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Re: Sauropodz r kewl WAS silly ramble(typo fixed)

On Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM,  <tyazbeck@comcast.net> wrote:
> Ok, I'll look up all this stuff tonight if I have time. Forgive me for
> being naive. I think this thread is going into a totally different
> direction. Could we change the subject title? And back to the topic of
> languages and taxonomy: I think Greek and Latin are still the best. Latin
> was basically the language of science until recently,

But that's not entirely true. When the Latins (the Romans et al) were
actually around, Greek was the proper language of the learned, and
this was largely because it just so happened to be the day-to-day
language of the people that the Romans were interested in learning
from. Much later those Greek works got translated into Latin, and
Latin then 'became' the language of the learned (and with many, heck
maybe even most, there was an intermediate period where the texts went
from Greek to Arab and then into Latin, so for a long while, if you
were a European and wanted to study knowledge, you learned arabic and
went to the 'Orient' to study).

If I recall correctly, in botany, when a new species (or surely it
must be a new genus or something) is officially described, it has to
be in classical latin! But all of this is really just an historical
accident. It just used to be that if you wanted to read Plato or
Aristotle, then you needed to read it in Latin, because those were the
only copies around.

> and the tradition is
> better left unchanged.

That tradition ended quite some time ago. Prior to today, French was
the (or at least one of the) major scientific languages (although my
understanding is that German was extremely popular amoung engineers).

> And I would like to stress that just because
> something is not scientific, doesn't mean it's wrong. I think the current
> combination of Linnean ranks/binomials and phylogenetic nomenclature
> (approximated to match the ranks, and the ranks {with valuable morphologic
> details} roughly corresponding to actual groups) works fine.

There's basically two trends in nomeclature/taxonomy now, one is the
old historical Linnaean System, and the other is the cladistic system.
 For the linnaean, it becomes less of a fantasy with our recognition
that, while we may be able to define a species in a meaningful way, we
really can't do the same for Families or Orders, or distinguish
between them.
I mean, if there are 5 species of very similar looking birds, is that
the limit of a genus and a sixth would have to go into a new one? Do
we measure /genetic/ variation and say something like 1-2% difference
= species, 4-5% = genus, etc? These might very well be /reasonable/,
even if /arbitrary/, and just because something is arbitrary doesn't
mean it's un-scientific (likesay, basing the unit for distance on a
segment of the meridian that passes through Paris, or even the
distance a laser-light travels in some fraction of a second). So given
some caveats, the Linnaean. system seems to be fine.

On the other hand, it seems like it might be possible to have
/non-arbitrary/ 'units' of taxonomy, and that's why we have debates
over the validity of species concepts and, at a higher level or
whatever you want to call it, monophyletic groups.

Alongside all of this is the conflicting desire to have taxonomy be
rock solid stable, and for it to reflect relatedness.


Robert J. Schenck
Kingsborough Community College
Physical Sciences Department
S332 ph# 718-368-5792
Follow Me on Twitter: @Schenck
KCC Class Schedule on Google Calendar: http://tinyurl.com/mqwlcy