[Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Jun 7 13:25:05 CDT 2017


There is, of course, nothing to stop particular user groups from making taxonomic decisions based on their "needs" (in fact, this happens all the time). The only problem is if they try to foist it on the rest of us! There is also nothing to stop particular groups of taxonomists (or others) from making recommendatios. In this category I would put APG (it is not as though the APG system is settled classification, it just reflects the opinion of a group of botanists).

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Thu, 8/6/17, Peter Rauch <peterar at berkeley.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy
 To: "Taxacom(taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu}" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Thursday, 8 June, 2017, 3:44 AM
 
 On Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 3:37 AM,
 Alastair Culham <a.culham at reading.ac.uk>
 wrote:
 
 "Ultimately use governs all", I
 believe in referring to how taxonomy is
 practiced (or applied?, or used?).
 
 Utility might color how well
 Taxonomy is supported/funded, becomes "known"
 by its various user constituencies. But, the
 fundamental nature of Taxonomy
 --as a
 reflection of biotic evolution-- emerges from the sound
 practice of
 Science, not from the demands of
 uses/users.
 
 Further on,
 Alastair wrote:
 
 "Science is fundamentally dynamic and
 builds on new data and new theories,
 and it
 is fundamentally naïve to think taxonomy does not and
 should not fit
 the general thread of
 science."
 
 Exactly.
 Ultimately, Science (scientific methods of discovery,
 learning,
 exposition) governs 
 ('good', 'credible') Taxonomy's
 "all".      The rest
 comes
 after.
 
 Peter
 
 
 I've also seen the debate
 late in the day but am not sure I agree entirely
 > with Stephen's ignore it and it will
 go away approach.  Having been closely
 >
 involved in Catalogue of Life through two major EU grants
 (4D4Life and
 > i4Life) I'm very aware
 of the challenge of getting even a basic list of all
 > living organisms together and even more
 painfully aware of the challenges
 > of
 getting agreement on a taxonomy.  There is no single
 species concept
 > that gives acceptable
 (to the working taxonomic community, and I suspect to
 > the users of taxonomy such as
 conservationists) species boundaries over all
 > of life and probably no two taxonomic
 experts on one group that have
 > exactly
 the same opinion of an optimal classification.  Ultimately
 use
 > governs all.
 >
 > I think Stephen is
 right in saying "...two authors, who are proposing
 that
 > a significant bureaucracy is built
 and hard and complex decisions are
 >
 agreed to! In short, it ain't gonna happen!" -
 we've poured millions into
 >
 Catalogue of Life over many years and it is not a complete
 work as yet, nor
 > will it ever be - new
 species are discovered every year, new techniques
 > identify differences not previously
 spotted, broader data sets some show
 >
 different species to be the same, opinions on what a species
 is do change.
 > Trying to fix an
 inherently dynamic system is like channelling a river, it
 > works until the first flood.
 >
 > However, there are
 temporary working solutions to the list of species (the
 > Plant List for plants is an obvious one)
 that are known to be imperfect and
 >
 incomplete.  Taxonomists have been working with
 bioinformaticians for
 > decades to try to
 improve the collation of such lists and the underlying
 > concepts.  It is not a simple matter.
 >
 > The article in Nature
 is fundamentally false in its assertion that
 > taxonomists make changes without
 considering others.  Those taxonomic
 >
 changes are being made to help others - but perhaps the help
 is not welcome
 > because it then casts
 doubt on sometimes rather fixed assertions made in
 > those other fields.  Science is
 fundamentally dynamic and builds on new
 >
 data and new theories, and it is fundamentally naïve to
 think taxonomy does
 > not and should not
 fit the general thread of science.
 >
 > My concern is that simply ignoring the
 article will make taxonomists look
 >
 either high handed (not bothering to defend the criticism)
 or scared that
 > another field has a
 solution to a problem they cannot solve.
 >
 > I do hope to see a
 repost to the opinion.
 >
 > Alastair
 >
 >
 ____________________________________________
 >
 > Dr Alastair Culham
 > Harborne Building, School of Biological
 Sciences
 > University of Reading,
 Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS, U.K.
 >
 > Associate Professor of Botany, Curator,
 Reading University Herbarium (RNG)
 >
 University Teaching Fellow, Associate Editor, Botanical
 Journal of the
 > Linnean Society
 >
 ____________________________________________
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
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