Taxonomy Quotes

Quotes tagged as "taxonomy" Showing 1-19 of 19
N.K. Jemisin
“We aren't human."

"Yes. We. Are." His voice turns fierce. "I don't give a shit what the something-somethingth council of big important farts decreed, or how the geomests classify things, or any of that. That we're not human is just the lie they tell themselves so they don't have to feel bad about how they treat us.”
N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

Bill Bryson
“Taxonomy is described sometimes as a science and sometimes as an art, but really it’s a battleground.”
Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Criss Jami
“Think outside the box? Indeed. But to add balance to that, one should not in the process forget what the inside of the box looks like as well. Those who are best at thinking outside the box do it not to puff themselves up, but to see how small they really are. As a contented fish in its fish tank appears to have a small, boring existence to us, imagine a larger, more perceptive kingdom (even by scientific taxonomy) to whom our contented existences may appear to be small and boring. This is where true creativity and massive perceptive abilities spawn a sense of intellectual humility; the kind which God adores.”
Criss Jami, Killosophy

Charles Darwin
“It may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages. If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world; and if all extinct languages, and all intermediate and slowly changing dialects, were to be included, such an arrangement would be the only possible one. Yet it might be that some ancient languages had altered very little and had given rise to few new languages, whilst others had altered much owing to the spreading, isolation, and state of civilisation of the several co-descended races, and had thus given rise to many new dialects and languages. The various degrees of difference between the languages of the same stock, would have to be expressed by groups subordinate to groups; but the proper or even the only possible arrangement would still be genealogical; and this would be strictly natural, as it would connect together all languages, extinct and recent, by the closest affinities, and would give the filiation and origin of each tongue.”
Charles Darwin

Richard Dawkins
“If a curiously selective plague came along and killed all people of intermediate height, 'tall' and 'short' would come to have just as precise a meaning as 'bird' or 'mammal'. The same is true of human ethics and law. Our legal and moral systems are deeply species-bound. The director of a zoo is legally entitled to 'put down' a chimpanzee that is surplus to requirements, while any suggestion that he might 'put down' a redundant keeper or ticket-seller would be greeted with howls of incredulous outrage. The chimpanzee is the property of the zoo. Humans are nowadays not supposed to be anybody's property, yet the rationale for discriminating against chimpanzees in this way is seldom spelled out, and I doubt if there is a defensible rationale at all. Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees! [T]he only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead.”
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design

Sigmund Freud
“The view is often defended that sciences should be built up on clear and sharply defined basal concepts. In actual fact no science, not even the most exact, begins with such definitions. The true beginning of scientific activity consists rather in describing phenomena and then in proceeding to group, classify and correlate them.”
Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory

Michel Foucault
“This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.”
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences

“Walking through a meadow calling the plants by name is like entering a room of friends instead of strangers.”
John Hildebrand, Mapping the Farm: The Chronicle of a Family

Siddhartha Mukherjee
“It felt—nearly twenty-five hundred years after Hippocrates had naively coined the overarching term karkinos—that modern oncology was hardly any more sophisticated in its taxonomy of cancer.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee

“There have been many authorities who have asserted that the basis of science lies in counting or measuring, i.e. in the use of mathematics. Neither counting nor measuring can however be the most fundamental processes in our study of the material universe—before you can do either to any purpose you must first select what you propose to count or measure, which presupposes a classification.”
Roy A. Crowson

“As long as museums and universities send out expeditions to bring to light new forms of living and extinct animals and new data illustrating the interrelations of organisms and their environments, as long as anatomists desire a broad comparative basis human for anatomy, as long as even a few students feel a strong curiosity to learn about the course of evolution and relationships of animals, the old problems of taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution will gradually reassert themselves even in competition with brilliant and highly fruitful laboratory studies in cytology, genetics and physiological chemistry.”
William King Gregory

