[Taxacom] Wilkins on species, again

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu Nov 28 02:03:39 CST 2013

Kirk Fitzhugh wrote:

"The more relevant question is, what are taxa? Assuming species are taxa. Wilkins treats species as if they're things to be explained. All I've perceived during my career have been organisms/semaphoronts. Never species or taxa."

Unless the only thing you've ever perceived is a blooming, buzzing confusion of sensory data, the default categoriser you were born with has allowed you to perceive 'chair', 'table', 'tree' and the other favourites of philosophers. Wilkins and others argue that we see species in the same way. That is, 'species' isn't a category, but 'honeybee' is.

People had folk taxonomies long before taxonomists became folk. Making finer and finer distinctions in species categories, and working on explanations of why two recognisably different honeybee species came to be (sorry) is stuff you do after the bee phenomena have registered.

Note that the 'What is a species?' question is one Wilkins sees as a matter of definition based on an hypothesis - choose your favourite from among his 26 possibilities.

Don't you think the question 'What bird is that?' or 'What spoon-headed worm is that?' is answerable?
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
Home contact:
PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

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