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species and speciation

Fri Dec 14 12:13:39 EST 1990

Interesting you should bring this up now; our normally placid
Monday seminar erupted into a rather spirited discussion of
the species concept and the value of molecular data.
It seems to me that "species" as some sort of Platonic Ideal
form has long since passed away. It ought to be admitted that
we define things as species in some utilitarian manner, that
is, in order to address some particular interest, such as which
populations are able to interbreed, and so forth.
I would argue that there is no such thing as a species independent
of the question we wish to address to the population of organisms
under consideration. We've come to realize that the world does
not operate under the rigid hierarchical structure that Aristotle
proposed, and which has been reified by Linnaeus and those who
followed. The world is a continuous (to our perceptions) place;
why expect that living things will compartmentalize into a neat
discrete classification?
(I also wonder where this thread belongs; there is no molecular
biology involved thus far, but there is no [or at least we don't
receive] bionet.philosophy.evolution. Followups to wherever you
think appropriate.)
Josh Hayes, Zoology Department, Miami University, Oxford OH 45056
voice: 513-529-1679      fax: 513-529-6900
jahayes at miamiu.bitnet, or jahayes at miamiu.acs.muohio.edu
"I am the Supreme Being, you know; I'm not completely dim."

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