50 words for snow, or conceptual confusion

In a well-known and generally debunked story, Inuit people have around 50 words for snow. Or so the argument by anthropologist Franz Boas goes. In fact, people who engage with the phenomena of their environments often make distinctions that those who rarely or never engage in the same way with those phenomena don’t. Snow is Read More…

Species: The evolution of the idea

I have completed and submitted the manuscript now for my revision of Species: A history of the idea, now renamed Species: the evolution of the idea. I am publishing it with CRC Press, and it is due out next year. In addition to updating and revising the historical sections of the book, I have added Read More…

Noah’s Ark and the creation of the species rank

This is a section of my forthcoming revision to Species, presented here for comments that I can steal – umm, I mean for peer commentary. At this point in our narrative, we still do not have a uniquely biological notion of species, nor of a fixed rank in logic. As species concepts evolved, at some point both of Read More…

Are species life forms?

This is a section of my forthcoming revision to Species, presented here for comments that I can steal – umm, I mean for peer commentary. The philosophical ideas and terms of Wittgenstein have played an interesting and underappreciated role in the species debate: we saw Beckner appeal to family resemblance predicates, and Pigliucci revive that, Read More…

A nineteenth century view on classification

The principle upon which I understand the Natural System of Botany to be founded is, that the affinities of plants may be determined by a consideration of all the points of resemblance between their various parts, properties, and qualities; that thence an arrangement may be deduced in which those species will be placed next each Read More…

Speciation – A brief history: The late eighteenth century

After Linnaeus had settled on the older mechanism of hybridisation of genera with other genera or with varieties formed by geographical conditions as the cause of new species, the topic began to pick up speed. Hybridisation remained the usual method as late as the 1830s (e.g., in Lindley) but two developments were crucial in the Read More…

Speciation – a brief history: Linnaeus

One of the fundamental aspects of evolution is speciation. This is the process by which more species come into being, and there are many different definitions and mechanisms that have been proposed by biologists in the last couple of centuries. I aim to write an occasional series on what it is supposed to be at Read More…