"Arcane" / "prevailing usage"

Ron at Ron at
Sat Aug 24 17:10:52 CDT 2002

Martin Spies presented an argument toward his side of the debate.  In
debate one it to solidify and reinforce their positonal argument, and tear
down the oponnents arguments by exposing its flaws.  He did a good job of
what he was supposed to do.

I would argue that one great misnomer regarding the word "stability" is
that it does not mean unalterable - which I think is how many read it as.
It means consistency of procedure.   Taxonomic assessment and thus
nomenclatorial reassignment via new evolutionary understanding has always
and will always mean that taxa and thus their epithets are accordingly
reassembled in different combinations.  It has always been this way and
always will be.  While the rules of nomenclature are part of a rigid system
they nonetheless are continually under the influence of the winds and tides
of systematic taxonomy.   This is common knowledge.  It is thus a "given"
that stability can not be taken to mean unalterable.  If it did, it would
be in control of taxonomy (call the plays of the game) and not just referee
(insuring all played by the same rules).

The stability in the world of nomenclature is fulfilled when all
participants are playing by the same rules, or one could say within
specific rules.  Some play by ICZN rules others by ICBN rules others want
to play by Phylocode rules etc.   The threat to "stability" I see is
Phylocode.  This is because in each game - zoology, botany, etc if anyone
starts to play by some other, or sections of some other, rules stability is
out the window.   The idea that one scientific discipline can function
harmoniously under more than one set of rules (codes) is fantasy.  Such a
situation is automatically one of competition not cooperation which
necessitates a period of instability and eventually the take over of the
entire discipline by one set of rules - and discarding of the other(s).

The understanding of the kind of stability the code  (ZN) is striving to
ensure provides the sole canvas on which "prevailing usage" is presented.
The very term reeks with subjectivity - as it should - as it must,  because
the science it expresses is totally fluid in time and space.  All is built
on the shifting sands of Evolution.  The usage in the literature (except
for spelling) represents taxonomic relational opinion not just how many
times a given combination has been used.

What I am saying here is supported by elements of Article 23.  I see 23.9.6
which disqualifies various "usages" from "counting" relative to an overturn
of the Principle of Priority.  (Note I said relative to the Principle of
Priority not synonymy, or homonymy, or spelling - which are all subsections
of 23.)   To me the not so subtle impetus of this section is to direct us
toward _research supported_ taxonomy not merely popular check lists.  The
latter of which (especially with butterflies and other "popular" groups)
are produced with both great regularity and variability in the "popular
scientific" lit.  In other words the code is defining nomenclatorial usage
toward scientific, data supported, research and away from "popular
opinion" - naked (non-annotated) check-lists.  Thus 23.9.6 directly
corelates to ... 10 authors, immediate 50 years, not less than 10
years.  The sum of these two sections is that neither the "authors" of a
nomenclators, indexes, or simple lists or their "published work" counts as

The ICZN code, its glossary, its articles and its Commission are all
interconnected and interdependant.  It is a gross error to lift out any one
"part" and hang all arguments from that now isolated segment.  Thus the
"usage, prevailing...." of the glossary is tempered and moulded by all the
other elements it comes in contact with.  Further, the code is clearly set
up with some elements having more say so than others.

For example, while there is a lot of talk of "usage"  there is no Principle
of Prevailing Usage.  There is however the foundational Principle of
Priority.  Article 23 makes it clear that Priority trumps usage _except_.
So when Martin addresses the glossary and concludes...

> " For the latter, the critical terms "substantial" and "most recent"
> themselves have to be defined such that a practicing taxonomist
> examining any given case would be able to come up with a determination
> of "prevailing usage" that is scientifically reproducible, so that not
> only a "substantial majority" but all of his peers will have to agree
> with it. "Prevailing usage" and all other Code instruments are supposed
> to promote the stability of nomenclature. Instead, since the term is
> insufficiently defined, we will likely see many cases in which different
> authors attempting to evaluate "prevailing usage" will arrive at
> different results, with the obvious detrimental effects on stability.

... he errs because he has divorced the phrases of the glossary from the
code proper, the commission, etc.   He presents this as if it was a
complete defination with no other relevent _ruling_ factors in place.
Well, the sections in 23 give some pretty clear boundries as to what may
constitute "usage" "authors" and "publications".  There could also be 500
usages before 1899 and if none after the 500 don't count.

He said, "substantial" and "most recent" would themselves have to be
defined..."  They are already defined in other sections and if that is not
enough the Commission says, ask them.

