Unbiased souls

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Sun Sep 2 23:03:08 EDT 2001

Ron wrote compellingly about his taxonomic committee and the membership
of "unbiased" persons.

I am always skeptical about "unbiased" . I wonder if he has a definition
of this with which all could aggree.

Do it mean "without opinion"  or "without experience" or "unsure of what
is right or wrong".

I suspect that most of us have biases. Perhaps it would be useful to be
assured that individuals laid their biases on the table rather than
pretending that they were checked at the door.   Being aware of ones
biases and acknowledging them is particularly helpful.

For example, can someone be truly unbiased about being a lumper or a
For example, my bias is, "when in doubt split". Lumping invariably (I
think) results in a loss of information [even if the lumper turns out to
be right].  Who wants to study a subspecies anyways [yet that's what we
usually study when we think we are studying behavior or physiology or
ecology of "a species".

And one the molecular systematists tell us that taxon a is or isn't
specifically distinct from taxon b because of x % genome difference,
isn't that mere inserting a new bias (that there is a relatively
constant criterion across taxa, based on a fragment of the genomic

Mike Gochfeld



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