I am a high school student and I want to ask: is the 'kingdom system' of classification (two-kingdom, three-kingdom etc.) different from artificial or natural classification? I am asking this because my teacher told me that these two are different things. He says that you cannot categorize the two-kingdom classification as artificial or any other type.

But I am little confused as to why we cannot categorize kingdom system classification into artificial, natural or any other type. For example, Linnaeus selected only a few characters to propose the two-kingdom classification. Then why can we not say that it is an artificial classification?

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    $\begingroup$ This question is very unclear. I don't know what "2kingdom", "3kingdom" are or what "artificial type, natural type etc." refers to. It seems at the end you're wondering about whether the classification of living things is arbitrary or not? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 23 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Oosaka The OP is referring to the description of biological classification systems as artificial or natural. They then ask whether the two-kingdom classification is a natural system, an artificial system, or something else entirely. (I have suggested some edits to the question, hopefully they will make the meaning clearer.) $\endgroup$ – Adhish Oct 23 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ 2 kingdom ,3 kingdom are the systems of classification which were used by earlier scientists to classify organisms, and natural ,artifical are also types of classifications which were based on the characters selected by them, i think i have cleared this in my question,,and my confusion is that whether the kingdom system can also be mixed/categorize in artificial,natural etc. types of classification or not? $\endgroup$ – Arun Bhardwaj Oct 23 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Adhish Thanks, I think I better understand what they mean by "2kingdom, 3kingdom" but I think your edit might not be totally accurate, in that OP talks of "classifications" and "types" where "natural" and "artificial" modify "types" and "2kingdom" etc modify "classification" and you've conflated things so that "artificial", "natural", "2kingdom" etc all modify "classification". Either way it doesn't answer the question of what OP means by "natural" or "artificial" types of classification... I can infer a meaning but I don't know if it's what OP is thinking. $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 23 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ @ArunBhardwaj As I said I think I understand now the 2kingdom, 3kingdom thing (you mean Linneaus had plants and animals, right? And others added fungi, prokaryotes, etc?) but I still don't know what "natural" and "artificial" types of classifications are. You say "based on characters", are both based on characters? What is the difference? Is it a difference in the characters, if so which ones? If you are talking about a definition you learned, can you give a source that explains that definition? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 23 at 14:03

In earlier days, biological classification systems were often described as artifical or natural, with natural systems reflecting the 'real' relationships among living beings, and artificial ones allowing classification only for some limited purpose (Gilmour, 1937). Natural systems were supposed to be based on a large number of characters, with a focus on characters 'fundamental' to organisms. Artifical systems were supposed to be based on fewer, arbitrarily chosen characters.

As an example, consider Linnaeus' works on the classification of plants. Linnaeus' Systema Naturae (1735) classified plants based on floral morphology alone. However, his later work Genera Plantarum (1737) included more characters, such as the morphology of fruits. Linnaeus therefore regarded the latter classification as being more natural. (See the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Linnaeus for a more detailed discussion of this.)

As for the two-kingdom classification, I couldn't find any sources calling it either artificial or natural.

However, the natural vs artificial dichotomy is not always straightforward. For instance, how do we know which characters are 'fundamental' and will help us develop a natural classification system? To quote Judd et al (2008):

For hundreds of years, botanists tried to develop classifications that were "natural"... Unfortunately, the word natural has no fixed meaning; rather, authors have used it to mean something that agrees with their own ideas about nature or about constructing classifications or systems. Eighteenth-century systematists had ideas about nature that were very different from ours—they were certainly not evolutionary—and their systematic practice and classifications are best interpreted in terms of how they understood nature.

Thus, in modern biology, 'natural classification' and 'artificial classification' are better regarded as historical ideas than as useful descriptors. The focus is now on classification that integrates an understanding of evolutionary relationships, i.e. phylogenetic classification.

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  • $\begingroup$ You still don't explain what "artificial" systems are, and neither does the Wikipedia article that you linked to, other than saying that such systems were based on arbitrary criteria, without giving any examples. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Oct 24 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Linnaeus' sexual system was artificial. ("In contrast to systems based on arbitrary divisions (including his own sexual system), a system based on natural characters could accommodate the growing number of new species..."- from the source you have linked). $\endgroup$ – Bipasha Oct 24 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment @MattDMo, I have edited the answer accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Adhish Oct 24 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Bipasha too, I hope the edits address your point. $\endgroup$ – Adhish Oct 24 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Adhish thanks, that explains it a lot better. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Oct 24 at 17:45

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