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Some 1859 text on the subject... (was RE: [Re: Non-serpentine lacertids (was RE:WHAT'S GOING ON?)])

Chris Brochu wrote:
> In the Linnean system as applied first in the 18th century, taxa were
> classes.  And there was no reason to make them anything else - animals and
> plants were created as fixed entities as discussed in Genesis, and there
> was no historical connection between any of them.  The categories Linneaus
> and his contemporaries used were artificial, and operated on the
> assumption
> that organisms were themselves fixed and immutable.  But we humans are
> natural pattern recognizers, so that the natural hierarchy generated by
> evolution was staring us in the face, and systematists couldn't help but
> reconstruct it, even if evolution was not the driving force behind it.  So
> when Darwin came around, the natural hierarchy implicit in taxonomy became
> evidence for evolution and was retrointerpreted as the product of descent
> with modification.  This is why taxonomy still operates typologically - an
> old system was reinterpreted, when a new system was actually called for.
Darwin himself recognized this (that the Natural System of classification
was our minds perceiving, to varying degrees, the historical patterns of
recency of common ancestry), and advocated a system of taxonomy by which
"propinquity of descent" was the organizing principle.  For those who want
to read more on Darwin's take on systematics, see Chapter XIII of the
Origin, which is available on the web here:

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-314-7843