Botanical Code Article 71

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Thu Mar 16 13:22:52 CST 1995

Date sent: 16-MAR-1995

 >        I will get into trouble for this, but what the hell.  Subscribers have
 >been complaining that this listserv does not discuss any interesting biological
 >issues.  Here goes.

Okay, you asked for it....

 >        Forget Article 71.  As a matter of fact, let's forget the entire
 >Botanical Code AND the Zoo Code.  The Linnaean system of nomenclature is a
 >static one devised for a natural world thought to be static, typological and
 >atemporal.  As such, that nomenclatural system cannot reflect evolutionary
 >flux across space or through time, and is thus ill-suited for modern neontology
 >or paleontology.

What would you suggest in its place?  Remember that your substitute (or
substitutes) must provide 1) uniform designators without respect to
differing languages, 2) a system that in principle can assign a name to
any organism, or else provide a mechanism to give it a consistent new name,
and 3) a mechanism of grouping organisms in a manner that has at least some
biological meaning.

 >  Its inadequacies have caused terrible confusion of
 >anagenetic and cladogenetic processes and products ("phyletic species" and
 >cladogenetic species) in paleontology.

Inasmuch as the architects of the Linnaean system had no sense of the
distinction between phyletic and cladogenetic species, I think you'll
have to lay the blame on our contemporaries, and *their* "inadequacies".

 > Nature is not organized around "types".
 >Neither should our system of describing it.

The reason that types have held on so long is that our names apply to
taxa, but although taxa can in principle be "real" (existing independent
of human perception), they are not exactly tangible (even those of us
that specialize seldom encounter more than a fraction of the members),
and they cannot be preserved.  Individual organisms are tangible and can
be preserved.  Thus, names apply directly to types, and we use them for
taxa only to the extent that we can fit the types into our taxa.  The
system works, and I've never seen a likely replacement.

Far more typology exists, IMHO, in other areas of biology than in
systematics.  I don't think we should throw out a useful system just
because we can't agree on what a species is, or because we are worried
about being perceived as atavists.

Curtis Clark                                       Voice: (909) 869-4062
Biological Sciences Department                     FAX:   (909) 869-4396
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at

More information about the Taxacom mailing list