"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Thu Aug 15 11:55:41 CDT 2002

At 11:33 AM 8/15/02 -0500, Gregory Zolnerowich wrote:
>Once again, why have rules that are subject to various
>interpretations, cause confusion, are ignored or routinely bypassed
>through arbitrary combinations of letters, or are frequently
>improperly applied?
>The point is that there are more important things to do and worry
>about, and clinging to such rules makes our science look like an
>outmoded relic. I don't see it as relaxing standards or weakening our

Boy, if I had a nickel for everytime I've heard THAT argument, I could
retire!  Again, we have a tendency to view what we WANT to do as important,
and what we HAVE to do as unimportant.   Sequencing genes and drawing
cladograms is FUN!  Ferreting out 19th Century publications is a pain.  The
former is thus important, the latter unimportant.

The reason, plain and simple, that "rules are subject to various
interpretations, cause confusion, are ignored or routinely bypassed
..., or are frequently improperly applied" is because PEOPLE REFUSE TO TAKE
FUNDAMENTAL TOOLS of our discipline.  As a member of that discipline, you
have a MORAL OBLIGATION to learn how to use that tool.  How much respect
would you have for a building contractor or auto mechanic that confessed
ignorance and confusion over power tools?    I was fortunate to have an
entire course on botanical nomenclature in graduate school.  How many of
you will devote time and effort to such an "unimportant" offering in your
own departments?

I say it again: 95% of the "confusion" surrounding nomenclature would be
eliminated if taxonomists would learn to use one of the basic tools of
their discipline, the Code of Nomenclature.  To do otherwise is to take
ranks with the preacher who never opens a Bible or concordance, just limps
along on what  he remembers hearing someplace once.  There is nothing wrong
with the Code.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at uwosh.edu
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and biogeography
of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                               -- Anonymous

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