To hyphenate or not to hyphenate

Thu Oct 30 10:19:59 CST 2003

At 11:38 AM 10/30/03 +0100, Paul van Rijckevorsel wrote:
>Some thoughts: the question of how long a tradition exists would appear
>irrelevant, it is not a matter of earning the right to use a particular
>Code! At some point in the past choices were made as to what groups were
>treated according to what Code, and this is "tradition".
>As to the question if each monophyletic group should have its own Code, this
>is somewhat disturbing. A new manifestation of phylogenetic thinking to come
>along and upset nomenclature? Each such Code could be more effective in the
>sense it can provide examples fitting the group in question, thus improving
>readability. Also it might be easier to make decisions on controversial
>matters (the Bacterial people are the only one to come up with a clean-swept
>list of names?). Still the mind shudders at where this might end. How many
>Codes would this result in? What if views shift on what constitutes a
>particular monophyletic group? This would necessitate the merging or
>splitting of Codes?

That does bother me!  I would strongly prefer to have all organisms subject
to the same rules, whether it is called BioCode or something else (then we
can decide whether to include viruses too!).

That said, it also seems dishonest somehow if as professional systematists
we are still constrained to consider outdated classifications in order to
decide how to name organisms in our field of specialty.

Thus, reluctantly, I would say if it is choosing between the lesser of two
evils (too many different codes but still reflecting the best current
perceptions of biological reality) versus continuing to use the ICBN for
slime molds, for example, I would choose the first.

It is my understanding that there are presently three codes -
bacteriological (are Archaea subject to this?), ICBN, and ICZN.  If this is
so, as a possible guideline  for change unless and until all are merged
into one, how about the following:

For any given nomenclatural question (hyphenation for example), if all
three codes agree, consider this as the rule for all three codes plus any
others that may be promulgated.  If two of the three codes agree,
consider  the 2/3 majority code the rule for any new codes; at the same
time alert those using the one nonconforming code in case they would want
to vote in a change to the majority position (of course as always if
something is wrong with a majority position it could be subject to change
based on experience, much as at present).   That way, a new code would not
have to completely start from scratch.  I think a good by-product of such a
process would possibly be streamlining of each code - maybe more user
friendly for all.

>Just an idle thought: for a while there were multiple versions of the
>Botanical Rules (French, English and German). Maybe what should be the Code
>of the future is not ONE BioCode, but a MetaCode that sets a general
>framework of Rules, and separate Codes for the relevant groups, that follow
>the MetaCode but each have their own examples, perhaps their own terminology
>("valid"/"correct"), special rules for special situations, and their own
>lists of names with special status (the actual ICBN is only a 104 pages but
>has 258 pages with such names, not counting families). Such special Codes
>would be user-friendly, and would limit the extent of a breach with the
>Paul van Rijckevorsel
>Utrecht, NL

Stephen D. Manning, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Mathematics and Science Division
Arkansas State University - Beebe
P. O. Box 1000
Beebe, Arkansas 72012-1000
Tel: 501-882-7162

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