Tony Irwin tony.irwin at BTINTERNET.COM
Thu Oct 2 21:20:42 CDT 2003

I wonder whether it is time to pull the rug from under the feet of
Phylocode. Surely there are enough practising taxonomists who can point out
to journal editors that adoption of the Phylocode (even by a small part of
the community) will be a disaster and that editors have a responsibility to
discourage its use (by refusing to publish papers which adopt it). Most
library administrators will be pleased to have suggestions for saving money
by withdrawing subscriptiions to journals which are no longer regarded as
serving the interests of the scientific community. The proponents of
Phylocode can continue to amuse themselves devising unworkable systems on
obscure websites, leaving the rest of us to get on with life in the real
Tony Irwin

Dr A.G.Irwin, Natural History Department,
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service,
The Shirehall, Market Avenue, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 3JQ England
tel: +44 (0) 1603 493642, fax: +44 (0) 1603 493623,
mobile: +44 (0) 7880707834

----- Original Message -----
From: "Scott L. Gardner" <slg at UNL.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2003 5:57 PM
Subject: follycode

> Relatively recently there have been questions regarding the
> "implementation" of rules for a phylocode or Node Pointing system.
> Kevin Nixon and Jim Carpenter wrote a very succinct paper on the subject.
> see: Cladistics 16, 298–318 (2000)
> Even more recently :
> A complete issue of The Botanical Review has papers showing the folly of
> implementing the NP system.
> see: The Botanical Review No. 69 (1) (2003)
> It appears that most practicing taxonomists are thinking that this will
> just go away if they ignore it. In fact, it is not going away, and it
> seems that, as in many things political, the NP system may be
> maintaining itself via the Internet.
> For those interested, the conclusion by Jim Carpenter is shared by most
> practical taxonomists in the world and the whole Botanical Review issue
> is worth reading and taking some action.
> The following quote is instructive:
> From:
> The Botanical Review 69(1): 79-92
> Critique of Pure Folly
> The PhyloCode is proposed in the draft for coexistence with the current
> codes for some
> unspecified period of time. During that time, species names will
> continue to be regulated under
> the current codes. Therefore, it is acceptable that some authors use
> ranks, while others do not,
> or something in between. Acceptable definitions of PhyloCode names (Note
> 9.4.1) include
> "apomorphy-based" definitions with a single (Linnaean, if possible) type
> and character diag-
> nosis, or node pointing, in the "node-based" and "stem-based"
> definitions, with multiple (pos-
> sibly many) taxa as specifiers and no character diagnosis. And when
> species are eventually
> included, perhaps some authors will use binominals, while others will
> not (and so forth; see
> Cantino et al., 1999).
> Thus, the PhyloCode is basically a proposal to abandon one set of rules
> and enter a world of nomenclatural chaos.
> The consequences for biological classification would obviously be
> disastrous, but as a lan-
> guage for scientific discourse the prospect is even more damning.
> Consider again that, under
> the PhyloCode, composition of taxa is unimportant, and change in
> composition is unimpor-
> tant; the only thing that is important is that a taxon is "monophyletic"
> on any cladogram, even
> when it refers to something completely different in composition
> (meaning). Because the taxon
> is always monophyletic on any cladogram, it has no scientific value
> whatsoever. It is not a
> scientific hypothesis, it is merely a definition, in words that are
> divorced from reality. Propo-
> nents of the PhyloCode have offered as their primary criticism of the
> Linnaean system that it is
> "essentialistic" as Nixon and Carpenter (2000) put it, how is the
> PhyloCode less "essentialistic"
> The PhyloCode should not be adopted, or even seriously considered, by
> anyone. It is pure
> folly.

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