The journal Isis not too long ago printed an article by Peter Alagona, "Species Complicated: Classification and Conservation in American Environmental Historical past". I heard Peter give a captivating speak on this at a convention some time again, during which he defined that whereas scientists don't actually have definition for what a species is, the regulation (e.g. the US Endangered Species Act) requires organisms to be categorized into species, thus driving this seemingly "scientific" endeavor. The article summary:
How does the classification of organic organisms form efforts to preserve them? This essay addresses this key query via the scientific, administrative, and authorized histories of steelhead and rainbow trout. Members of the varied salmon household, these two fish have completely different life histories and bodily appearances, however for the reason that 1930s scientists have thought of them the identical species. Over the previous 150 years, nonetheless, their histories diverged. Right this moment, rainbow trout are bred by the hundreds of thousands in hatcheries and are among the many world’s commonest and widespread fish, whereas steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered all alongside the West Coast of the US. Their outstanding story reveals that conservation isn’t merely a political battle over issues that exist in nature; it’s a perennial competitors to show the existence and outline the very nature of these issues which can be the main focus of such struggles. Organic taxonomy and classification are central to those debates, as they’re to environmental historical past and the historical past of science extra typically.
And a few of the authorized historical past within the article: