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J.E. Shields
Fri, 23 Jan 2004 17:53:55 PST
Where the fun comes in is trying to decide specific instances of species 
vs. subspecies, not just lumping vs. splitting but identification per se.

Can we really justify some of the splitting being done for the sake of 
protecting small, somewhat unique, populations of broader species?  Some of 
the science is less than objective in this area.  What the heck, most of 
taxonomy is subjective!  Until the methodology of cladistics was 
introduced, there was no quantitative way to handle classification -- until 
then it was entirely subjective.  A basic tenant of science is that if you 
can't put numbers on it, you don't actually know anything about it.  They 
try to do that with cladistics.  Now they can get numbers and now they are 
starting to really get a handle on relatedness.

At the species level, I tend to want to split.  If it is a distinguishable 
population, it should have a unique identifier -- a name.  The 
classification system should not just show us the relatedness of different 
entities and groups, although that is the definition of phylogeny, after 
all.  I feel it should also give us an idea of the genetic diversity of the 

Jim Shields

Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
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