[Taxacom] (no subject)

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Dec 18 12:56:45 CST 2020


I like Doug’s reply (I’m a closet physics nerd).  But I guess I would put it this way:

 

Taxa are natural.  The boundaries between them are not.  Our nomenclature over-emphasizes the boundaries, so through our nomenclatural way of thinking about taxa, we also over-emphasize the boundaries.

 

Aloha,

Rich

 

P.S. Kip:  I got a fair degree of bombardment off-list (not as bad as I was expecting).  Doug perfectly captured my reason for putting the scare quotes around “individual”:  if we can’t even define truly discrete units at the subatomic level, even atoms and molecules get hard to pin down.  And if we think of individual organisms as collections of atoms and molecules that (more or less) begin when a sperm fertilizes an egg (or replicated cells disconnect), and ends when … I don’t know… a heart stops beating or brain neurons stop firing or however we want to define “death” (more or less – and is a preserved dead specimen the same “individual” as it was when it was alive? How much of the matter comprising the living organism needs to decay and disperse before we stop thinking of it as the same “individual”?), then a whole lot of turnover happens between those two points in time.  By some metrics, I’m not the same individual now that I was when I started typing this email (some parts of my skin have undoubtedly found their way among the keys of my keyboard).  There is no spoon.

 

Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Senior Curator of Ichthyology | Director of XCoRE

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817-2704

Office: (808) 848-4115;  Fax: (808) 847-8252

eMail: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

 <http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html> BishopMuseum.org

Our Mission: Bishop Museum inspires our community and visitors through the exploration and celebration of the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

 

From: John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> 
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 7:26 AM
To: Kipling (Kip) W Will <kipwill at berkeley.edu>
Cc: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>; Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] (no subject)

 

I do wonder about that assertion of taxa not being natural phenomena. What phenomena are 'natural'? If taxa are not natural phenomena and am not sure anything could qualify as it could be excluded by some philosophical argument or other. From a pragmatic point of view it seems interesting that the use of taxa can lead to empirically verifiable predictions of 'phenomena' that were not previously known. I refer to the famous case of the composite tectonic structure of North America which was first predicted from biogeography that used taxa, as then characterized, to identify a composite biogeography which was predicted to correspond to a composite geological origin - and this was later corroborated by geologists who also acknowledged that the biogeographers got to that discovery first. If all of this is just in the mind of humans then there would seem to be no science - just one delusion or another (and Trump did win the election of course).

 

John Grehan

 

On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 12:13 PM Kipling (Kip) W Will via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> > wrote:

Hey Richard,
I don't think we can let you put scare quotes around individual and leave
there. You need to provide your definition of the term so you may be
properly bombarded. :)

Kip


On Wed, Dec 9, 2020 at 4:24 PM Richard Pyle via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> > wrote:

