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Nick P. wrote...

>>At some point or another, every honest taxonomist must admit to him- or
>herself that if we truly had the capability to observe the origin and
>development of every individual organism that ever lived on earth, we would
>find that there are no distinct groups to name.<

Patrick Norton wrote...
>Since the physical differences between organisms are >real<, this line of
>reasoning seems a bit illogical to me.  What if we had every individual
>organism (N) minus 1? Would it collapse then? Or N minus 5%?, or 10%?

    Physical differences between organisms AREN'T real; see my posting to
Wagner.  What we call organisms (if they are metazoans) are big populations
of reproducing cells.  We don't base taxonomy on individual cell ancestry
and descent because it would be incredibly impractical; impossible to
reconstruct for any organism in the history of life that wasn't observed
developmentally under a microscope from the zygote on up; and so mind
boggleiningly huge that that it would be impossible to wrap our minds around
even if it was.  Can you imagine trying to assign a name to every cell, and
actually trying to THINK about the information on you cladogram in terms of
macroeveolution?  The distinction between species is no better; if you could
see all the generations of individual organisms (I mean, "cell populations")
where would you draw the line between two species?  Even "fast" evolution
would look gradual if we could observe it generation by generation.
Fortunately evolution has done us some favors; it has grouped cells into
what we can call individual metazoa, it has killed off most transitional
individuals and left a scanty fossil record that we have an easy time
drawing distinctions between species, and it has given us a brain that is
good at processing and categorizing information so that we can imagine the
artificial concept of a "group", whether its a "species", "genus", or
    Enough deep thoughts for one night.

Outlawing drugs in order to solve the drug problem is much like outlawing
sex in order to win the war against AIDS.
-Ronald Siegal

No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.
-Turkish proverb
Jeffrey W. Martz
Graduate student, Department of Geosciences, Texas Tech University
3002 4th St., Apt. C26
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