Linnaeus's Last Stand?

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 30 10:16:06 CST 2001

     This is precisely the reason I am opposed to PhyloCode being applied to
lower taxonomic levels in the inital stages.
     I wish they would leave the species, genera, and family level taxa to
the traditional Codes for the time being, and do their nomenclatural
"experiment" on higher taxa.  But even getting them to leave genera alone
seems to be rather unlikely (much less families).
     The PhyloCode "experiment" is going to cause severe problems, because
the attitude of strict cladists seems to be pushing ahead with the new
paradigm as fast as possible.  Benton has voiced many of the concerns most
taxonomists that the PhyloCode is taking on too much, far too fast.
     Even among well-known vertebrate groups, phylogenetic nomenclature is
suffering through a lot of "growning-pains", and this unnecessary and
premature clashing of Codes will make us all losers.  I'm sure moderates
like Cantino have the best intentions, but I really don't think his
"balanced" approach will prevail, and fear that traditional taxonomists will
feel this new paradigm is being pushed down their throats.  If it isn't done
carefully, the clashing of Codes could initiate something very ugly and
     I tested my own taxonomic philosophy and nomenclatural system at higher
taxonomic levels (Kingdom down to Order), and have experimented with
selected family classifications.   I wish the PhyloCodists would seriously
consider doing the same thing, and if their experiment succeeds at those
levels, then they could work their way into taxa at family and generic level
(even if they don't label them as such).  I certainly look forward to
reading Cantino's response to Benton's paper, but I am not particularly
optimistic about how all of this is going to unfold.
    -----Please, Please slow down
            and proceed cautiously,
                                     Ken Kinman
>From: christian thompson <cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV>
>Reply-To: christian thompson <cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV>
>Subject: Linnaeus's Last Stand?
>Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 09:37:16 -0500
>Liz Pennisi has now formally declared in Science (23 March issue, pages
>2304-2307) that we are again at war with ourselves. She quotes Mike
>Donoghue as saying people are *willing to throw down their lives!* over
>this, but she misses the whole point. This is clash of *have* and *have
>not* for everyone perceives that there is a finite money-pot for
>systematics. Where should it be invested, in knowing more about what we
>already know well (Phylocode camp) or in learning more about what we don*t
>know well (inventory camp (ALL, ATBI, etc.)).
>Consider the history of *paradigm* shifts in a well-known group like birds.
>The first hundred or so years was invested in discovering new species.
>Collectors spread out from Europe to the far corners of the World finding
>new species, which American & European taxonomists described using Linnaean
>nomenclature (the native people already had names for their local
>Eventually most were named (and some named many times), so essentially
>species taxonomy was at an end. Fortunately, Darwin had by then proposed
>his theory of the origin of species (evolution), and the subspecies program
>was created, for to truly understand evolution one needed to study
>populations, and, therefore, they needed names. Hence, the race began again
>to describe new subspecies. This was great for Ornithology as it justified
>continued collecting, building larger collections, more curators, etc. And
>as all the obviously different populations were named, one merely collected
>more, longer series and divided the species even more finely, using
>statistics, etc. Unfortunately, in the 1950s Brown and Wilson spoiled the
>party, revealing to all the meaninglessness of the subspecies concept.
>So, the *paradigm*(focus) shifted to higher categories, macroevolution,
>etc. Hennig*s principles were discovered to provide useful tools to divide
>up old para and polyphyletic groups. And what was being studied, the
>clades/groups had to have names. In the beginning that was easy, but as
>more new groups were discovered and named, it was also realized that the
>Linnaean system would only support a finite number of categories, that
>there is a limit to the number of new genera, tribes, families, etc., that
>one can name for a couple thousand species of birds.
>So, the phylocode was invented as it better matches the needs of this new
>*paradigm.* Obviously as a new system, the old can be re-labeled as new,
>but even better each and every node on a cladogram can have it own name.
>And given the number of trees generated by numerical cladistic analyses,
>the number of nodes that can be named is almost infinite. Clearly the
>PhyloCode is superior to the Linnaean nomenclature.
>Systematics doesn*t have Nobel prizes, but people can be remembered as the
>author of names of things (and that is why both codes have priority). So,
>naturally as groups became better known, what was being named shifts from
>*species,* to *subspecies,* to *higher categories,* and now to nodes of
>clades. Names are how systematists announce their new discoveries and how
>they recognize accomplishments.
>For entomologists with millions of new species to be described, the
>Linnaean system is great, useful, and the challenge is to inventory the
>species we have not yet named. We worry about losing taxonomists, about
>ever getting the resources needed to complete our inventory of species.
>But for those who work on well known groups (birds, butterflies, and flower
>plants), the focus is on REAL science, macroevolution, the relationships
>among those already described species. So there is a need for a new system,
>so that they can name new things (clades, nodes, etc.) and be recognized,
>And as David Hull would probably note, what better way to get exposure for
>your program, to get into Science, etc., than to declare a *paradigm
>shift,* in which your side is winning. Unfortunately, we, systematists, are
>again losing as we continue to fight among ourselves, not recognizing that
>we need a balance. We need to have species inventory, to expand  Linnaean
>system, etc., which are critical goals for the little known creatures, from
>fungi to the bugs, but also important is knowing more about the
>relationships among those better known taxa (especially among *humans,*
>read Nature, not Science).
>Oh, well ... it is going to be an interesting weekend in Washington.
>F. Christian Thompson
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