Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Most Life Still Unclassified

I read an article dated November 13, 2007 entitled After 250 Years of Classifying Life, 90 Percent Remains Unknown.

Most everyone has heard of Carl Linnaeus. He was a Swedish naturalist who published in 1735 a 13-page booklet called Systema Naturae that proposed a method of classifying living things. His book sparked an attempt to classify all life. He originally included minerals, too.

A few days after I read the above article I noticed that a copy of that booklet sold for about $300,000 (150,000 British pounds). The seller was an Edinburgh college.

Linnaeus' book was published 63 years before the discovery of the platypus. Of course the platypus wasn't lost and a good many people already knew about it but 1798 is the date some European discovered one. I have wondered if Linnaeus' system would have changed any if he had known about the platypus. Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species in 1859. That might have changed Linnaeus' taxonomy had he known about it.

Someone introduced me to C. S. Lewis not long after my conversion to Christianity. Lewis had become an atheist at about 13 and marked his conversion at about 31. It wasn't exactly my story but close enough to pique my interest. I was quite fascinated by his tales.

Of particular interest to me in his stories were the sentient and self-aware animals and trees. Not all animals and not all tress were sentient beings in his stories but some were. And those that were also had the ability of language.

The stories made me think about things I had never considered. One has to respect such authors.

I've known a lot of animals. Some of them were considerably better company than some humans I've met. And some I don't miss at all and I'm happy some are gone.

When I visited Muir Woods in California to see the giant redwood trees I touched several with great reverence and awe. They seemed to me to be completely in a different class of anything I'd ever encountered.

Sentient animals doesn't seem such a stretch to me really.

I wonder if old Carl Linnaeus's system of classification is anywhere near correct? Probably be a few more years before we know since it has only been 272 years. Then again I don't suppose it makes much difference to me one way or another.


nancy said...

i remember being in awe as well when i visited muir woods. the majestic feeling was indescribable. matt & mark were only about 6 & 8. how they looked liked insects next to them.

we read c.s. lewis' the lion, the witch and the wardrobe for bookclub many years ago. it definitely had a lively discussion as one of the members at the time was an agnostic.

great post!

~Betsy said...

The California Redwoods are indeed a site to behold. When I stood next to them some 20 years ago, all I could think about were the people who had stood there before me and those who were there before them. Awe inspiring!

Lori1955 said...

Somehow those majestic redwoods just make you feel as though you are as close to God as you ever will be on this earth. I can feel that fullness in my soul just thinking about them.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I stood by the California Redwoods thirty years ago. I was then , and still am, only 4' 9" tall, but my insignificance next to them was not due to my height. ;)

I have an old copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In fact, I think I wrote about in my blog somewhere. Animal tales are fascinating.

Chris said...

I think I need to get out more.