synonymy? by whose application?

Ron at Ron at
Fri Jun 7 13:58:28 CDT 2002

Doug Yanega wrote:
> (1) Do you, personally, believe in allowing people to self-publish
> new taxa, virtually all of them synonyms, solely for purposes of
> self-aggrandizement? The Codes allow it. Do you really find this
> satisfactory?

The part I am picking out here is ... virtually all of them synonyms.
There are a couple problems with this superfluous statement.  But just one.
Nomenclatorial synonymy is largely in the eye of the beholder's
systematics.  The Code in no way "allows" synonymy. (That is, it does not
allow multiple names to be used no matter what - which is why it has
criteria for what constitutes publication, availability, validity etc.)

Doug knows this, so when he says "the Codes allow it" he is must not be
referring to "synonyms" but rather to "self-publication".   What are the
Codes allowing here re publication?  What are they keeping their noses out
of?   Systematics - the ways and philosophies by which the various workers
"see" (interpret) the natural world around them.  The Codes do not sit as
Judges of Systematics.  Co-workers do that.   Peer review is simply
pre-publication assessment by co-workers.  But the real (and best) peer
review is that which is post publication.  Why?  One does not have to be in
this long to see that there are "clicks" or philosophical camps.  Thus, it
often does not come down to the solidity of ones research, but the luck (or
bad luck) of the draw in what Elitist no-it-all gets to review one's paper.

Further, review is not a decision by few or one (the editor one never gets
past) to see it the material seeking publication agrees with _their_
predispositions.  It should simply be an objective and impersonal
assessment of the researchers processes (means and methods) as solid enough
to warent _submission_ to the whole body of science so That Body can make
up their own mind about the bottom line conclusions of the
systematic/taxonomic research.   The reviewer's job is not to make up our
minds.   Their job is to say: "Well, I don't agree with this conclusion but
it is worth everyone else looking at it.  They may see something I don't.
Let's consider this."

(Yes, if an exact same organism from the exact same place is detected as
being described as "new" due to the unawareness of an author, then it is to
be rejected.  Said author would have no problem with this and thank the
reviewer(s).  However, in reality this type of thing is rare as authors
usually submit their MS to knowledgeable experts/friends before they ever
formally submit their papers - even in "self-publication".)

Taxonomy is fluid (via evolution) and thus subjective.  It is not medical
drug research.   This allows for a whole lot  of subjectivity and thus a
broader more open system of publication.  In other words, no body has ever
died due to bad taxonomic research being published.  Also, our systematic
concepts do not affect the biota one bit.  Only they seem to ultimately
know what they are.  Ask the taxonomists at 300, 100, and 10 year intervals
about the algae - you'll get different "facts" and answers.  Ask the algae
at the same intervals and they will say the same thing all along.

Bottom line. The ICZN Code (and I assume the others) is wisely structured
to accommodate both scientific definition (by uniform
restriction/application of technical terms) and evolutionary theory (by
non-regulation of authors textual presentation of organic interrelation).
It is thus not a matter of what it "allows" - it is a matter of what it
wisely keeps its nose out of.  Systematic opinion (reviewed or not) is none
of its business - and should not be any demigodal reviewer's business
either.   When evolutionary science is not free to ERR it is intellectually

Ron Gatrelle
TILS president
Charleston, SC - USA

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