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RE: Princeton Field Guide



David Marjanovic wrote:

<I don't understand this. Please reword or explain it.>

Okay, here's the post (again):

<<Whatever you want it to be.>>

This is David's reply to my question "What is a genus?" This is a nonscientific 
answer, as befits a concept rendered to some degree as an aesthetic.
 
I wrote (further)

<And this tells me that effective scientific discourse cannot occur on the 
definition of the word "genus." Thanks, David, for proving what I wrote 
earlier. This also tells me that I _can_ have 70 species of *Varanus* (or more, 
many more) and it would be _right_, because (gosh darnit) I'm worth it, and my 
CV will be so _HUGE_.>

  Only one portion here is fairly important, the first sentence: "[T]his tells 
me that effective scientific discourse cannot occur on the definition of the 
word [']genus.[']"

  Again, reiterating that "genera" are empty containers when it comes to 
science.

I continue: 

<You see, the issue is cascading: A genus, a family, a species, are all ranks. 
And in their pretense, systematists will at least adhere to one of these as a 
recognition of true biological or taxonomic utility (mostly the species, but 
sometimes the genus) and enforce this through nomenclature, which must be then 
followed.>

  This is pretty basic deconstruct-Linnaean stuff. The Linnaean system, through 
the ICZN, imposes it's system: Each species must have a genus and a family, 
which is how you get the apparent idea that the hoatzin also has its own 
suborder. This is a "logical" progression of the idea that certain ranks are 
mandatory, as is their nomenclature.

<So I cannot really pretend that some taxa do not exist because my concept 
structure is different from theirs.>

  Under the ICZN, the Linnaean system is king. I must use it if I am using a 
rank, such as "genus." If I can, instead, use another philosophical argument, I 
may dispense with any element of the Linnaean system. The largest advantage the 
Linnaean system has going for it is not the effectiveness of the system itself, 
nor the ease with which categorization and file-drawering fits with clinical 
minds, but by its merte prevalence (it wins merely due to the lack of anything 
else broad enough to compete with it). Any other system must fight uphill to 
dethrone the ICZN and its advocacy of the Linnaean system (and frankly, 
virtually all that the ICZN is is the Linnaean System -- dispose of the latter, 
and what you have are the basis premises many of the other proposes 
replacements offer, leaving only the former's authoritative history). But 
because the ICZN is so prevalent, any other system comes under fire, even when 
publications attempt to utilize other systems, because they "seem" like they 
are "genera" and "species," even when the authors explicitly refuse to use 
those terms in the formation of the taxon. Larry Flynn and Chris Brochu have 
been avoiding using anything other than "tax. nov." for the last two decades, 
and yet despite this their taxa are considered "ranked." By default.

  So when I ask "What is a genus?" and point at those who try to use this term 
while at the same time arguing for the PhyloCode and the inanity that is the 
Linnaean system, I get a sense of hypocrisy. My answer is pretty simple: It is 
a rank in a taxonomic system. Ranks have no value in a scientific investigative 
framework. Thus when David Marjanovic responds: <<Whatever you want it to 
be[,]>> I am a bit irked, as I expected something more from him. Thus,

<Note how the quoted premise does not benefit science?>

  I think this argument is pretty simple, overall: disposal of the terms must 
follow disposal of the rank system, as the two are intimately, and I think 
inseparably, linked. Removal can only benefit science as they permit even the 
most cursory use of taxonomy in the sciences, that of ecological diversity 
models, to actually investigate diversity without false categories getting in 
the way. This is also why I criticize Paul's splitting and lumping, and some 
other people for favoring similar taxonomy (such as my criticism of Mike 
Taylor's support for *Giraffatitan* as a useful name for *Brachiosaurus 
brancai* in the absence of any phylogenetic or variation framework (as 
published) which supports removal of it), as the premises underlying them are 
built on this unscientific framework.

Cheers,

Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
http://qilong.wordpress.com/

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)


"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 
Backs)

<Whatever you want it to be.>
 
  And this tells me that effective scientific discourse cannot occur on the 
definition of the word "genus." Thanks, David, for proving what I wrote 
earlier. This also tells me that I _can_ have 70 species of *Varanus* (or more, 
many more) and it would be _right_, because (gosh darnit) I'm worth it, and my 
CV will be so _HUGE_.
 
  You see, the issue is cascading: A genus, a family, a species, are all ranks. 
And in their pretense, systematists will at least adhere to one of these as a 
recognition of true biological or taxonomic utility (mostly the species, but 
sometimes the genus) and enforce this through nomenclature, which must be then 
followed. So I cannot really pretend that some taxa do not exist because my 
concept structure is different from theirs. Note how the quoted premise does 
not benefit science?