Species definitions!

Mark Walker MWalker at gensym.com
Wed Sep 5 17:47:16 EDT 2001

Kenelm wrote:

> 	The trouble is that taxonomy is not simple, nor free 
> from contro-
> versy. And the controversies will not be solved by appealing 
> to the abil-
> ities of young children who are unaquainted with the full diversity to
> be found within any group of organisms.  :-)

Ahhh, but Ken is a spoil sport.  The notion that taxonomy is as basic as the
classification skills of a nine-year old is pretty significant.  Now
granted, these skills are not to be underestimated - they are indicative of
an extremely high degree of intelligence - but nevertheless it would suggest
that the whole thing is perhaps made more difficult than necessary within
academia.  Ken speaks of the difficulties in successfully separating even
Heterocera and Rhopalocera.  This is true - given the sets of
differentiators we have at our disposal.  But nevertheless the nine year old
(or was that six year old?) can indeed infer a difference.  It is the
challenge of the taxonomist to figure out why or how.  In doing so, we must
not fool ourselves into thinking that our explanations are more inspired or
intellectual.  There is still so much more to learn from the child's
perspective.  I, personally, long for the perspective I had as a child.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that our 'language' isn't as rich as it needs
to be to do the whole thing proper justice.

Mark Walker
Oceanside, CA



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