The Whatchamacallit Science

OK all you taxonomy geeks--this one's for you. As a gardener one who is forever fascinated by the sometimes changing nature of scientific names-Latin binomials--I've always been interested in the process of assigning stuff--plants, animals, insects--not only a name but the science behind it: family, genus, species, and all the rest. Kings Play Chess On Friday, Generally Speaking--if you know what I mean. Anyway, interesting story in the New York Times this morning, here.


Carol said...

I read that piece and thought of linking to it too! Still may... I have such mixed feelings about putting names ... the taxonomy thing... assigning certain names to plants and other animals. Love your illustration and your words. Though a great admirer of Linnaeus and Goethe... I do not agree with the total concept that by naming you come to understand and come closer to nature... many just come closer to manipulation of nature. Other cultures have different names and stories and perhaps have more reverence for nature as a whole. I read the piece yesterday so maybe the author mentioned this. It is certainly true that too many are isolated from nature. Of course having a name ... the latin preferred you can find anything about a plant you might be interested in. Still will that make a person think about using poisons that will directly have detrimental impact on nature within their own realm and in the larger picture harm our water ways, air and earth?... doubt it. Each tiny bottle or package of toxic chemicals has a direct link to larger manufacturing along with spills, leaks, illness to humans, flora and fauna.

Steve Silk said...

Wow Carol--now that's a comment. And I hear you. Naming is a wonderful thing, and scientific names are even better (though I've always found it odd that birders-- who may be most like gardeners in their affection for many species-- use primarily common names) than colorful, often evocative common names. But just because one can name something doesn't make them any closer to undertanding it or the larger environment it calls home. That's like saying to someone that since you know my name you are sensitized to the issues I care about (if only!). Plus, what the heck will be the scientific name for a genetically modified, oh I dunno-a flounder-gened tomato? Anyway, naming is like language-no matter what, you need a word for it. What happens from there on out is up to the individual.

Carol said...

"...naming is like language-no matter what, you need a word for it. What happens from there on out is up to the individual."

So true! and... as writers, where would we be without names... they so enrich a piece.

acorn said...

Very very interesting piece. Thanks for posting the link.

Having spent many years teaching a taxonomically oriented biology class to 7th graders, I would like to add that knowing the name does not necessarily make you feel closer to the organism. BUT not knowing the name can make it invisible. It become just part of the vast background of stuff that has no connection to your world. If by chance you do make some sort of connection, you will probably either find its name or make one up.
Learning names forces you to see and hopefully recognize other living things.

I had the students make up their own memory jog. In my town of mainly Italian heritage, the G S was often Great Spaghetti