[Taxacom] patronym auction

Alexander Pope salamandertaco at live.com
Fri Aug 15 04:27:16 CDT 2008

I am glad to see that so many taxonomists have come
to the defense of a Taxonomy free from the entanglement of market forces.  Hurray! 
Taxonomy, in its purest form, must certainly be better off if left untainted
by capitalist influences, which can only serve to provide a significant conflict
of interest to the taxonomist.   The
future, as outlined by Doug, leaves little doubt that if left un-checked, unscrupulous
vendors would surely rise up and begin generating names at unprecedented
rates in an effort to usurp the untold fortunes that exist in this market – a market
that has miraculously remained largely untapped for the last 300 years.  Of course, when this occurs we, the true
knowledge bearers of biodiversity, would become overwhelmed by a never-ending
deluge of poorly described or even fictitious species; and worse yet not
be privy to the economic landslide being reaped by the gold-digging descriptors.  Certainly dark times are ahead.

Disbarring malicious intent –  as Doug also points out, even those producing careful
descriptions of valid taxa stand to erode the field, should they fall prey to the
ever growing temptations of profiteering.  As
indicated, it would take only a handful of renegade taxonomists selling
patronyms, to create a greed-fest, with museums and institutions soon jumping
in to protect their economic share of the profit.  I’m quite certain too, that if this occurs, rather
than hire new systematists to describe the riches of undescribed specimens in
their cabinets – they would prefer to simply hoard them – making them inaccessible
to everyone - that would make the most economic sense after all.  Yes, it is not only the
outsiders we must fear – but ourselves.

Perhaps one correspondent is correct, and before these
troubled times arrive, we, as an international community should rise up and
outlaw all names, which through their description, generate profit for the
descriptor.  It is true that only a tiny
fraction of the world’s biodiversity is described, and fewer and fewer
taxonomists exist to complete this task, but unless we completely remove the evil bias of economic forces that grows today like a cancer in our field, how will we be able to filter out
those names created in earnest from those created for personal gain?  

Certainly we can all agree that patronyms, in all forms, should
be first to go.  I must confess that I will
be saddened to see this long standing tradition fall to the wayside, but we
all must agree that it is the single most effective means of solving the
problem.  For how will it be possible to sell a patronym if they simply aren't allowed?  Many will be quick to point out
that many patronyms are created without economic motives.  But how can we be certain?  Even species named after the deceased could
have been accomplished via covert payments from an estate of surviving family
members.  Yes, better safe than sorry - patronyms
must go.

But while we’re at it, why not remove all threats of
economic bias.  Why not disallow names
proposed in publications that are sold, at profit to the author – such as
expensive coffee-table books or limited series publications.  Certainly, these would not have so great a market (and
hence generate profit) were it not for the species described therein – shameful for
the author.  And Doug is correct to point
out, that there are other, less obvious ways, that taxonomists have sneakily
sought profit from their descriptions. 
Even scientific publications generate increased funding and promotion
opportunities, thereby increasing salaries of the taxonomists who creates these
publications.  Certainly we as a community
cannot look the other way at this blatant conflict of interest.

Thus, I suggest we do the only thing reasonable: adopt only those names from taxonomists who are NOT gainfully employed as taxonomists. 
Although it sounds odd, given how few jobs in taxonomy exist today, it is actually becoming more and more commonplace.  Yes, this is the only sure way to protect our
field from the future catastrophe that surely awaits if we begin to sell the
products of our work.  One need only look
at other academic fields such as the Humanities, Art, Chemistry or Physics, fields
where proponents regularly profit from their inventions, patents, novels and artwork,
to see the lifeless future taxonomy will have should we follow suit.  Yes, lets create a taxonomy free of these evils - a taxonomy best practiced by non-taxonomists: doctors, lawyers, businessmen; people less swayed by the influences of money and greed - I'm quite certain that with this new, market-free, taxonomy; our field will flourish, untarished from the corroding influence of cold hard cash.
Sincerely,Alexander Pope

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