Yes, exactly this!
Broadly dismissive declarations that “species are not real” and “taxonomy is not science” become ever more frustrating.
One source of such fallacies is the number of different “species concepts” that systematists have developed based on observed properties of organisms and their populations. But why, one might ask, are there not also 21 “genus concepts” or 47 “family concepts”? Why the difference? Because the taxonomic ranks of genus and family are examples of truly arbitrary human constructs, and such concepts would have little utility at those ranks.
- Digression: as a grouping of related species, a single genus (for example) could encompass an entire kingdom at one extreme, or each species could be given its own genus at the other extreme. Either of those extremes is maximally uninformative, especially since a genus name forms part of the nomenclature by which we communicate about related species. So we have gravitated instead toward something in the middle - diagnosable groups of related species that most usefully convey information about the similarities among the included species and the differences from other such species groups. The only thing about supra-specific taxonomic ranks susceptible to hypothesis testing and falsifiability is whether they represent monophyletic, paraphyletic, or polyphyletic groups of extant species. But which such groups get chosen to be ranked as genera remains an arbitrary and utilitarian choice. Not necessarily so with species.
Taxonomy may sometimes be practiced unscientifically, but it is not inherently unscientific. All species taxa start as hypotheses, usually based on the same phenotypic discontinuities by which Linnaeus developed his classification. When one is explicit about the species concept being applied, such hypotheses are subject to repeatable experimental testing and falsification, just like in any other experimental science. The fact that most species hypotheses have yet to be tested reflects only the enormity of the task relative to available resources, not anything arbitrary or unreal about what is being hypothesized.
Likewise, the number of species concepts available with which to frame hypotheses reflects only the real diversity of reproductive and evolutionary processes in nature - two of the most fundamental aspects of all living organisms. That there is not just one “way of being a species” for all organisms may be inconvenient to our need for simplicity, but that in itself is a good indicator that species are not arbitrary constructs - otherwise we would have pursued the imposition of such simplicity instead of observing the actual variation in nature. The fact that species do not encompass comparable sets of organisms and genetic diversity across all branches of the tree of life should surprise no one, and does not make them arbitrary or any less real.
Because species names also serve as a primary human communication tool for our common understanding of natural diversity, there always has been, and always will be, a tension between species hypotheses rooted in experimentally testable properties of organisms on the one hand, and those that are observable by ordinary means accessible to most human beings on the other hand. (I would argue that this tension has been the other major driver - alongside different reproductive and evolutionary modes - in the development of multiple species concepts.) When biology and practicality do not coincide, we can choose to either “hijack” the species rank arbitrarily in limited situations for practical communication purposes, or to use other available taxonomic ranks for more practical communication needs. Again, this does not justify blanket assertions that “species are not real.”
- Digression: as systematists and taxonomists became more “biologically aware” of their taxa post-Linnaeus and especially post-Darwin, it initially seemed like most of the phenotypic discontinuities that Linnaeus classified corresponded reasonably well to a “biological species concept” of
and such discontinuities continued to serve as the most accessible proxy for asserting biologically-based species hypotheses. As better and better experimental methods became available, many such hypotheses could be tested and some were falsified, often in favor of more cryptic and less easily observable species. These species were nonetheless more “real” (repeatably testable and falsifiable) than what had previously been hypothesized. With this and the constantly improving understanding of reproductive modes, evolutionary processes, and speciation mechanisms, taxonomists had no choice but to expand their conceptual frameworks for species hypotheses.
So in long answer to the question in the topic title: emphatically no, iNat is not too focused on species, for a couple of reasons. First,
And second, the species rank, as Linnaeus’s main communication tool for classifying organisms, also became post-Linnaeus the one classification rank generally accepted to have a testable biological basis in the organisms themselves. That rooting in biology will always be absolutely essential if we don’t want our taxonomy and nomenclature to become the completely arbitrary and meaningless thing some folks seem to want and hope it to be.