Dandy Dime

Steve at Steve at
Tue Apr 1 11:37:30 CST 1997

... and then there is always "common sense" ...

The zoologists have recently "struggled" with the next edition of the ICZN
and there were many heated discussions of topics along the lines of the
"Dandy Dime" problem (as well as many others).  In the end, the most
important point to remember is in the very front of the Code, the one which
states that "The object of the Code is to promote stability and universality
... ", followed closely by "All its provisions and recommendations are
subservient to these ends ..."

What does this mean?  It means forget looking for loop holes, it means stop
twisting and analysing individual words in the Code, it means the Code will
never, EVER fulfill its own mandate because "you can't make things fool
proof because fools are too clever."  There will always be someone who does
something really stupid that we would never foresee and thus try and
prevent.  It means that it doesn't matter if we demand that new names must
only appear in ink on paper; if/when the big publishing houses stop using
paper and put everything on the Net or on CDs we will follow, full stop.  It
means taxonomists are small players in a very big world and few people other
than taxonomists really care about the details of nomenclature.  When and
where a name is made available is both critical and trivial.  It's critical
because names are the foundation of taxonomy and it's trivial because a name
in isolation from the rest of biology is meaningless.  We need to make the
application of our names so solid and information rich that the person you
chooses to publish in the Dandy Dime will be ignored by the rest of the
world.  We taxonomists hold vast amounts of information and getting that
information organised and available must be our first priority.  If it isn't
we will not be taken seriously by the broader community.

At the same time, yes, we must question the current Code(s) and strive to
make it/them better, more appropriate, more rigorous, tighter, etc, etc.
But at the same time, we must use common sense at every turn and evaluate
actions with a view to the bigger picture.  If someone does publish in the
"Dandy Dime" and someone really takes them seriously (both questionable
acts) then make an application to the Commission to have the name(s)
suppressed.  After all, that is the "spirit" and "intent" of the Code in the
first place.

Steve Shattuck
Australian National Insect Collection
CSIRO Entomology
P. O. Box 1700
Canberra, ACT  2601, Australia
phone (06) 246-4273, fax (06) 246-4264
steves at ento.csiro.au

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