[Taxacom] Surely the most "up itself" paper ever!!

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Tue Nov 5 16:03:55 CST 2013

Interesting, Stephen. I agree with you. As per p. 29 of my Framework


"Scientific intuition - The "creative act" associated with intuition is
well discussed by Springer and Deutsch (1993: 312), who give examples of
major scientific discoveries associated with hypnogogic semi-dream
states. Such eureka events, however, are cited by them as not
"accidental or purely intuitive discovery." Most are in a scientific
context associated with a long-term problem, with a background "set by
years of rigorous work," often with a latent period in which,
apparently, the unconscious attends to the puzzle.


"Classical taxonomy has been accused of being antique, subjective,
"merely" intuitive, or even instinctual (Hey 2009; Scotland et al. 2003;
Yoon 2009), a product of "authority figures" (Mooi & Gill 2010) invoking
a personal nous. Classical taxonomists are likened to red-daubed
feathered shamans dancing in fitful firelight in smelly, smoky, dank
caves, their only analytic tools being a bull-roarer, some popping
bladders, and the occasional scry from a fresh liver. When a range
extension is published, such a paper is criticized as having no
theoretical framework, no experiment, and no results. In fact, taxonomy
is a 250-year research effort whose communal beginning is attributed to
Linnaeus, and which seeks to document (and explain if possible) the
distinctions, groups, and distributions of the world's plants and
animals. Any little distribution record is a part of this research
context. The project goes back farther than Linnaeus, of course, through
the Greek and Roman naturalists and physicians, straight back to the
dancing shaman. But it is an integral project with a noble end, a
clearly stated basic corrigible scientific method, a receptiveness to
advances in theory and methods, and a proven practical dimension.


"The words intuitive and subjective must not be conflated. Intuition is
a bright idea grounded in thorough familiarity with data and theory,
while subjective means existing only in the mind or illusory. Intuition
is fundamental to hypothesis generation, which is part of an objective
scientific endeavor. Subjective is, by definition, not objective.


"An evolutionary systematist might question phylogeneticists as to their
own intuitive act of choosing cladistic analysis as a method in the
first place. Is it the similarity with a dichotomous key that is
decisive? A dichotomous key is the central feature of classical
taxonomy, and has much manna. Combining transformation series with a
dichotomous key seems attractive at first consideration, yet there is no
reason for evolution to occur in such a pattern. According to principles
of human magical thought, the law of similarity means like causes like,
or, alternatively, appearance equals reality (Rozin & Nemeroff 2002). A
cladogram is clearly a tree, isn't it? The shaman dances for everyone."




Richard H. Zander

Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA  

Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and

Evol. Syst.: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/EvSy/Intro.htm

UPS and FedExpr -  Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis
MO 63110 USA



-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Stephen Thorpe
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 3:46 PM
To: Taxacom; m.costello at auckland.ac.nz
Subject: [Taxacom] Surely the most "up itself" paper ever!!


de Carvalho, M.R. et al. 2013: Does counting species count as taxonomy?
On misrepresenting systematics, yet again. Cladistics, doi:



For once, I find myself siding with Costello, against a bunch of
evidently "scientific snobs", who appear to fail to understand the
difference between taxonomy and systematics, and who openly belittle
taxonomy to a shocking extent!


[Quote]Unintentionally, no doubt, Costello et al. undermine professional
taxonomy in museums, institutes, and universities where serious
collection-based research is undertaken. Far beyond discovering and
naming new species, taxonomy is driven by evolutionary hypotheses that
generate predictive classifications and improve our understanding of
biotic diversity through meticulous systematic revisions and homology
assessments. Conversely, non-specialists may provide species
identifications and generate legitimate new species descriptions, and
thereby placate growing demand, but the business of "alpha-taxonomy",
while critical to capturing the magnitude of life's diversity, is by
itself insufficient to build an information system from which to
comprehend evolution. Surely what is sauce for the goose is sauce for
the gander; would Costello et al. likewise endorse a deprofessionalizing
of ecology simply because amateurs can see that cows eat grass and

 cats eat mice?[unquote]


This is utter crap! Taxonomy is different to systematics, but taxonomy
also *is* serious collection-based research, requiring specialists!
Taxonomy and systematics have distinct goals and methods. The quote
above suggests that *anyone* who does taxonomy without phylogenetic
methods is an unprofessional non-specialist! For God's sake ...


If anything, the reality is that many systematists simply don't do a
very good job at all at the taxonomic part of their enterprise. They
often write shoddy and non Code compliant descriptions which fail to
allow even identification of their taxa. These people may not like
taxonomy, but to belittle what one doesn't like is very dodgy ground
indeed ... 




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