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2020, PLOS Biology, with Stephen T. Garnett , Les Christidis, Mark J. Costello, Frank E. Zachos, Olaf S. Bánki, Yiming Bao, Saroj K. Barik, John S. Buckeridge, Donald Hobern, Aaron Lien, Narelle Montgomery, Svetlana Nikolaeva, Richard L. Pyle, Scott A. Thomson, Peter Paul van Dijk, Anthony Whalen, Zhi-Qiang Zhang & Kevin R. Thiele

This paper proposes 10 principles that could underpin a governance framework for creating and maintaining a single list of the world's species.

Image from the paper listing current listing initiatives.

We argue against natural kind eliminativism by showing that the notion of ‘natural kinds’ enables fruitful investigation into non-arbitrary classification in science.

I argue against the widely assumed view that conservation science is dependent on taxonomy but not vice versa. I do this by highlighting two important roles for conservation scientists in scientific decisions that are part of the internal stages of taxonomy. I show that these roles imply that the two disciplines should be interdependent and that value-judgments should play a substantial role in both.

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This paper considers whether it would in theory be possible to develop a unitary scale for evolutionary independence. Such a scale would show clearly when groups are comparable and allow taxonomists to choose a conventional threshold of independence for species status. I draw a parallel with the measurement of temperature to argue that such a measurement approach may be fruitful and could help to make the vague notion of evolutionary independence more precise.

This paper investigates the case of enzyme classification to evaluate different ideals for regulating values in science. I argue that the case of enzyme classification poses a problem for two important views, and suggest that these two views provide different but complementary perspectives that are both useful.

Figure from PDB created with CCP4MG
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This paper argues that taxonomic governance (which I argue to be a combination of standardization, unification and regulation) is a promising solution to the incomparability, inconsistency and instability of species classifications. It does this by drawing a parallel with the classification of enzymes and viruses, and by responding to the main objections to this view.

(2018). European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 8(3), 587–603

This paper discusses how the outcomes of taxonomy can be reliable and objective despite the fact that they are heavily dependent on the particular way taxonomists operationalize the species concept. It does this by drawing a parallel with measurement in the physical sciences.

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2018. Zootaxa. 4415(2), 390–392

I react to the widespread rejection (see here and here) in the taxonomic community of Stephen Garnett's and Les Christidis' proposal to regulate species classification (see here). I argue that neither the limitations to taxonomic freedom they propose nor the role for value-judgments in species classification they envisage are good reasons to reject their proposal. Instead, I argue, we should encourage the dialogue they try to start about resolving the problem of taxonomic anarchy and start by evaluating the practical feasibility of their ideas.

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

This paper looks at the role of norms in scientific classification, and argues that this role is not exhausted by the general aims of classification. I use the case of species classification to show that the local norms and aims of research projects and investigators play a crucial role in determining the legitimacy of classification.

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I argue that value-judgments should play a profound role in species classifications. The argument for this claim is presented over the course of five chapters. These are divided into two main parts; part one, which consists of the two first chapters, presents an argument for a radical form of species pluralism; part two, which comprises the remaining chapters, discusses the implications of radical species pluralism for the role of values in species classification.