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David Lindberg drl at UCMP1.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Sep 2 08:37:29 CDT 1998

Subject Re: Federal Taxonomy Standard

We are living in one of the most important and exciting times that the
discipline of systematics has experienced since the 1700's.  Methods and
techniques are now available to make Darwin's vision of constructing
classifications that reflect hypotheses of relatedness a reality.  The benefits
of such classifications have been demonstrated and championed by many
(e.g., see the Systematics Agenda 2000, Technical Report).  The "cost" of this advancement in our science is instability in nomenclature.  This instability does
not result from the capricious or pious actions of "authorities" scouring obscure
literature for earlier names or usage, but rather from modern research programs
that publish data and the hypotheses of relationships that are discovered therein.
This is not the time to stabilize names for the convenience of others.  More than
ever before systematics is a legitimate scientific endeavor - not an art or a service
industry. There were undoubtedly similar concerns expressed and attempts made
to venerate the Greek's four elemental states (Earth, Water, Air, Fire) in response
to the onslaught of the Periodic Table.  However, the latter prevailed because it
was better science (testable and predictive).  As Peter Rauch wrote "That may make
life harder, but who says that environmental management [or any other human
activity that requires robust organismal classifications] should be easy?" If a
standardized, comprehensive, and consistent reference source is required for
administrative purposes the obvious solution is to decouple nomenclature and
classification (i.e., taxonomy).

Best, David

David R. Lindberg
Professor, Dept. of Integrative Biology
Director, UC Museum of Paleontology

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