Talk:Species problem

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This subject is a fairly large one among biologists who study species, and it was really not represented in the species article. It is also one that lots of non-biologists wonder about sometimes, so it seemed like a gap that should be filled. Karebh 02:36, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

I would ask, so this page doesn't get pro'd, to difinity clean it up, expand it, and reference it to and through the species article. there is no reason that the subsection related to this subject in that article cannot be improved as well. --Tainter 02:39, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

what is pro'd? Karebh 03:04, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Species as categories vs. individuals[edit]

This sentence "One common disagreement is over whether a species is defined by the characteristics that biologists use to identify the species, or whether a species is an evolving entity in nature." is rather one-sided. The disagreement, which has largely died down, was over whether species are categories or individuals; advocates of species as individuals (notably Ghiselin, ca. 1974) argued that viewing species as individuals was necessary to view them as natural ("real") evolving things, whereas those who disagreed with Ghiselin generally also held that species were real and evolving, but disagreed about the necessity of viewing species as individuals for this viewpoint. The post-mortem on this disagreement would seem to be that species are by this point generally regarded as individuals, but no one's been able to figure out how this changes anything whatsoever. --Patrick Alexander —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:47, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

It doesn't, and it can't. Nature doesn't depend on the arbitrary labels that humans attach to things for their own convenience. A species is no more 'an evolving entity in nature' than a chair is 'an evolving entity in nature' - neither exists as an entity outside the pragmatic need of humans to use shorthand so as to be able to discuss anything, not just abstract concepts but even bits of timber nailed together to sit on. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:05, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

Another meaning of "species problem"?[edit]

I just read an article in The Economist [1], which describes the "species problem" as "how did life's variety arise?" and treats it as a synomym for "evolution". So I googled and found pages (e.g. [2], [3]) which suggest that Darwin used "species problem" as a code-phrase to avoid attracting premature and hostile attention to his developing ideas on evolution. My guess is that The Economist's writer researched Darwin but not the species concept and fell into a trap. But others may fall into the same trap or read articles which fall into it. So I suggest this Species problem should note Darwin's idiosyncratic use of the phrase - preferably alerting readers at the top and linking to a description of Darwin's use of the term.Philcha 11:04, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

A good point. I've made the change Karebh 01:02, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

Use of "Natural Kinds"[edit]

Why does this article give any lip service to the phrase "natural kinds"? Isn't that an antiquated phrase from the religion of Christianity?

Also, this article is totally false in this sentence: "Under the first view, species appear to us as typical natural kinds, but when biologists turn to understand species evolutionarily they are revealed as changeable and without sharp boundaries." It seems rather clear to me that Darwin turned to "understanding things evolutionarily" precisely BECAUSE species are not clearly differentiated in nature! Therefore the logic presented in this sentence is actually backwards. Biology began to look at species evolutionarily precisely BECAUSE OF THE SPECIES PROBLEM. It is wrong ( and backwards ) to say the Species Problem arrises because biologists are looking at species evolutionarily.

I think this article should pay lip service to errors of Platonism. Because english speakers use the word "planet" then we somehow assume that means "planets" are easily identified around the sun. However, Pluto showed this to not be the case. Analogously, just because Linnaeus came up with the word "species", that somehow we assume that species MUST exist in nature! Worst yet, fundamentalist christians go onto to claim that "GOD CREATED SPECIES" and that they are in totally compartmentalized categories in nature. Darwin's Origin of Species showed this is not the case. The entire synopsis of Origin of Species is essentially this: "Species" do not really exist in nature, because we are really looking at a system of organisms that are always changing and always in flux. We do not observe in nature a static system created 6000 years ago. paros 23:49, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

" We do not observe..." - if I may, I'll shamelessly steal this phrase for future discussions. It is simply too good :) Dysmorodrepanis 19:37, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Merge, title, etc[edit]

  • Merge some content from Species here - yes, 'support. BUT: move this page to Species concept which is the term used in science today: the problem is not how to define species - the problem, if any, may be to defend your particular choice of species concept in a particular case to your colleagues, but that's about it. A number of species concepts have been proposed that about cover all steps in the speciation process.

As for an overview, one of the earlier volumes of the Handbook of Birds of the World deals with the important species concepts at length in the intro section. It might be available at your library, especially if it's an university library. You can also try a SORA search for terms like biological species concept or phylogenetic species concept. Dysmorodrepanis 19:37, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Some points[edit]

re: natural kinds

'natural kinds' turns up in lots of places. Philosophers find it to be pretty useful. Check out natural kinds.

