[tdwg-content] Fwd: Taxon Concept dilemma

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Jul 7 16:28:49 CEST 2010

Hi Mark,

I agree with everything you say (which is why I think that essentially
everything related to "taxa" should be represented through Usage Instances).
I also agree that taxonomists do not often articulate the scope of their
taxon concepts by enumerating the included organisms. However, I would argue
that when most (all?) taxonomists conceive of a taxon concept, the "essence"
of the concept is the set of organisms implied to be circumscribed by it.
Thus, there is an historical disconnect between what a taxonomist means by a
taxon concept, and how a taxonomist articulates the scope of that concept.
And therein lies what I think is the biggest biodiversity informatics
challenge.  That is, one of the most fundamental units of biology has a
history of being very imprecisely defined by the practitioners who establish
those units.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mark Wilden [mailto:mark at mwilden.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 5:46 AM
> To: Richard Pyle
> Subject: Re: [tdwg-content] Taxon Concept dilemma
> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 6:10 AM, Richard Pyle 
> <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> wrote:
> > This is why the only way we're going to be able to establish 
> > RelationshipAssertions (sensu TCS) is via third-party
> assertions.  In
> > other words, someone is going to have to assert an opinion over 
> > whether the implied members of Smith's Aus bus would have
> included the
> > population in Hawaii, and whether the implied set of Jones' Aus cus 
> > would have included the population in the Marshall Islands.
> I think that a "someone" is always asserting such an opinion
> - Smith and Jones included. There is no Platonic ideal of a particular 
> species. Every single classification is a matter of educated opinion.
> Smith has one opinion and Jones has another opinion. Brown may step in 
> and decide that Smith's opinion is the correct one - but that's just 
> another opinion. Consumers of the classification choose whose opinions 
> are the most useful.
> A taxon is always related to a taxon-assigner. In this sense, 
> "circumscription" is perhaps not the best way to think about it, 
> because very few assigners actually determine taxa by enumerating 
> organisms.
> The idea of researchers creating taxa, and third parties adjudicating 
> them to arrive at the "true" classification, is too limited. It's 
> third parties all the way down.
> ///ark

More information about the tdwg-content mailing list