 
"photon", or else one leaves the world of inference and enters the world 
of belief. There's nothing wrong with belief (I, for one, do it all the 
time), but it's not science, and can never successfully masquerade as 
science, no matter how many hands are waved. 

Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
Biological Sciences                  +1 909 869 4140
Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768

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