I would be grateful if someone tried to answer the question above. What are some arguments that show that genus-species relation does not correctly describe the world, that it is not a correct distinction?

I would also be grateful if you directed me to a discussion of the literature around this issue, that genus-species distinction does not work

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    Why are you asking philosophers about biology? What's your alternative method that does a better job of categorising animals? The only people I've heard objecting to the species concepts (because there isn't just one concept) are young-Earth creationists, and the "correctly describes the world" discussion absolutely does not land in their favour.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 31, 2023 at 13:57
  • @NotThatGuy I am not a young earth creationist. I am not working in phil of biology. I was trying to find out what the consensus and criticism of this distinction are Jul 31, 2023 at 14:53
  • Are you talking about biology genus/species or logic genus/species? Jul 31, 2023 at 21:28
  • @DavidGudeman logic genus and species Jul 31, 2023 at 22:21
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    The answer you accepted is about biological genus/species. As to the logical genus/species, I'm not sure what you are looking for. It's just a relationship that holds between categories. Jul 31, 2023 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


Well, first of all, the criticisms I can give of the genus-species distinction in biological taxonomy does not mean that the system "doesn't work." There are just pros and cons on this.

Pros of Genus-Species Distinction:

  • Organizational Tool: The genus-species distinction provides a standardized system for naming and classifying the vast diversity of life. It provides a universally accepted language for biologists to communicate about specific organisms.

  • Understanding Relationships: It helps in understanding the evolutionary relationships among different organisms, showing who is related to whom.

  • Research and Conservation: It aids in biological research, conservation efforts, and laws regulating wildlife, as species are the fundamental unit of conservation.

Cons of Genus-Species Distinction:

  • Lack of Clear Boundaries: In many cases, it's difficult to draw a clear line between one species or genus and another. Ring species and organisms with continuous variation across geographic ranges challenge the concept.

  • Struggles with Microorganisms: The system is less effective when dealing with microorganisms like bacteria and archaea, which can engage in horizontal gene transfer, blurring the lines between species.

  • Doesn't Reflect Evolutionary Fluidity: The static nature of the genus-species system does not accurately reflect the fluid, dynamic nature of species as shown by evolutionary biology.

  • Hybridization Issues: The existence of hybrids, viable offspring from two different species, challenges the concept of species based on reproductive isolation.

  • Genetic Variation: The advent of genetic sequencing has shown that there can be considerable genetic variation within a species, sometimes even more than between different species, questioning the validity of the genus-species distinction.

For a more in-depth discussion of these issues, you might want to look into evolutionary biology or philosophy of biology literature. A good starting point might be the works of Ernst Mayr, who was influential in the development of the "biological species concept", or the writings of philosophers of biology like Elliot Sober and Michael Ruse.

However, I repeat. despite all these criticisms, the genus-species distinction still provides a very useful framework. It is a fundamental tool in biological research that has proven to be highly effective for centuries.

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    All models are wrong, some are useful Jul 31, 2023 at 19:39
  • Note that just about every categorisation of things in reality has a lack of clear boundaries, may be limited in scope, and may have shortcomings. If you haven't reflected on this, these cons may make this particular categorisation seem bad. But that's just a typical part of trying to fit non-categorical reality into some useful categories. Reality doesn't conform to the categories we try to fit it into.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 1, 2023 at 8:20
  • We learn the reality by building models. The main feature of science is constant improvement of knowledge and models and trying to describe reality. That's why you have internet now and all other things. Otherwise you'd be sitting in a cave telling stories about some god and that's it. :)
    – user66933
    Aug 1, 2023 at 8:38

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