Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Year of Darwin 8/30/2014: Highs and lows in taxonomy: end it!

 Charles Darwin

"With respect to "highness" & "lowness", my ideas are only eclectic & not very clear. It appears to me that an unavoidable wish to compare all animals with men, as supreme, causes some confusion; & I think that nothing besides some vague comparison is intended or even possible, when the question is whether two kingdoms such as the articulata or mollusca are the highest. Within the same kingdom, I am inclined to think that the "highest" usually means that form, which has undergone most "morphological differentiation" from the common embryo or archetype of the class" Charles Darwin,letter to J. D. Hooker, September 1853

One of the issues I go over in our sophomore-level evolution and ecology course is that we should no longer use "higher" and "lower" when describing species when we should be using "ancestral" (changed less) and "derived" (changed more). Higher and lower imply attributes that are what? Organisms can be more derived and be morphologically simpler. Think of parasites. So I completely agree with Darwin and lets stop using it. 

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