|Berger et al., 2015
The box above shows you, if you reflect for a moment, how involved and hierarchical taxonomy can be. The box refers to the tremendous fossil finds around 2013 outside Johannesburg, South Africa by Professor Lee Berger of Witwatersrand University and his team and associates in caves nearby.
The fossil finds are determined to be “homo” and not “australo” as you see in the table above (to the right of the word genus).
The PBS NOVA program “Dawn of Humanity” (2015), is about the story of these fossil finds and the interpretations of the finds which are deeply instructive for all knowledge-seekers, students, etc. because they leave behind any idea of a linear clearly branching “tree of life” in favor of the “bushiness” of evolution (no clear tree structure) and the whole process finally seen as a “braided stream.” This refers to a geological concept of the multiple pathways and reticulations of glacial ice and snow melt going down a mountain valley to a lake. The rivulets, channels, are crisscrossing in a “fluvial” flow pattern that is so complex one doesn’t know exactly which “exact” water went into the lake. If you say the lake is “homo sapiens” (humanity) and the swirling bushy tangled flow is the evolutionary raw material, some final causality is elusive.
When a “braided stream” (this kind of glacial water flow) metaphor gets fused with a “bushiness” one, then one sees that the random factors and endless crisscrossing obscures linear mono-causal explanations as we always imagined.
If you imagine a time when these concepts are applied to history, economy, and society you can begin to sense many “causality revolutions” in front of us where today’s textbooks will seem charmingly naive.
Every student, enrolled or not, should ponder the concepts of “braided stream” taxonomy (shown in the initial table above) and “bushiness” as opposed to tree structure. The student might also “walk around” these metaphors and ask what they imply for the “fractal geometry of nature” (a twig is like a little tree or branch on a bigger tree or branch and so on).