"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Tue Aug 20 10:35:56 CDT 2002

Steve Shattuck wrote:

> But if it only adds to the
> "intellectual rigour" of our science then I don't see the point.  There are
> plenty of more interesting and important things to spend our time (the tax
> payer's money) on than how a word is spelled.  Changing the spelling from
> "humilis" to "humile" adds nothing to our understanding of that taxon.  And
> if it adds nothing then why do it?

It seems to me that "intellectual rigour" is one of the components of our
science that is being eroded by attitudes such as this.  It's a slippery slope:
first, it's not necessary to worry about nomenclatural intricacies that are
buried in old manuscripts that I perceive to have no bearing on my work; then
it's no longer necessary to carefully read the old monographs, etc., because
these out-dated classifications/interpretations have no bearing on my
understanding of my own work; next it's no longer necessary to know what the
organisms look like, or to consult types, because this information has no
bearing on how I interpret my own work.  Where does it end?  Everyone wants the
quick-fix (or to publish as quickly as possible) with as little effort as
possible.  We are doing our students and our science a disservice when we give
the impression that understanding its history and the rules of communication are
no longer necessary or of diminished importance.  We need to emphasize the
"intellectual rigour" of all aspects of our science.

Besides, those of us not on the dole (i.e., paid by the tax payers) are often
free to spend pour time as we see fit (although our peers, Deans, etc., may
exert pressure in a variety of ways to discourage the truly basic components of
taxonomy and systematics).



Richard J. Jensen              TEL: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      FAX: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         E-mail: rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Notre Dame, IN  46556     http://www.saintmarys.edu/~rjensen

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