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Paul Turner Paul.Turner at jcu.edu.au
Tue Apr 18 18:13:06 EST 1995

I agree with you.  Every time I open my email I have to plough through 
definitions of a parasite.  How long is this going to go on for?  Has any 
one got anything interesting to say apart from boring definitions?

Heres hoping
Paul Turner

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, Mark Siddall wrote:

> Am I the only one getting tired of this?  
> Whether or not we are "parasitologists" or "net-negative-effect-ists"
> or "ecto-endo-symbiontists" or "not-freeliving-ists" is wholly
> immaterial.  There is absolutely no way to objectively define
> a parasite.  It is semantic pidgeon-holeing with no basis in any
> biological reality.  We cannot say something "is" or "is not" a parasite
> because there is no intensive definition of any such thing.  All defintiions
> of parasite are extensive.  
> A fitting analogy is the word "worm".  Once upon a time there was
> the attempt (in systematics) to give some biological meaning to the
> word worm in the form of the taxon "Vermes".  So , annelids, platyhelminths, 
> acanthocephalans, nemerteans, nematodes and even rotifers all found 
> themselves in the group "Vermes".  This was a classic case of 
> Aristotelian essentialism if not influenced by Gauthian Naturphilosophie 
> and the chain-of-being.
> It was also wrong and devoid of meaning.
> A parasitologist on the other hand can be defined: someone who attends
> parasitology meetings or publishes in parasitological journals or 
> simply calls him/herself a parasitologist.  That is intensive.
> Being a parasitologist may well be a productive thing by bringing one
> into contact with others that are interested in "parasitology" but if you've
> ever attended the meetings of various societies, one immediately 
> recognizes that there are some areas of discourse that one's 
> research interest touches on and others that are just wholly unrelated.
> This is not necessarily a problem as it provides a means for those in
> attendance to achieve breadth.  But it is this overall lack of anything
> biologically singular that typifies parasitology.  Not some objective
> quantum called a "parasite".
> Mark
> -- 
> Mark E. Siddall                "I don't mind a parasite...
> mes at vims.edu                    I object to a cut-rate one" 
> Virginia Inst. Marine Sci.                     - Rick
> Gloucester Point, VA, 23062

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