> > any opinions, especially most critical and provocative, are very
> interesting.
>
> Biological taxa are not "natural phenomena" -- they only exist in the
> minds of humans. Thus, there is no "thing" to which scientific names are
> actually applied (except maybe neurological patterns inside human brains).
> The only meaningful "individual" associated with scientific names is a type
> specimen, but one could argue that even type specimens/individual organisms
> have imprecise boundaries (and thus, again, ultimately exist as
> "individuals" only through neurological patterns inside human brains).
>
> There is no spoon.
>
> Aloha,
> Rich
>
> P.S. Provocative enough? (running for shelter to hide from the inevitable
> bombardment to follow...)
>
> Richard L. Pyle, PhD
> Senior Curator of Ichthyology | Director of XCoRE
> Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
> 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817-2704
> Office: (808) 848-4115;  Fax: (808) 847-8252
> eMail: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org <mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> 
> BishopMuseum.org
> Our Mission: Bishop Museum inspires our community and visitors through the
> exploration and celebration of the extraordinary history, culture, and
> environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> > On Behalf Of igor
> > pavlinov via Taxacom
> > Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2020 8:15 AM
> > To: Richard Jensen <rjensen at saintmarys.edu <mailto:rjensen at saintmarys.edu> >
> > Cc: Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> >
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] (no subject)
> >
> >
> > Well, Dick’s concern about “proper” and “true” names is seemingly based
> on
> > their nominalistic treatment. It’s ok as far as current professional
> > nomenclature systems are discussed.
> >
> > My concern is about looking at the names from another,
> natural-philosophical
> > standpoint. Suppose, each particular natural phenomenon is a particular
> > “thing”. Then, any its consideration as a “natural kind” or anything else
> > “collective” becomes irrelevant: it is an “individual». So its calling
> in a
> > particular manner is its “proper name”, i.e., it is (logically) a
> referentative and
> > not an attributive name. So, natural-philosophically, to be “proper”,
> its name
> > is to be just the “true”.
> >
> > PS Actually, my concern is about historical roots of the current
> nomenclature
> > systems. This is because I’m going to write and publish a book on the
> history
> > and theory of nomenclature, so any opinions, especially most critical and
> > provocative, are very interesting.
> >
> > Cheers, I
> >
> >
> > - - -
> > Igor Ya. Pavlinov, DrS
> > Zoological Museum of Lomonosov Moscow State University ul. Bol'shaya
> > Nikitskaya 6
> > 125009 Moscow
> > Russia
> > http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov1.htm
> > http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov_eng1.htm
> >
> >
> > >Среда, 9 декабря 2020, 19:53 +03:00 от Richard Jensen
> > <rjensen at saintmarys.edu <mailto:rjensen at saintmarys.edu> >:
> > >
> > >Igor's bit of philosophy brings up a point I have made before:
> > >scientific names are not "proper names" as the latter are generally
> > understood.  The philosophers quoted were wrong with respect to proper
> > names.  Proper names do not define anything; a thing and its proper name
> are
> > not the same; there are no true names for us to search for.  Proper names
> > have few, if any, "rules" for their application and use.  In conducting
> > genealogical research, I have found hundreds of individuals named Hans
> > Christian Andersen and probably many more named, very simply, Jens
> > Jensen.  The same holds for proper names of places: there are numerous
> > counties, cities and towns (in the US) named Washington, or Madison - the
> > people of each locality were free to choose whatever name they wished to
> > use.  If I tell you that someone lives in Washington, what do you know
> for
> > sure?  Essentially, nothing.
> > >
> > >Our binomials are different.  They are (within the bounds of the
> different
> > codes) unique names that apply to specific entities recognized by
> > taxonomists.  These names cannot be freely applied to other entities and
> > these names have a very important quality not found in proper names -
> they
> > tell us a great deal about the "thing" bearing the name.  If you are
> told that
> > there is a plant in my backyard that is a representative of  Quercus
> palustris
> > Muenchh., you can immediately (if you are a reasonably knowledgeable
> > botanist) provide a list of many characteristics of this plant, from
> general
> > features (e.g., life form, anatomy, physiology) down to "specific"
> characters
> > (e.g., size and shape of fruits, floral structure, leaf shape, etc.).
> Our scientific
> > names are not the same as proper names because they do define the "thing"
> > bearing the name, they are unique, and they cannot be changed, except
> > within the context of the appropriate code.  Proper names do not have
> these
> > qualities.
> > >
> > >Cheers,
> > >
> > >Dick
> > >
> > >
> > >On Tue, Dec 8, 2020 at 11:11 PM igor pavlinov via Taxacom <
> > taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>  > wrote:
> > >
> > >>With regard to the indigenous names, one serious issue is that they
> are, in
> > many cases, nature-philosophically sound. Actually, as Chuang Tzu said, a
> > thing becomes what it is when named/called. According to Plato, a thing
> and
> > its name are the same, as far as express the same eidos. From this,
> > Tournefort’s idea of by giving true names to God's creatures echoed
> > subsequently by Linne with his “proper names”. Such a mysterious
> attitude to
> > the “true names” is evidently expressed, in many indigenous tribes, in a
> > prohibition to use the names given to people at their born in everyday
> life,
> > which to be replace by respective “nick names” (the “vulgar names” of
> Linne
> > are analogies of the latter).
> > >>Understanding of this seems to yield quite different accent in
> consideration
> > of an aspiration of people to “get back to roots” that agrees
> fundamentally
> > with Confucius’ call to “restore the true names”.
> > >>However, this attitude contradicts fundamentally to the leading
> principle of
> > contemporary taxonomic nomenclature “a name is just a name” set by
> > Adanson.
> > >>All this, of course, a “philosophy”, but is helps sometime to see “the
> other
> > side of the Moon”
> > >>Igor
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>- - -
> > >>Igor Ya. Pavlinov, DrS
> > >>Zoological Museum of Lomonosov Moscow State University ul. Bol'shaya
> > >>Nikitskaya 6
> > >>125009 Moscow
> > >>Russia
> > >>http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov1.htm
> > >>http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov_eng1.htm
> > >>_______________________________________________
> > >>Taxacom Mailing List
> > >>
> > >>Send Taxacom mailing list submissions to:  taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
> > >>For list information; to subscribe or unsubscribe, visit:
> > >>http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> > >>You can reach the person managing the list at:
> > >>taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>  The Taxacom email archive back to
> > >>1992 can be searched at:  http://taxacom.markmail.org
> > >>
> > >>Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for about 33 years,
> 1987-2020.
> > >
> > >  --
> > >Richard Jensen, Professor Emeritus Department of Biology Saint Mary's
> > >College Notre Dame, IN 46556
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Taxacom Mailing List
> >
> > Send Taxacom mailing list submissions to: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>  For
> > list information; to subscribe or unsubscribe, visit:
> > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> > You can reach the person managing the list at: taxacom-
> > owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>  The Taxacom email archive back to 1992 can be
> > searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >
> > Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for about 33 years,
> 1987-2020.
>
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
>
> Send Taxacom mailing list submissions to: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
> For list information; to subscribe or unsubscribe, visit:
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> You can reach the person managing the list at:
> taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
> The Taxacom email archive back to 1992 can be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>
> Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for about 33 years, 1987-2020.
>


-- 
-- 
https://nature.berkeley.edu/willlab/

Contact info:

Due to COVID, send all specimens/shipments to:

54 Mulford Hall
ESPM Dept.- Organisms & Environment Div.
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720

(Do NOT ship to Essig Museum)
_______________________________________________
Taxacom Mailing List

Send Taxacom mailing list submissions to: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
For list information; to subscribe or unsubscribe, visit: http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
You can reach the person managing the list at: taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom-owner at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
The Taxacom email archive back to 1992 can be searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org

Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for about 33 years, 1987-2020.



More information about the Taxacom mailing list