ICBN too

Peter Stevens peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG
Sun Jul 15 15:13:17 CDT 2001

Interesting question, and maybe the answer is in our hands.

If you read Mark Barriow's excellent recent book "A Passion for birds:
American ornithology after Audubon", there was a period when the scientific
names of birds seemed to be in flux, and so vernacular names became common.
And of course many birders today use vernacular names.  The same seems to
be true of at least some groups interested in butterflies, as I found out
recently talking to the president of a local group who goes out looking at
butterflies.  And of course somewhat closer to home we find some herbaria
not bothering about families in (e.g.) ferns, because family limits are in
flux.  If things change too much, the users who are interested largely in
names of organisms and who are not participants in or caring about the
process of assigning those names (or even really understanding it) may try
other options.

So the question is, why do we change names?  And the answer is not simply
because we use the ICBN or the ICZN, or even some sort of Phylocode.  We
change names for three classes of reasons.  One is because there are
'theoretical" issues involved; monophyly versus paraphyly, for instance.
The second is, some lump, some split.  The third can be independent of the
first two and is application of the relevant code.

Peter S.  (I meant to send this to TAXACOM yesterday, but forgot that my
default is to send to the person from whom the message came).

>Is there really a
>"common-names-are-all-we-need-or-want" faction out
>there, significant enough that Taxacom members need to
>take note of it?
>At the time of the publication of the second editon of
>the American Fisheries Society's "Common and
>Scientific  Names of Aquatic Invertebrates from the
>United States and Canada:  Mollusks," I remarked
>somewhere that the common names might prove to be more
>stable over time than the scientific names.  This is
>because the choice of the AFS common names is vested
>in a committee, whereas the scientific names are based
>on applying the rules of the ICZN.  The code is
>algorithmic (as pointed out by Lindberg, D. 1999. The
>Veliger 42: 194-198), meaning it does not dictate the
>outcome in a particular case, but rather prescribes a
>set of rules which, if followed, guarantee an outcome
>regardless of who is performing the operation.  Both
>systems have their strengths and their applications;
>it is not a one-or-the-other situation.
>Barry Roth
>--- Ron Gatrelle <gatrelle at TILS-TTR.ORG> wrote:
>> No disrespect to the ICBN or others. My accompaning
>> post today is a cross
>> post from a butterfly list serve.  As it had to do
>> with taxonomy I though I
>> would post it here too. SO, "we" can add ICBN to
>> this as an equally
>> challenged system by the
>> common-names-are-all-we-need-or-want crowd among
>> the masses.
>> Ron
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