What is systematics and what is taxonomy?

Over the past few years there have been increasing numbers of calls for governments to properly fund systematics and taxonomy (and a number of largely molecular-focused biologists insisting they can do the requisite tasks with magic molecule detectors, so don’t fund old-school, fund new-fangled-tech). But I think that there is considerable confusion about what systematics and taxonomy are.

Now the usual way a philosopher resolves such questions, apart from interrogating their intuitions relying upon what they learned in grade school, is to go find a textbook or some other authoritative source and quote that. If it is someone they already know, all the better, like Mayr or Dawkins. This is problematic, so I thought I’d do a slightly better job at reviewing what people think. And then I will of course give my own view.

Read the rest at Evolving Thoughts.

About John S. Wilkins

PhD in HPS - published on species concepts and classification, among other topics. Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne. AAHPSSS.net.au webmaster
This entry was posted in Biology, Biology, Epistemology, Evolution, General Science, History, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What is systematics and what is taxonomy?

  1. Tony Sidaway says:

    I’m helping my daughter, who keeps snakes and is very interested in reptiles, to navigate a 2004 paper on reptilian phylogenetic systematics, so the question of what the nomenclature means in the great scheme of biology and paleontology is close to my heart right now.

    The basics are easy–amniotes can usually be divided into groups according to whether they have two, one or no holes in the skull behind each eye. The ones with one hole–the Synapsids–are popped into a clade that includes all mammals. After that, though, it gets a bit messy, with the phylogeny of the turtles seemingly rather problematic, and it doesn’t help that several names are recycled with incongruent definitions. And the holes, it seems, aren’t always there.

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