Taxonomic Registration

Ron at Ron at
Thu Aug 1 14:09:22 CDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG>

I said: Are these names to be submitted to the List post publication?   By
author or publisher?  If so will the List just accept any name from any
source or will it first make a list (judgment) on who/what it will accept
names from? Would this not open the door for systematic censorship?
Political power plays?
Richard:  I imagine it would start out very innocuously, as Steve suggested
in his
> follow-up.  I'm imagining a server out there to which taxonomists
> themselves (this step not to provide censorship of taxonomists, but
> to help thwart malicious hackers).  The server would do little more than
> receive minimal basic data (taxon name, author(s), description
> details, type specimen catalog number, etc.), and send back an arbitrary
> number.  I imagine at the beginning, that the name would still need to be
> published in accordance with all the existing IC_N guidelines, except

Red Flag one.  "At the beginning".  Famous last words.  Elect me and I
promise I won't become a dictator.   These words let us know the candidate
is already thinking of how, after elected, he can become a dictator.   "I
imagine.. beginning..."   This type of phraseology has big plans for later
as _later_ is the real focus.

I imagine at the beginning, that the name would still need to be
> published in accordance with all the existing IC_N guidelines,

Red Flag two. "Still need.."   Well, if this does not reflect a basic
disrespect for Codes I don't know what does.  This a like a guy who is
about to get married that says,  "Well, I suppose that at the beginning I
need to not sleep with anyone else."   The Code is first and stays first.
NOTHING- can ever be "available" (or any thing else) without _first_
passing Code muster.  And once it does, it needs no other muster.

except that
> one tiny addition to the Codes is that the name would not become
> until after it had been registered.  Of course, to be truly "available"
> name would also have to comply with all the other requisite code-based
> requirements for availability; it's just this one tiny additional step
> also be incorporated.

Red Flag three.  Naivety - "it's just this one tiny.."  If that is all it
would ever be, maybe.  A "tiny" addition.  However, give something power
and it will take more power - especially if it is the last word.  The tiny
finishing touch without which none of the Code compliant research and
actuations count.

I don't think anyone in their right mind would object to an easy access
resource that would contain a listing of all names (available ones) with
date of/in publication reference.  I think we all see a need for more and
better accessable databased nomenclature.  It is enevitable and good that
one day something will be on line as a valuable _starting point_ is
tracking down and assessing published nomenclature.  The problem I see is
very simple.  We are not really talking about making needed data more and
readily available - we are talking about control, certification,
validation.  If one's taxonomic name is not on file it is no good or of any
use to anyone and is forbidden to be employed by anyone.

Now it is simple to know why it would _have to be_ this way if such a
system was to be created.  Principle:  A law without a penalty is only a
suggestion.  Application of that principle here.  If we only _suggest_ (no
plenary powers) that names be submitted to such a list, we known that many
will not do so.  Thus, it has to be made mandatory by _adding_ plenary
rules to the "tiny" system. This does not give the list, or system power -
it gives veto power over _all_ taxonomic research to the select (or
elected?) few who control it.  This goes far beyond the plenary powers of
the exicting ICZN, ICBN etc.  But  I move on to other arguments.

First, the initial creation of such a list ( would take years
and that = lots of money.   We just had one simple question here on one
simple name relative to its "availability".  There was no easy answer and
everyone had differing interpretations and applications to some degree.
There are hundreds of such questions and each of them takes tons of time to
research.    It is not a matter of "just typing" in all the names that
are - because many of those names are _not_ Code "available".   It would
wreck havoc to take any unresearched and unavailable names and suddenly
make them "available" by just smacking them down on a list some place.
The word "available" looks simple - but in code compliant terms it is not
simple at all.  -- Names would be put on that shouldn't be there.

Further, many names would be omitted due to their obscurity without
diligent research.  These names are highly valuable because as "new" taxa
are recognized biologically one of these old obscure names may already
apply to it - new sibling and cryptic species are a headache because there
is often a name that is not only already available but the valid one.

One would have to enlist (hire) dozens or scores of specialists to fine
tooth comb the literature and properly research every name to determine its
availability.   This is occurring daily already - and has been going on
forever, it is called practical working taxonomy.   The actual day to day
job of those who spend their time systematically identifying organisms and
fitting them into the proper nomenclature.  We don't teach systematics,
taxonomy and nomenclature - we do it.   When I ran my prosthetic dental lab
business I _never_ hired anyone out of a tech school.  This was for two
reasons.  Number one was that the "graduates" without fail all came to the
job with an I know it all attitude.  Well, making "real" oral prosthetics
is far different then learning all the "ideal" and academic aspects of it.
Thus number two, I would rather train someone myself then have to unteach
them and then train them to make prosthetics in the real world.  So all
this talk of simply making a list of all the available names of the world's
biota is almost laughable to this working taxonomist.  If it could be done
it would have already been done - on paper.

People spend their lifetimes studying and working with specific orders,
families or genera - and after decades of research are finally able to
produce a half way decent synonymic list of (available) names.  Then
another taxonomist begins working on a specific species and many times the
first thing one finds is that X name on the synomymic list has the wrong
date, questions of its publication and use, and other factors and bam --
this is not an available name in Code compliant _actuality_.  Or, one may
find an unavailable name, say infrasubspecific, that is now in popular use
for what was considered some form and now we see it is a sibling species
and so rather than compose a "new" name the unavailable name is made
available by adoption at the rank of species or subspecies.  In the
"available" only list these types of names would not even show up - meaning
one sill has to search the old lit to see what names are _there_.

Which I guess is a bottom line for me.   The names I need are not _there_
on a web site (or paper) list, they are _there_ in the literature itself.
By the very nature of the game of how systematics and nomenclature work
together, one can never get away from the hours (years) of wading through
all that is published.  This is about so much more than just knowing a
"name" is available.  One needs all the informational aspects surrounding
such names before any of them can be properly applied to specific taxa.

Ron Gatrelle

PS  Straw men are very important tools.  They are not just a tactic of
debate.  They present scenarios and what ifs.  In war, the straw men of
what the enemy might do is essential to staying alive.  In any major
endeavor one is remiss  to not inject a devil's advocate and build straw
men.  A failure to do this will invariable end with the new endeavor
controlling us rather that it being the tool we wanted.  Why didn't we
think of that.  Too little too late.

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