Biological Theory 4 (3):235-239 (2009)

Monika Piotrowska
State University of New York, Albany
I begin with a description of the benefits and limits of DNA barcoding as presented by its advocates not its critics. Next, I argue that due to the mutually dependent relationship between defining and delimiting species, all systems of classification are grounded in theory, even if only implicitly. I then proceed to evaluate DNA barcoding in that context. In particular, I focus on the barcoders’ use of a sharp boundary by which to delimit species, arguing that this boundary brings along additional theoretical commitments inconsistent with the way taxonomists conceive of species, viz., as entities that have vague boundaries and that cannot be defined by any single attribute other than ancestry. Given these inconsistencies, I conclude that even if groupings based on DNA barcodes match those of an existing taxonomy, the two systems of classification are not necessarily tracking the same entities, i.e., species.
Keywords Evolution  Essence  Similarity  DNA  Genetic  Classification  Taxonomy
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DOI 10.1162/biot.2009.4.3.235
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Problems and Projects.Nelson Goodman (ed.) - 1972 - Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
A Matter of Individuality.David L. Hull - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (3):335-360.
Evolution, Population Thinking, and Essentialism.Elliott Sober - 1980 - Philosophy of Science 47 (3):350-383.
Are Species Really Individuals?David L. Hull - 1976 - Systematic Zoology 25:174-191.

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