Carl Sagan
“Bumblebees detect the polarization of sunlight, invisible to uninstrumented humans; put vipers sense infrared radiation and detect temperature differences of 0.01C at a distance of half a meter; many insects can see ultraviolet light; some African freshwater fish generate a static electric field around themselves and sense intruders by slight perturbations induced in the field; dogs, sharks, and cicadas detect sounds wholly inaudible to humans; ordinary scorpions have micro--seismometers on their legs so they can detect in darkness the footsteps of a small insect a meter away; water scorpions sense their depth by measuring the hydrostatic pressure; a nubile female silkworm moth releases ten billionths of a gram of sex attractant per second, and draws to her every male for miles around; dolphins, whales, and bats use a kind of sonar for precision echo-location.
The direction, range, and amplitude of sounds reflected by to echo-locating bats are systematically mapped onto adjacent areas of the bat brain. How does the bat perceive its echo-world? Carp and catfish have taste buds distributed over most of their bodies, as well as in their mouths; the nerves from all these sensors converge on massive sensory processing lobes in the brain, lobes unknown in other animals. how does a catfish view the world? What does it feel like to be inside its brain? There are reported cases in which a dog wags its tail and greets with joy a man it has never met before; he turns out to be the long-lost identical twin of the dog's "master", recognizable by his odor. What is the smell-world of a dog like? Magnetotactic bacteria contain within them tiny crystals of magnetite - an iron mineral known to early sailing ship navigators as lodenstone. The bacteria literally have internal compasses that align them along the Earth's magnetic field. The great churning dynamo of molten iron in the Earth's core - as far as we know, entirely unknown to uninstrumented humans - is a guiding reality for these microscopic beings. How does the Earth's magnetism feel to them? All these creatures may be automatons, or nearly so, but what astounding special powers they have, never granted to humans, or even to comic book superheroes. How different their view of the world must be, perceiving so much that we miss.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

China Miéville
“Classification may very well not be useless, but it is never analysis, no matter how baroquely detailed and comprehensive-seeming its categories. At best, it begs questions. At worst it is presumptuous and totalitarian, replacing understanding with filing. We have all heard papers where categories are the driving force, according to which the way we understand literature (or whatever) is to work out what title fits where, as if literary theory was a giant card-catalog. Even when the last book has been slotted neatly into the last of the holes that were cut to be filled with books, what we have are books in neat piles. Which is not nothing, but neither is it that much.”
China Miéville

Carl Sagan
“Still, the alien biologist might be excused for lumping together the whole biosphere - all the retroviruses, mantas, foraminifera, mongongo trees, tetanus bacilli, hydras, diatoms, stromatolite-builders, sea slugs, flatworms, gazelles lichens, corals, spirochetes, banyans, cave ticks, least bitters, caracaras, tufted puffins, ragweed pollen, wold spiders, horseshoe crabs, black mambas, monarch butterflies, whiptail lizards, trypanosomes, birds of paradise, electric eels, wild parsnips, arctic terns, fireflies, titis, chrysanthemums, hammerhead sharks, rotifers, wallabies, malarial plasmodia, tapirs, aphids, water moccasins, morning glories, whooping cranes, komodo dragons, periwinkles millipede larvae, angler fish, jellyfish lungfish, yeast, giant redwoods, tardigrades, archaebacteria, sea lilies, lilies of the valley, humans bonobos, squid and humpback whales - as, simply, Earthlife. The arcane distinctions among these swarming variations on a common theme may be left to specialists or graduate students. The pretensions and conceits of this or that species can readily be ignored. There are, after-all, so many worlds about which an extraterrestrial biologist must know. It will be enough if a few salient and generic characteristics of life on yet another obscure planet are noted for the cavernous recesses of the galactic archives.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Simon Baron-Cohen
“In one unusual study, people were asked to classify over a hundred examples of local specimens into related species. The people who took part in this experiment were the Aguaruna, a tribal people living in the forest in northern Peru. The following results were found: men’s classification systems had more sub-categories (in other words, they introduced greater differentiation) and more consistency. More striking, the criteria that the Aguaruna men used to decide which animals belonged together more closely resembled the taxonomic criteria used by Western (mostly male) biologists.”
Simon Baron-Cohen, The Essential Difference: Male And Female Brains And The Truth About Autism

