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RE: SCIENCE AND CLASSIFICATION



On philidor's comment that we should try to make formal taxonomy match
"common knowledge" (whatever that is) -- there are already hundreds of
systems in regular usage which have the kind of fuzziness, intuitive
definitions, and reliance on human perception which philidor seems to
want. They're called human languages!

Why we should make a formal system work on the same principles is beyond
me. The formal system should reflect scientific thought, not aesthetic
concerns. You will never get a system based purely on aesthetics to
receive wide acceptance -- just look how different languages divide
animals up differently, and how poorly the divisions apply to lesser-known
(fossil, deep-sea, etc.) forms. Even different dialects can disagree -- as
one listmember pointed out to me, British English doesn't have a term
matching _Testudines_, while American English does ("turtle" -- which only
applies to certain aquatic members of _Testudines_ in British English,
IIRC).

So let a "bird" (or "vogel" or "oiseau" or "uccello" or whatever) be
"something that craps on your car". But don't try to give _Aves_ a
definition like that. _Aves_ is a scientific term, and can be precisely
defined as Clade(_Archaeopteryx lithographica_ + _Passer domesticus_) (or
insert your favorite neornithean anchor).

Formal taxonomy does not need to cater to the layman. Natural human
languages already fill that function.

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