We can dream, can't we?

Barry Roth barry_roth at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 11 11:08:53 CDT 2001

This and the foregoing posts speak about registration
of _names_.  Under such a system, the action of
registration is involved in the _availability_ of a
name for taxonomic purposes.

A separate question is the _validity_ of names for
taxa (indeed, the scope and reality of the taxa
recognized by workers in the field).  I believe this
is the real sticking-point for many taxonomists when
registration is discussed.  Systems like ITIS make (or
endorse) a judgment about a taxonomic reality.  They
grant to the database managers a power that many feel
should be reserved to taxonomists at large.  (I think
in the early days of TAXACOM I posted an opinion about
this under the rubric "The Tyranny of the

To me, one of the great strengths of the ragtag
democracy that is taxonomy is the fact that, based on
the literature, multiple hypotheses can have equal
currency.  Most databases do not handle ambiguity at
all well.  And change of identifiers (to express a
newly uncovered reality) in a "registration" system is
likely to be cumbersome, whereas in at-large taxonomy
it happens with the speed of publication -- although
widespread acceptance of a new formulation may take
some time.

Barry Roth

--- christian thompson <cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV>
> What Derek dreams of isn't that far off. It only
> needs $$$
> Want unique numbers for scientific names. ITIS
> (Integrated Taxonomic
> Information System) already provides these.
> Yes, ITIS doesn't cover all names yet. But there are
> people building Name
> databases (=Nomenclators) for many major groups.
> Flies, which represent 10%
> of the World's Known biodiversity are being covered
> by the BioSystematic
> Database of World Diptera. We have some 200,000
> names in our Nomenclator
> today (see us under Names at www.diptera.org). Our
> recn number is stable.

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