Taxonomy

Blame Carl Linnaeus
By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.

Avid gardeners know that when they take seeds from hybrid flower or vegetable plants they have grown from seed one cannot know what the new seeds will bring forth. I found it interesting to learn that, although wolves and domestic dogs are considered to be a two distinct species, they can breed with one another to produce fertile offspring. The fact that their offspring are themselves fertile, and can reproduce further, is inconsistent with our understanding of the concept of species. It does not occur frequently, but has happened, that the classification of a plant or animal can change through recognition of it as belonging to a distinct new species.

What one needs to understand about taxonomy is that the classifications are arbitrary. Natural scientists choose these classifications as part of their method of assigning order to the natural world around us. So it was that they assigned order to various varieties of flowers and vegetables by selecting the most conspicuous features exhibited by their specimens. This penchant for classification became habitual with the development of farm animal husbandry and the breeding of domestic dogs. No creature was exempt from classification. Until ultimately the proclivity to classify was applied to mankind himself. Thus was created the concept of human race. When a classification serves no purpose it ought be eliminated.

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