Darwin would not have said that species don't exist. Also lots of things presumeably exist that are not distinct or that come into being gradually. e.g. instances of marriage, or fog etc . Much of the modern usage of 'species' is roughly synonymous with 'population' (although many species include multiple populations). At any rate, such populations are taken to be real, even they are often not distinctly separate from other populations and even they their distinctness can change with time.

re: merge, title etc

'species concept' is not the the same thing as the species problem.

An important distinction that gets a lot of play these days is the difference between a concept of species, and the criteria that we use to identify or detect them. Just as the concept of neutrino has little to do with how we detect a neutrino, the same could be true of species. Some of the species concepts that have been proposed use 'concept' in a general conceptual sense, whereas others use it to mean a detection criterion. This is an example of the general phenomena in which cross-purpose disagreements easily arise over "species", and specifically it shows one way in which the species problem is larger than a debate of the best species concepts.

Karebh 17:12, 11 July 2007 (UTC)


I'm not going to put any effort into arguing this but this article seems biased as heck. It reads like an essay on why you should believe in the word species. It totally skips any sort of discussion on the sort of things that makes the species problem a problem. (lions and tigers being able to breed, ring species, bacterial genetic transfer).

My guess is that there is a lot of anti-evolution vandals on wikipedia and someone misguidedly decided any sort of attack on species as discrete objects was a threat to evolutionary theory or something and neutered this article to not actually talk about the subject. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:02, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

A pro-evolution vandal? :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:10, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

re Bias[edit]

Not sure what the bias problem is. The article discusses at some length the difficulties with the biological species concept - see paragraph beginning with "Mayr was persuasive..." If you want to discuss discreteness more, go ahead. I very much doubt that fear of anti-evolutionists has anything do do with the text. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Karebh (talkcontribs) 20:48, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Original research removed[edit]

I've removed the following text:

===DNA Evidence favoring Realism===
Ultimately, DNA sequences determine species boundaries. If species are natural kinds, then there must exist a DNA mechanism maintaining the boundaries between species.[1] Gene conversion is such a mechanism. Gene conversion homogenizes DNA sequences within the gene pool of a species, thereby allowing the DNA sequences to clump together. In addition, there are mechanisms that allow DNA sequences to escape the boundaries set by gene conversion. These are the interspersed repetitive DNA that insert blocks of discontinuous non-homology within otherwise homologous DNA sequences. The blocks of non-homology interrupt gene conversion mechanisms and shield nearby DNA sequences from the homogenizing effects of gene conversion. By so doing, the interspersed repetitive DNA catalyze the evolution of new genes. The characteristics of DNA sequences and gene conversion form the physical foundation that humans observe as species.
[1]Brunner AM, Schimenti JC, Duncan CH (September 1986). "Dual evolutionary modes in the bovine globin locus". Biochemistry. 25 (18): 5028–35. doi:10.1021/bi00366a009. PMID 3768329. 

Gene conversion is a known mechanism, and the (rather old) citation supports that, but the claim that gene conversion is THE mechanism that explains the existence of species is spurious, WP:OR (natural selection, ecological niches, all irrelevant, apparently). This theory is being built into wikipedia by a single editor, bolstered by self-published material such as Function of Repetitive DNA which I have just removed as an external link from Interspersed repeat, and which links back to wikipedia to bolster its claim to legitimacy. This is WP:FRINGE that doesn't belong in wikipedia. Sminthopsis84 (talk) 17:34, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

Application of species problem to Wikipedia article, Dendriscocaulon[edit]

Without being explicitly named, the species problem has caused problems in writing lichen articles. There was some preliminary discussion at Talk:Lichen#Are_the_expression_.22lichenized_fungus.22_and_.22lichen.22_synonymous.3F, and Talk:Lichen#What_is_the_fungus_that_is_lichenized_by_two_photobionts_at_different_times.3F_Is_there_just_one_species_name.3F. An illustration of the problem is this Wikipedia article - Dendriscocaulon. Please contribute at the linked discussions, contribute at Talk:Dendriscocaulon#WP:Bold changes are welcome, or by my making WP:BOLD (RS or not) edits to Dendriscocaulon. FloraWilde (talk) 14:36, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

FloraWilde, you have started a discussion (which is perfectly fine) but it is not the proper use of the {{help me}} tag, which is for questions regarding editing and how-to on wikipedia (not garnering opinions). Cheers. Primefac (talk) 15:36, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I took down the help tag. FloraWilde (talk) 16:34, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

in Pluralism and monism section[edit]

"David Hull argued that pluralist proposals were unlikely to actually solve the species problem.[34]" sounds like it is a negation of a claim made by those proposing pluralism. yet i found nothing earlier in the same section that would suggest that such a claim was part of the "Pluralist" approach. (talk) 19:29, 7 May 2016 (UTC).