Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Agnosticism in Comparative Biology

Gnostic adj. of or relating to knowledge (from gnōstos meaning 'known')

Agnostic adj. a person who believes that nothing is known on some topic, either at the present, or in principle

In the philosophy of religion and recent public debates over atheism, a distinction is made of the difference between believing in God (theism) and not believing in God (atheism), but a third option, agnosticism is often regarded as the equivocation or uncertainty about whether or not there is a God. In fact, agnosticism is the denial that the existence of a God can be known one way or the other, and that we should stick to the facts we do know. Agnostics reject gnosticism of either kind. In biology, there are similar matters to consider.