What’s in a Name? Can You Hum a Few Bars?

16 07 2011

Remember Beetleness and Daffodility?

. . .sorting and naming the natural world is a universal, deep-seated and fundamental human activity, one we cannot afford to lose because it is essential to understanding the living world, and our place in it.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

Taxonomy in my mind is power of story, more art than science. It means making meaning from human cognition and emotion, which regardless of how and whether we distinguish between them, together constitute the whole of our reality.

So I think (and feel) that taxonomy can’t be defined solely in terms of the “natural” world, as beauty apart from human thinking and feeling. Read the rest of this entry »

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