Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme"

From: Dace (
Date: Wed 01 Jun 2005 - 17:47:11 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme""

    > From: John Wilkins <>
    > A species is just some handy tag we assign to organisms to help
    > communication between scientists. I have some sympathy for it,
    > although I reject it.

    Certainly the boundaries between species are fuzzy. Darwin noted this in support of evolution. After all, if the species had come about through special creation, the boundaries between them would be well-defined and absolute. But that doesn't mean such boundaries are merely conceptual conveniences. We are not, after all, bats or worms or moonflowers.

    I think you're stuck in a false dilemma. The concept of species is not a choice between absolute or nothing, realist or nominalist. If there's one thing that distinguishes life from nonlife it's the property of vagueness or fuzziness. There are no hard and fast distinctions in biology of any kind, not just in regard to species. Everything bleeds into everything else. Every cell type in the body is just a modification of an original type, every pattern of leaf or bone a modification of a basic form. Yet each class still retains its identity. Without a sense of vagueness, of ambiguity and overlap, of sameness coexisting with difference, there's no real comprehension of life. The fetish among biologists for exactitude, which was inherited from the physical sciences, is a major roadblock in the development of an appropriate theoretical model for the life sciences.


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