World to Word: Nomenclature Systems of Color and Species

Dissertation, University Of Missouri (2017)
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As the digitization of information accelerates, the push to encode our surrounding numerically instead of linguistically increases. The role that language has traditionally played in the nomenclature of an integrative taxonomy is being replaced by the numeric identification of one or few quantitative characteristics. Nineteenth-century scientific systems of color identification divided, grouped, and named colors according to multiple characteristics. Now color identification relies on numeric values applied to spectrographic readings. This means of identification of color lacks the taxonomic rigor of nineteenth century systems. Identifying color by numeric value instead of by grouping and naming them, strips color taxonomy of all but one quantitative aspect of a color. I use the case of color taxonomy to argue against a similar trend of numeric identification in the biological sciences. Unlike historically more integrative approaches to taxonomy in biology, genomic sequencing identifies one or few quantitative characteristics to encode an organism. If genomic sequencing becomes the primary means of identification in the biological sciences, just as in numeric systems of color identification, scientific taxonomy would suffer. Basing my analysis on theories of perception of division and on theories of language, I use the cases of color and species to argue for the advantages of an integrative taxonomic system of naming and categorizing over a method of identification, which encodes limited characteristics numerically. I hold that language is the most sophisticated tool for systematic taxonomy and that taxonomic nomenclature should be retained.
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