Re: Taxonomy and speciation

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Mon Nov 26 2001 - 06:06:59 GMT

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: Re: Taxonomy and speciation
    Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 01:06:59 -0500
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    >From: "Philip A.E. Jonkers" <>
    >Subject: Re: Taxonomy and speciation
    >Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 17:33:14 -0800
    >On Friday 23 November 2001 01:31 am, you wrote:
    > > From: "Philip A.E. Jonkers" <>
    > >
    > > >Reply-To:
    > > >To:
    > > >Subject: Taxonomy and speciation
    > > >Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 17:06:20 -0800
    > > >
    > > >Dear all,
    > > >
    > > >Since we are so fond of biological evolution too, I thought it might be
    > > >worth-while to inform you on the next matter.
    > > >As I'm reading Darwin's Dangerous Idea, I've come with the following
    > > >interpretation on speciation, i.e. the birth of a new species. I sent
    > > >an email to Dennett himself in which I layed out my ideas. Here is the
    > > >part of that email that captures the essentials.
    > > >
    > > >Please read and see what you make of it, if you are interested I can
    > > >give you Dennett's reply too. But I don't want to bias you so I'll do
    > > >that after your responses.
    > > >
    > > >Philip.
    > > >
    > > >....
    > > >
    > > >Before elaborating on speciation let's consider taxonomy in general
    > > >We humans have derived great practical use in attributing names to
    > > > whatever phenomenon we have encountered over history. These name-tags
    > > > function as short-hand syntactic pointers to the semantics of the
    > > > they are meant to signify. For example, when someone talks about a
    > > > to me, I automatically imagine a small carnivorous lively mammal
    > > > excellent companions and warning systems by their serving nature and
    > > > their
    > > >innately present high degree of vigilance, etc...
    > > >These tags, once accepted by the masses, facilitate rapid and easier
    > > >communication by making superfluous the use of elaborate and
    > > > time-consuming descriptions. Small wonder we humans became quite adapt
    > > > universally applying this necessary rather than merely convenient tool
    > > > labeling.
    > >
    > > So...maybe Darwin should have titled his book _Origin of Name-Tags_?
    >LOL. On a serious not however: mind you it is only a new category
    >of name-tags, the concept of name-tags of course existed long before.
    >The title might be: "On the origin of yet another category of name-tags".
    >But that would be too long and non-specific. No, on second thought,
    >"On the origin of species" has the most appealing ring to it. Let's stick
    >that after all.
    > >
    > > >This process of tagging we indiscriminately applied also to the living
    > > >nature. If we would be at ease with the faulty preconception
    > > >that, for religious reasons, species are to be considered being
    > > >no problems emerge: attributing fixed names to presumed fixed species
    > > >goes without problems. However, as Darwin competently made plausible in
    > > > his `Origin' this is of course not how nature really works. Every
    > > > being in
    > > >nature evolves, organisms incessantly change.
    > > >Thus our tradition of taxonomy, though being well-designed for labeling
    > > >fixed entities, falls somewhat short when trying to label dynamically
    > > >evolving entities. To put it boldly, species do not exist anywhere but
    > > >in our own heads.
    > >
    > > Or _Origin of Name Tags Existing Solely in Our Heads_?
    >Name-tags do of course (they are memes, after all, (sorry Derek....)),
    >I don't think that the concept of origin of name-tags is present
    >in most of our heads.
    > > >They actually are memes which were created through
    > > >our eagerness to conveniently label everything we encounter.
    > >
    > > Ironically isn't the "meme" concept just a convenient label for a notion
    > > you are applying to the problematic concept of species in biology? You
    > > to have no qualms using the term "meme", assuming that memes exist yet
    > > species are fictitious.
    >I contend species to exist as much as memes since I consider the former
    >to be a subset of the latter. If memes exist in heads than species may do
    >too just as easily. The emergence of a new species happens in the heads
    >of those authorities deciding to christen a new group of organisms
    >sufficiently wandered off from neighboring branches of the tree of life to.
    > > >Speciation does not occur in nature in an intrinsic manner (that is,
    > > >independent of observers). Being no real part of nature it comes as no
    > > >surprise
    > > >that it is quite impossible to determine when exactly a case of
    > > >occurred. We have decided to tag creatures with such and such names,
    > > >based on the historical and religious assumption that they were fixed.
    > > >When found that they were evolving instead we ran into trouble because
    > > >it is practically impossible to determinable when exactly a case of
    > > >speciation occurred. The notion of speciation as actually occurring in
    > > >nature
    > > >is a fallacious artifact due to a forced attempt to mend our view of
    > > > nature by incorporating evolution-theory into the traditional
    > > > of taxonomy that is based on the idea of fixed species. If the concept
    > > > speciation is to bear any sense in the contemporary evolutionary
    > > >conception of nature it can do so only if it were to be used
    > > >with a very casual and loose definition.
    > >
    > > There may be tremendous difficulties in application of the concepts of
    > > species and speciation (and I humbly defer to Wilkins for his expertise
    > > this matter), but your pragmatic hypernominalism may be misguided.
    > > essentialism may be equally misguided, there could realistically species
    > > out there, just very difficult to capture in our heads due to
    >"Pragmatic hypernominalism", I like that... thanks!
    A fancy way of saying "useful name-tags", with emphasis on the "name-tag"
    >Within the paradigm I'm
    >proposing you just gave a "contradictio in terminis" (pretty one too,
    >Could you specify your assertion with stone cold facts, i.e. examples from
    >mother Nature?
    Well, I managed to watch a leatherback sea turtle (*Dermochelys coriacea*)
    female in the process of nesting this past summer. Could you please
    elaborate on why this sea turtle is not truly a member of a species, but
    instead why this designation exists solely in the eyes of the beholder?
    Granted that if those people thinking that at best conservation applies only
    to prudent usage of fuel supplies have their way this "species" will become
    but an historical memory.

    I suppose endangered and threatened species are actually just endangered and
    threatened "name tags".

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