He said, "..taxonomist examining any given case would be able to come up
with a determination of "prevailing usage..."  No he wouldn't as there are
specific directives as to what, who and when he can and can not use in 23.
But why am I talking about 23 when this got started over 33.3.1?  I am
applying a broad brush as Martin did so himself in applying the glossary
words on "prevailing usage" to the whole code.   I agree he was correct to
do this.   As we always should consider a term / principle relative to the
whole code and not just one part.   So let's do so.  We indeed find
weakness in 33.3.1 in that it does not _specifically_ direct us to other
elements of the code.  But it also does not _prohibit_ us from gleaning
direction form other elements of the code.  I myself think this could be
written much better as Dr. Thompson pointed out.  There is too big a loose
end here.  But let me say again that this section, in my view, while not
pointing us in a specific direction at the same time (by lack of
restriction) leaves open the application of other more explicit elements of
the code that do  - enter 23.9.6. "...must not be taken into account in
determining usage under Articles and"  Where does it say
that this limitaion can _not_ be consulted or applied to other parts of the
code where "usage" needs more difination?  It also does not say in 33.3.1
that 23.9.6 can not be consulted or applied.  In fact, the great need for
harmony within the code and the subjectivity of "prevailing usage" in
33.3.1 and words/phrases within the glossary, necessitaites that the worker
brings in all the other instruments and have them play their part of the
tune _together_ with the 33.3.1 and glossary instruments to make sure all
are on the same harmonious page.

Thus when Wolfgang Lorenz wrote:

> Not at all. Article 23.9.1. defines only for certain cases of homonymy
> or synonymy the conditions under which precedence is to be reversed in
> favor of "prevailing usage". The glossary 'definition', less precise but
> not contradicting, must be taken to apply everywhere else.
> According to Lorenz's quote from p. XIII of the Code, it is not
> justified to transfer the conditions required within 23.9.1. to
> "prevailing usage" applications outside of that Article.

We see that I am not in agreement with this.  I think all parts of the Code
affect all other parts in a rational way.  That which is specific _adds_ to
that which is vague or incomplete.  That which is vague or incomplete does
not _take away_ from that which is specific.  I have had this discussion on
what 23.9.1 applies to (or not) with several people.  The key is that
23.9.6 is a subsection of 23.9 proper _not_ 23.9.1   23.9.6 applies to
23.9.1 and its subsections - but by its outline level it is relevant to all
parts of the rest of the code that might come under the scrutiny of 23.9
proper - reversal of precedence of the Principle of Priority.

It is obvious that 33.3.1 is not sufficient in and of itself (it can't be).
One must consult "usage, prevailing" in the glossary.  This however also is
not sufficient in and of itself (it can't be).  I don't think any part of
the code is sufficient in and of itself.  I connect the _rational_ of what
is and is not usage in and 23.9.6 with the rest of the code where
such _rational_ is missing.   For example, the glossary says under - usage,
prevailing - "irrespective of how long ago their work was published..."
But it does not mean what it appears to or one would have to throw out
Article 3.2   No, it is assumed here that 3.2 is present.  The "how long"
is understood to only go back to 1758.  We don't just need to know what the
code says we need to know what it means.  I don't think it means one thing
one place and another thing in another place.  It may say one thing and
then say another - but the meaning and purpose has to be harmonious.  When
it gets too confusing - ask the commission 89.1.1.

I agree with Martin and others that the foundation must be original
descriptions and types.  The Principle of Priority.  To me "prevailing
usage" is actually about evolutionary taxonomic shifts over the decades.
When these shifts are embraced by a majority of researchers over a long
period of time as _reflected_ in shifts in, and adoptions of, new
nomenclature, then and only then is _nomenclature_ a prevailing usage.  The
key word being usage - 23.9.6.  By whom and for what.  The whom = authors
(researchers).   The for what = the expression of human understanding of
evolution past. Nomenclature is but the language of taxonomy.  Nomenclature
is the passive, taxonomy is the active.  Thus, nomenclature should not get
carried away with itself.

>From this perspective when I read - usage, prevailing - in the glossary
certain words there have very specific _meanings_ to me.  These words are:
usage, recent authors, taxon.  I hear in this the _rational_ of  23.9.1,,, and 23.9.6 all over it.  And since 33.3.1 ambiguously
refers us back to this area of the glossary, I find the rational of these
parts of 23 (23.5 & 23.9 & 23.9.6) imbedded into 33.3.1   I see the words
"in accordance" with the Principle of Priority in 23.9 in the 33.3.1 phrase
"_and_ is attributed to the original publication..." Where there has never
been such direct and explicit attribution the rest of 33.3.1 is
voided -isn't it?  What does attribution mean?  I don't find that in the
glossary.  To me there is so much subjectivity is 33.3.1 that I _have_ to
employ it by my understanding of the rational of other similar parts of the
code - specifically 23.9 & 23.9.6.    Did I just come to Article 91.

Ron Gatrelle

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