The unwelcome political implications of taxonomy

This excursion into philosophy of [taxonomic] classification is trivia except when the classifiers come after your wallet. Most of us can get by in life whether or not Pluto is dubbed a planet, but the Endangered Species Act has caused landowners their livelihood. Remember the snail darter? It is human beings, with their flawed schemes, who decide what constitutes an endangered species. Reclassify snail darters as members of a larger taxon with a wider range, and presto! the landowner gets his private property rights back. What changed? The snail darter? No; the society’s decision, based on political power.

All it takes for an ideologue with an agenda to stop a shopping center or factory that might create hundreds of jobs is to discover a weed or roundworm in the path of development and convince the EPA it is endangered. Classification looms large as a political issue in such cases.

My two cents

Gierisch's globemallow, a federally listed spe...
Gierisch’s globemallow, a federally listed species in 2013 (Photo credit: Tony Frates)

Wow, I had never thought of taxonomy in that way before. Usually when I think of taxonomy, I think of how it relates to Genesis—things like created kinds, rapid diversity after Noah’s Flood, and baraminology.

I think of a road near my house that was laid less than a decade ago. It had a curved alignment, and I thought that was because it was the quickest way to get from A to B (i.e. the existing roads). But recently I found out its alignment was changed to preserve some vernal pools (temporary pools of water that provide habitat for certain species).

It was like they were trying to do the opposite of the dominion mandate on purpose—letting every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth have dominion over man. I wonder if taxonomy played a hand in that as well…

Quote source

Creation Evolution Headlines. (2011). 8.7 Million Species Is Not a Scientific Fact. Available: Last accessed 19th Dec 2013.


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