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Re: Perfect Organisms

  • To: Multiple recipients of list AROID-L <aroid-l@mobot.org>
  • Subject: Re: Perfect Organisms
  • From: Neil Carroll <zzamia@hargray.com>
  • Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 22:12:21 -0500 (CDT)

Subject: Re: Perfect Organisms

> In a message dated Mon, 8 May 2000  9:47:52 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Iza
> Carol Goroff <goroff@idcnet.com> writes:
> <<How that applies to an individual living being is that
> such is an inadequate representative of the principles defining the type.
> principles are the truth which one should seek, looking past the specimen.
> Hmmm...the closest thing I can think of to this in actual practice is the
> breed standard for purebred animals.  Of course, no living Havana Brown
> ever matches perfectly the breed standard; it is judged by how closely it
> approaches that standard.  The question is, does anything like this occur
> in talking of species?  What I mean is, given the description of, say,
> Philodendron bipinnatifidum, do we compare a given specimen of that
> to the decription, and judge how closely it approaches the "standard"?
> Jason Hernandez

This is a very interesting way to put it. I think that you are right, Jason,
when you say a given plant is held up to the Type Specimen (the species
description) and we see how close it comes to the 'standard'. The naming of
a new plant is somewhat akin to searching a patent in that the literature
must be searched to see if the plant in hand has ever been described before.
Thus comparison to the 'Standard' or the type specimen is requisite to
naming a new species. In some taxonomic works species descriptions are
sometimes occompanied by dialogue concerning specimens which don't exactly
match the Type, and the the differences are listed. Variations and abborant
specimens may also be discussed. All of this means that you are right....we
do check our plants against the standard of the Type. If a specimen varies
enough from the type, a subspecies or variety may be named or even a new

None of this of course has anything to do with 'perfection' (whatever that
is). What it does have to do with is comparison, relativism, opinion
(tempered with experience and knowledge) and the amount of agreement with
others' comparisons etc. Perfection, the persuit of perfection, the various
definitions of perfection and the notion that perfection is a "real"
thing....... is perfectly silly :)    BUT what else is there to do?


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