[Taxacom] Species Definition?

Eric Michael Peterson epeters1 at uci.edu
Tue May 23 12:00:57 CDT 2017


I have been a quiet reader on this list for a couple years.  As a scholar of environmental humanities I find your discussions intriguing and inspiring - but I don’t typically have anything to contribute because I’m not a taxonomist.  

Regarding this most recent conversation, I might suggest some summer reading. Kripke’s “Naming and Necessity” and Quine’s “Word and Object.”  Both books seem relevant.

Thanks to all of you for the always engaging conversations - even if I’m just reading them.

Cheers,

Eric

> On May 23, 2017, at 9:36 AM, Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>>> So can we please just have numbers, or something for IDs of published and
> not yet named, suggested taxonomic concepts, so that we can speak of them?
> 
> No Hannu. I would argue against numbers for taxa and I have had this
> discussion with some of the major proponents of PhyloCode. We humans cannot
> innately coneptualise numbers in this way. When I talk about Homo sapiens,
> Elseya albagula or some fish that Richard described, I can remember its
> name. I can remember the names of every species of turtle 454 taxa, I could
> not remember what would have to be 10 digit number codes for them, so in
> general communications, general articles and papers about species numbers
> would be useless. Every number would have to be qualified or linked so
> people would know what your talking about. We remember names, because we
> humans classify everything using names. Its just what we do. You can assign
> numbers to names in a database and let computers deal with that, but our
> species in our heads cannot do this for large numbers of taxa. We will only
> remember the names.
> 
>>> (I presume the 100 million year old chelid examples are published and
> accessible to any reasonable literature search)
> Yes John, 2 of the 100M year old fossils were published in 2010, the
> molecular papers came out in 2014-2015. The 3rd fossil less likely, but
> they could have had 2 of them.
> 
> 
> 
> On Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:18 PM, Hannu Saarenmaa <hannu at bioshare.com> wrote:
> 
>> As an informatics person, I am amused to see this thread.   And facinated
>> too.  Why is this still a question?
>> 
>> "Facts are facts, but perception is reality".  Does that that old phrase
>> still rule in taxonomy?
>> 
>> "a species is what a community of taxonomists says it is".    "Community"
>> is ambigous. So, is "species".  Binomial is an attempt to
>> antropomorphicically classify biodiversity.  Not bad, given that the idea
>> was coined 250 years ago.  But the game has moved on.
>> 
>> So can we please just have numbers, or something for IDs of published and
>> not yet named, suggested taxonomic concepts, so that we can speak of them?
>> 
>> In real world there are no species. Imagine that.
>> 
>> Hannu
>> http:/www.digitarium.fi/en
>> 
>> 
>> On 2017-05-23 8:28, Richard Pyle wrote:
>> 
>>> No, wait!  Please don't automatically delete this message based on the
>>> subject line!
>>> 
>>> Still with me?  Cool.
>>> 
>>> I was curious if anyone read this:
>>> http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-does-it-me
>>> an-be-species-ge
>>> netics-changing-answer-180963380/
>>> 
>>> And if so, whether you agree with the subtitle, "As DNA techniques let us
>>> see animals in finer and finer gradients, the old definition is falling
>>> apart"?  We all know that people are (ab)using genetic data to draw
>>> ever-finer lines among groups of organisms and labelling them with
>>> Linnean-style names (binomens, no less). But it's not clear to me whether
>>> this represents an evolving consensus on what we mean by "species", or if
>>> it
>>> is really more reflective of using a shiny new toy to boost one's
>>> CV/tenure
>>> prospects/etc.?
>>> 
>>> For the record, as far as I'm concerned, the de-facto definition of a
>>> "species" hasn't changed since Darwin's time, paraphrased as "a species is
>>> what a community of taxonomists says it is".  But my question is about
>>> whether the baseline for what the community "says it is" has changed/is
>>> changing)?  Or, in the long run will we retain roughly the same
>>> within-taxon-group gestalt that we've generally had for a while now?
>>> 
>>> And if the consensus really is evolving, is that a good thing (more
>>> recognition of biodiversity)? Or a bad thing (increasing incongruence with
>>> historical knowledge)?  My vote is to keep the best of both worlds and
>>> have
>>> a massive increase in the use of trinomials, but I imagine that statement
>>> will be seen by many as a troll.
>>> 
>>> Aloha,
>>> Rich
>>> 
>>> Richard L. Pyle, PhD
>>> Database Coordinator | Associate Zoologist | Dive Safety Officer
>>> Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu,
>>> HI 96817
>>> Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252 email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
>>> http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
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>>> 
>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Years, 1987-2017.
>>> 
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>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Years, 1987-2017.
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> Scott Thomson
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