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- An online database is being unveiled to make the evolutionary tree of life easily accessible to all. The interactive site, called OneZoom, shows the taxonomic relationships between various species. In an introductory video, developer James Rosindell says, “The tree of life tells us the story of evolution and of how all life is related to a common ancestor. The trunk of the tree represents the first life on earth. And as time passed and species diversified the trunk split into a number of branches.”1 He adds, “After decades of effort, scientists are now probably only a year away from having the first draft of the complete tree of life, and it would be a great shame if having built it, we had no way to visualise it.” Rather than simply cataloging earth’s marvelous biodiversity, the web site is devoted to demonstrating the supposed evolutionary relationships in the history of life. An article introducing the new website says, “We can’t see the trees [the evolutionary tree of life] for the data.”2 But the descriptions of organisms—“the data”—does not demonstrate ancestral evolutionary relationships. Classification systems group similar organisms into categories, whereas the evolutionary interpretation of those categories superimposes an unobservable, unverifiable history on them.
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