The journal Isis not too way back printed an article by Peter Alagona, "Species Sophisticated: Classification and Conservation in American Environmental Historic previous". I heard Peter give a fascinating converse on this at a conference a while once more, throughout which he outlined that whereas scientists don't even 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 abstract:
How does the classification of natural organisms kind efforts to protect them? This essay addresses this key question through the scientific, administrative, and licensed histories of steelhead and rainbow trout. Members of the various salmon family, these two fish have fully totally different life histories and bodily appearances, nevertheless given that 1930s scientists have considered them the equivalent species. Over the earlier 150 years, nonetheless, their histories diverged. Proper this second, rainbow trout are bred by the lots of of 1000’s in hatcheries and are among the many many world’s commonest and widespread fish, whereas steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered all alongside the West Coast of the US. Their excellent story reveals that conservation is not merely a political battle over points that exist in nature; it is a perennial rivals to point out the existence and description the very nature of those points which will be the principle focus of such struggles. Natural taxonomy and classification are central to these debates, as they’re to environmental historic previous and the historic previous of science further sometimes.
And some of the licensed historic previous inside the article: