Darwin-L Message Log 1:26 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<1:26>From tclarke@uoguelph.ca  Sun Sep  5 22:57:31 1993

Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1993 23:47:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Tom Clarke <tclarke@uoguelph.ca>
Subject: Re: Ray on Taxonomy
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

 I'm not too sure whether you are talking about taxonomy in terms
 of natural history or not (this list seems to have been taken over
 by the cultural anthropologists) but I would argue that in the case
 of living organisms the cladistical taxonomy of a group of organisms
 has nothing to do with the human language or viewpoint, as long as
 we get the phylogeny right.  (human bias can introduce mistakes into
 the phylogeny, but the interrelationships between the organisms exist
 independant of human perception.  A correct phylogeny exists, its just
 a matter of figuring it out.)

 The only qualifier I would make is that the base unit of taxonomy,
 the species, is often an arbitrary construct based on what information
 is available at the time on the organisms in question.  The problems
 presented by the blackfly species complexes and hybridization in
 insects to taxonomists are examples of how one persons species is
 not necessarily anothers.  This doesn't (or shouldn't) really affect
 the phylogeny of the organisms - it just complicates the discovery of
 that phylogeny.


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