Ethics of selling

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Wed Mar 8 14:19:00 CST 2000

>>The unethical activity is the use of a common, shared and free resource,
>>such as zoological nomenclature, for personal gain.
>I FULLY AGREE, but we are not talking about PERSONAL GAIN. Never have,
>never will, but are talking about support for Science, the community, etc.

Actually, Chris, I think this is one of the main things Sven (and myself,
and others) are precisely most afraid of - that since there is nothing
preventing anyone, anywhere, from placing names on things and publishing
them, once it enters the public consciousness that money is there to be
made, people WILL start doing it for personal gain, and the public *will
not perceive the difference*. It may not have happened yet, but would
anyone care to wager against my belief that we'll see the first examples of
it within the next five years?
If there are idiots willing to bid 500,000 dollars for unfertilized
supermodel ova on eBay (turned out to be a hoax, incidentally, but boy, did
the top bidders look stupid after the scam was revealed), then someone
offering to name a new butterfly species to the highest bidder will find
suckers aplenty to place bids. For a few thousand bucks, you can easily
publish a book yourself - at least enough copies to satisfy the Code - and
even if every name in it is a synonym, your patrons WILL still be
immortalized, since those synonyms will have to be cited forever after.
Heck, I have a box of nice Morphos sitting here, and I'll bet people would
pay *plenty* to have them named after them. So what if they're all
conspecific and have a name already? The Code does not prohibit one from
knowingly publishing synonyms, and the suckers paying me will each get a
nice, shiny blue holotype to mount on their wall - as long as no two
suckers get the same species (AND bump into one another to compare), and
none of them read the scientific literature, I'm safe. Even if you got a
program in place offering new taxa for 1 million dollar endowed chairs, how
would you compete against a pack of vultures offering to do it for only a
few thousand? No one ever lost money appealing to human vanity.
As much as I would love to see new money to support alpha taxonomy, I dread
the possible consequences of opening the floodgates, because we presently
DON'T have a way to prevent exploitation of the system. All those who were
initially opposed to the idea of a central "new taxon" approval and
registration authority and/or publication venue may find the possible
eventual alternative - hundreds of technically valid new synonyms published
every week - unpalatable enough to change their minds, should it come to
pass. Then again, since the average sucker will only want birds, orchids,
butterflies, or stag beetles to bear their name, the rest of us may not
need to worry. ;-)


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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