Biologist Carol Kaesuk Yoon explores the historical tension between evolutionary biology and taxonomy. Carl Linnaeus struggled in the eighteenth century to define species in light of their mutability while still relying on intuitive, visual judgments. As taxonomy modernized, it moved into labs, yielding results counterintuitive to humanity's innate predisposition to order the world. By conceding scientific authority to taxonomists, Yoon argues, we've contributed to our own alienation from nature.
New York Times science writer Carol Kaesuk Yoon's debut title is an enlightening exploration of the history of scientific classification, which proposes that the once- instinctual process of naming the natural world was fundamentally disrupted by the systematic labeling methods pioneered by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. Yoon is all about "umwelt," a German concept which she defines as the inherent method for perceiving and classifying the natural world, which has remained embedded in our brains since the days before civilization. As proof of the "umwelt," she cites the tendency of different cultures to give similar names to natural creatures and scientific studies which have shown that damage to certain, specific areas of the brain inhibit the ability to identify elements of nature. Yoon argues that the Linnaeus system of classification, which uses molecular evidence to place a plant or animal within a rigid hierarchy, relies on a completely different neurological process and has been a primary cause of the increasing distance people place between themselves and the natural world, resulting in the ubiquitous environmental ruin which scars our planet today.
- Life Sciences / Taxonomy, Life Sciences / Biology
- August 2, 2010
- August 2, 2010
- Carol Kaesuk Yoon