Lulu Miller
“Darwin had observed so much variety in creatures traditionally assumed to be one species that his sense of a hard line between species had slowly begun to dissolve. Even that most sacred line, the supposed inability of different species to create fertile offspring, he realized was bunk. “It cannot be maintained that species when intercrossed are invariably sterile,” Darwin writes, “or that sterility is a special endowment and sign of creation.” Leading him finally to declare that species—and indeed all those fussy ranks taxonomists believe to be immutable in nature (genus, family, order, class, etc.)—were human inventions. Useful but arbitrary lines we draw around an ever-evolving flow of life for our “convenience.” “Natura non facet salute,” he writes. Nature doesn’t jump. Nature has no edges, no hard lines.”
Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

Ashim Shanker
“Between concentric pavement ripples glide errant echoes originating from beyond the Puddled Metropolis. Windowless blocks and pickle-shaped monuments demarcate the boundaries of patternistic cycles from those wilds kissed neither by starlight nor moonlight. Lethal underbrush of razor-like excrescence pierces at the skins of night, crawls with hyperactive sprouts and verminous vines that howl with contempt for the wicked fortunes of Marshland Organizers armed with scythes and hoes and flaming torches who have only succeeded in crafting their own folly where once stood something of glorious and generous integrity. There are familiar whispers under leaves perched upon by flapping moths. They implore the spirit again to heed the warnings of the vines and to not be swayed by the hubris of these organizing opportunists. One is to stop moving at frantic zigzags through gridlocked streets, stop climbing ladders altogether, stop relying on drainage pipes where floods should prevail, stop tapping one’s feet in waiting rooms expecting to be seen and examined and acknowledged. Rather, one is to eschew unseemly fabrications and conceal oneself beneath the surface of leaves—perhaps even inside the droplets of dew—one is, after all, to feel shameful of the form, of all forms, and seek instead to merge with whispers which do not shun or excoriate, for they are otherwise occupied in the act of designating meaning. Yet, what meaning stands beyond the rectitude of angles and symmetry, but rather in wilds among agitated insects and resplendent bogs and malicious spiders and rippling mosses pronouncing doom upon their surroundings? One is said to find only the same degree of opportunism, and nothing greatly edifying that could serve to extend beyond the banalities of self-preservation. But no, surely there is something more than this—there absolutely must be something more, and it is to be found! Forget what is said about ‘opportunism’—this is just a word and, thusly, a distraction. The key issue is that there are many such campaigns of contrivance mounted by the taxonomic self-interest of categories and frameworks ‘who’ only seek primacy and authority over their consumers. The ascription of ‘this’ may thusly be ascribed also with that of ‘this other’ and so it cannot be ‘that precisely’ because ‘this’ contradicts another ‘that other’ with which ‘this other’ surely claims affiliation. Certainly, in view of such limiting factors, there is a frustration that one is bound to feel that the answers available are constrained and formulaic and insufficient and that one is simply to accept the way of things as though they are defined by the highest of mathematics and do not beget anything higher. One is, thusly, to cease in one’s quest for unexplored possibility. The lines have been drawn, the contradictions defined and so one cannot expect to go very far with these mathematical rules and boundaries in place. There are ways out: one might assume the value of an imaginary unit and bounce out of any restrictive quadrant as with the errant echoes against the rippling pavement of this Puddled Metropolis. One will then experience something akin to a bounding and rebounding leap—iterative, but with all subleaps constituting a more sweeping trajectory—outward to other landscapes and null landscapes, inward through corridors and toward the centroid of circumcentric chamber clusters, into crevices and trenches between paradigms and over those mountain peaks of abstruse calculation.”
Ashim Shanker, Inward and Toward

“As I grow wiser and more skeptical, I realize that almost everything in nomenclature comes full circle. The question remains whether I can outlast the taxonomists.”
Michael A. Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses

“Its not get it from the 1% that is the correct $$ Grubbing answer to all budget solutions . . . its the 11% answer . . . . . If you took 111% from the Top 11% . . . you can only pay for 11% of everything the Democrats want to do . . . where do you think the rest is coming from . . . U !”
Kevin Kolenda