Homo sapiens lectotype

McCourt, Richard RMcCourt at NSF.GOV
Fri Oct 14 11:16:00 CDT 2005

I forwarded a message or two from this thread to Earle Spamer, who is now a
librarian at the American Philosophical Society in Philly.  He isn't a
member of the list but authorized me to post the following:

Psihoyos's note that Bakker had published the putative lectotypification for
H. sapiens was in no publication that I have found -- other than Louie
Psihoyos's own book --indeed, his only book -- "Hunting Dinosaurs" (Psihoys,
Louie, with John Knoebber. 1994. Hunting dinosaurs.  Random House, New York,
267 pp.). His language is ambiguous; he may either have fallen victim to his
own journalism or, giddily taken in by Bakker's photogenic and conceptual
theatrics, he might have tried to "pull a fast one." (Incidentally, Random
House's own promotional blurbs promise that the book "does for paleontology
what Indiana Jones did for archaeology.")

My paper in the Proc. Acad. Natural Sciences was a "Point of View," which
did not call for an abstract. Sorry, I don't have a PDF of it to post. It
outlines the methods of Bakker's foolhardy attempt at the lectotypification
of H. sapiens in the guise of an individual, Edward Cope. Of course Bakker's
"act" is rubbish. But, that Bakker made the attempt is inconsequential --
the methods were procedurally incorrect, even within the guidelines of the
edition of the Code then in effect. (The current Code is much more explicit
in the means by which lectotypification is carried out.) Some time after the
paper was published, Gary Rosenberg had some additional, good points on the
matter [verbal commun.], suggesting that some of the points I raised can be
interpreted differently; but the specifics of his points I don't recall now.

In the paper, which of course busys itself with the Bakker debacle, I do get
into the issue of Linnaeus as the type, and I cited correspondence with the
lectotypifier himself, who pointed out to me that, among other things, what
better qualification for understanding the concept of the species than
Linnaeus's own rewriting of his autobiography -- five times!  (The
lectotypification statement, barely an act, is in the beginning of Stearn,
W.T. 1959. The background of Linnaeus's contributions to the nomenclature
and methods of systematic biology. Syst. Zool. 8: 4-22).

I wrote that "Point of View" after bantering it around for several years;
but only as a means to discuss and arbitrate the "acts" that were published
(and illustrated!) in "Hunting Dinosaurs."  I thought that it was more
important to address the matter, rather than to stick with the herd with
head down, drawing lines in the dust with my toe while clearing my throat.

It was a time capsule of defensive documentation. I could envision a future
time when the statements published in "Hunting Dinosaurs" could be
"rediscovered" by journalists or other non-taxonomists. I could foresee
these statements gleefully promoted as "the way science is done" (worse,
"the way scientists work").  Most of all, I wanted to provide the
documentation for someone to discount a future "celebration" in
Philadelphia.  I reeled at the thought of cheery commerce people boasting
that the city is the type locality of H. sapiens and the type specimen,
Edward Cope, the hometown boy on a world stage.  And we all know that the
celebrants will homogenize and pasteurize the "facts" behind the claim.
They will shrink in horror from the terms "type locality" and "lectotype";
after all, that's the way scientists, not real people, do things.

Just let Linnaeus lie.  It's Uppsala.  And it doesn't matter.

For a more homogenized, pasteurized take on all of this see: Spamer, E.E.
2002. The skull of poor old Cope. Annals of Improbable Research, 8
(July/Aug):12-14; and for more about Cope, the man and his science: Spamer,
E.E. 2000. Edward D. Cope, heads above the rest, the first electronic
publisher in science. Annals of Improbable Research, 6 (Nov/Dec):4-5.  [In
case you doubt the credibility of this journal, take note that its editorial
board includes nine Nobel Laureates.]

Earle E. Spamer
Current address:
The American Philosophical Society
Library Hall
105 South Fifth Street
Philadelphia PA 19106-3386
espamer at amphilsoc.org


-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On
Behalf Of Spies, Martin
Sent: Friday, October 14, 2005 5:23 AM
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] Homo sapiens lectotype

Geoff Read wrote:

>Spamer, Earle E. 1999: Know thyself: Responsible science and the lectotype
>Homo sapiens Linnaeus, 1758. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences
>Philadelphia 149: 109-114.
>I don't know what he said back then. Hopefully someone has access & can
>us all.
The paper does not contain an abstract or brief summary, and the matter
is rather complex. But it's always better to read for oneself anyway.
For that purpose, I'll be glad to supply scanned copies I've made of the
paper's five pages. However, if I remember correctly, listserver policy
precludes distributing attachments. Would anyone interested be willing
to post the scans on a webpage?

Martin Spies
c/o Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

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