[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Fri Mar 28 03:37:08 CDT 2008

The "former" appears to refer back to

>>"How is an algorithm going to know that a new generic
>>synonymy proposed by author X in some obscure publication is an
>>objective synonymy based on an examination of the type specimens -
>>which therefore requires an IMMEDIATE change to the consensus
>>classification "

In the ICZN an "objective" synonym is what is a "homotypic"synonym in the
ICBN, so this refers to a nomenclatural change (presumably one where
conservation, or rejection, is not relevant, or possible)


From: "Paul Kirk" <p.kirk at cabi.org>
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2008 8:37 AM

> Doug Yanega wrote:
>>but the former requires an immediate change,<
> that's like saying that my new web site, using all the same words as
> gazillions of others, should instantly be at the top of Google ranking
> because it's the newest ... any decent algorith will deal with this ...
> and with the greatest respect I think the argument is perculiar to
> zoology, the ICZN, and the 'latest revision is the valid one', and not a
> problem for botanical nomenclature which [mostly] separates nomenclature
> from taxonomy ... ;-) ... but do tell me if I'm wrong.
> Paul
> Dr Paul M. Kirk
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
> Sent: 27 March 2008 17:57
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia
> Rich Pyle wrote:
>>Such an
>>algorithm would track things like where different classifications are
>>congruent, and to what extent; weighting based on how many different
>>knowledgable users have individually ranked the different
>>classifications; weighting based on how many publications have emulated
>>which classificaitons (and where those were published, and when); and a
>>bunch of other various factors that should be too hard for a group of
>>clever algorithms and clever bioinformatics folks to hash out.
> I'm afraid that while I understand the principle behind your explanation
> here, I (like others) have doubts that an algorithm is an effective
> method for generating consensus classifications. Like it or not, there
> are two components to classification; those which are objective, and
> those which are subjective, and I'm not so sure any algorithm is going
> to be able to replicate how those components interact. How is an
> algorithm going to know that a new generic synonymy proposed by author X
> in some obscure publication is an objective synonymy based on an
> examination of the type specimens - which therefore requires an
> IMMEDIATE change to the consensus classification (even if no other
> "experts" have submitted an opinion regarding the change, or published
> revised classifications of their own to reflect the change) - compared
> to, say, a generic subjective synonymy proposed in a self-published
> source by some crackpot whose opinion isn't worth the paper it's printed
> on? Neither synonymy may be cited by any other experts (either for
> support or refutation) for several years, but the former requires an
> immediate change, the latter does not, and an algorithm isn't going to
> be an effective system for figuring this out.
> The ordinary mortals who want and need a consensus classification are
> not going to know or care about esoteric debates over whether (e.g.)
> Aristolochia is in Piperales or Aristolochiales; they're people like
> high school students doing a class project where they have to submit the
> full Linnaean rank hierarchy for their favorite plant, and they are
> going to be confused and ANNOYED if what they get is some listing of
> three or four alternative classifications. Heck, even other researchers
> are going to be annoyed by arguments over classifications, when it
> impacts their own work - e.g., a chemist who tries to publish on the
> phytotoxins in Aristolochia and related genera, and gets conflicting
> comments from reviewers, including critical things like which taxa are
> appropriate outgroups for their comparisons. Or if I'm trying to
> petition the government to declare a hairstreak butterfly as endangered,
> it's going to cause no end of problems if there are six different names
> for the same taxon (e.g., in three genera, Mitoura, Loranthomitoura, or
> Callophrys, and appearing in each genus either as a full species or as a
> subspecies), all in print at the same time.
> I'm of a similar mind to Mary Barkworth: we need the process by which
> consensus is arrived at to be OPEN and transparent. If someone presents
> a clean and convincing argument for a change, then let the community
> examine it, approve it, and go ahead with it; if their proposal
> generates controversy, then the community discussion can and SHOULD be a
> vigorous no-holds-barred debate over its merits and its drawbacks, until
> something definitive emerges. I truly, seriously believe that if all of
> the facts of the cases (for all of the present "contentious"
> classification schemes) were laid out in black and white, that we WOULD,
> as a community of reasonable adults, be able to come to decisions as to
> a single preferrable alternative in every case - it should not matter
> whether an opinion is held by a minority, but what SHOULD matter is
> whether their evidence or logic (or adherence to the appropriate Code)
> is flawed. I think people are pretty darn good at spotting flaws, after
> all, and on THAT basis decisions should be made (and yes, if someone is
> a crackpot, we should be able to tell them as much, and not have to deal
> with the messes they create the way we do now). The principle is sound,
> but as I've said before, it can only work properly if ALL the taxonomic
> community is involved, otherwise it *would* be just a wall.
> It's been suggested before: a single website where every taxonomist
> registers, and indicates what subject matter is of interest to them, so
> that every time anyone, anywhere, makes a comment that is pertinent to
> that specified list of topics, then EVERYONE IN THE WORLD who is
> interested in that topic is instantly notified, and invited to respond.
> I envision it as a hybrid between things like the ToL (with a  giant
> classification tree), Wikispecies, and a chat room. I don't think an
> algorithm can do our dirty work for us. ;-)
> Peace,
> -- 
> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research
> Museum
> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
> phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not
> UCR's)
>              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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