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KMO prime (
Fri, 25 Oct 1996 03:19:55 EDT

Yesterday I promised to say something more about the view that Dawkins
articulates in chapter 10 of the BlindWatchmaker, "The one true tree of
life." The view, in a nutshell, is this. Catagories like bird, mamal,
human, or chimp are dependent on our interests and are not "natural
kinds" because evolution proceeds gradually. If you trace the genetic
lineage of birds back far enough you will eventually reach an organism
that is definitely not a bird. Somewhere between the animal that is
definetly a bird and the one that is definitely not a bird there will be
a critter which isn't quite a bird but which is obviously something
bird-like. The point is just the one that I made a day or so ago. The
boarderline cases demonstrate that the catagory borders in our taxonomies
are defined by our interests and not by nature. My claim was a bit
strong than the one Dawkins makes becuase he is only talking about
biological taxonomies while I was making a point about taxonomies in

In an earlier chapter, he makes a similar argument about inteligence. At
one end of the continueum are things which are obviously not inteligent,
and at the other end are obvious cases of inteligence, but in the middle
there are systems which are hard to call. Where we draw the line will
depend on our interests (and prejdices).

Take care. -KMO