By Wim J. van der Steen
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Extra info for A practical philosophy for the life sciences
Terms can also be characterized by their extension or reference, the class of things to which they apply. For example, fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds and mammals jointly constitute the extension of 'vertebrate'. The presence of a vertebral column is commonly regarded as a feature which belongs to the intension of 'vertebrate'. The next example illustrates the distinction of defining and accompanying features. Example 5. ) show rhythms with a period of 24 hours, which are associated with rhythms in environmental factors such as light and temperature.
Biologists have indeed decided a couple of years ago to regard them as subspecies. Most biologists would presumably opt for a slightly different discourse concerning specieswhich may lead to a different decision concerning black crows and hooded crows. Mayr's species concept need not be used in a rigorous way, since reproductive isolation is a matter of degree. Species may remain distinct even if they interbreed occasionally, or more frequently but in a highly localized hybrid zone. Mayr's definition, interpreted non-rigorously, allows for limited degrees of interbreeding among species; the facts show that limited interbreeding does occur in nature.
The example illustrates that it is not always wrong to use ambiguous words. It would be foolish to avoid the verb 'to be' because it is ambiguous. The point is rather that the intended meaning should be clear in the context. Example 3. Biologists have occasionally quarreled about the thesis that species cannot inter-breed. To understand the dispute one will have to know about the concept of species. The concept is tricky. In fact many species concepts exist. Biologists are continually proposing new ones.
A practical philosophy for the life sciences by Wim J. van der Steen